In an achievement-oriented culture, how do we risk vulnerability in order to move toward personal and racial healing? Cognitive therapist Niro Feliciano talks with Amy Julia about the complexities of privilege, race and identity, affluence and anxiety, and the hurt and the hope found within communities of faith.
Niro Feliciano is a certified cognitive therapist and co-founder of a multi-specialty mental health group in Connecticut where she treats anxiety in adults and adolescents. Connect with Niro: nirofeliciano.com, her All Things Life podcast, @niro_feliciano on Instagram, and Niro Feliciano, The Incidental Therapist on Facebook.
“Race is a part of my identity and it is so much a part of my relationships.”
“Affluence contributes to...anxiety and depression.”
“Identity and value is so linked to accomplishment.”
“Starting in the home, we have to validate our families and our kids for who they are and not what they do. We can’t constantly be focused on the achievement.”
“I am sure about Jesus. When we say Christianity and the Church has not always been inclusive, my feeling is—Jesus always has been.”
“Be compassionate towards yourself. Forgive yourself.”
On the Podcast:
Thank you to Breaking Ground, the co-host for this podcast.
White Picket Fences, Season 3 of Love is Stronger Than Fear, is based on my book “White Picket Fences,” and today we are talking about chapter 7. Check out free RESOURCES—action guide, discussion guides—that are designed to help you respond. Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
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Thanks for listening!
Note: This transcript is generated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Hi friends. I'm Amy, Julia Becker. And this is love is stronger than fear. A podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of social division. And this season, we're talking about my book, white picket fences, and today's episode takes a look at the themes of chapter seven. Chapter seven is called insidious irony. And I'm talking with my guest neuro Feliciano. Neuro is a psychotherapist and a podcast or in her own, right, but she's also one of my very oldest friends. And I asked her to join me because she can speak to the anxiety that so many adolescents and adults experience today.
And that's true of all adolescents and adults, but it's true in educated white affluent communities. And I wanted to talk with neuro because she experienced growing up within those types of communities. Now she's a professional who's offering counsel to kids and their parents in those communities. Neuro is also a Sri Lankan, American raising biracial kids. So she's able to speak to the distinctions and the nuances in talking about privilege. I've loved talking to in a row for the past 30 years of my life.
0 (1m 13s):
And today's conversation was no different. So I hope you'll enjoy it too. Thanks for being here with us. Well, hello, neuro and welcome to love is stronger than fear. It is really great to have you officially here with me.
1 (1m 28s):
Oh, thank you. So happy to be here. So
0 (1m 30s):
You are a regular listener to this podcast. You might recognize the name neuro Feliciano, because even though this podcast is relatively new, this is the third time I have spoken with my friend neuro. So I think I can easily say that you are our most popular guests. And welcome back. We talked actually back in February about the super bowl and just released like a kind of bonus episode of the podcast. If listeners are interested, you can go back and look for that.
0 (2m 2s):
And then neuro actually interviewed me for her podcast and we released it here as well, because it was all about white picket fences and did a great job of just introducing listeners to the themes. But now I get to ask you the questions, which I'm really excited about. Neuro has been a friend for three decades, which means that you are not only my most popular guest, but also my oldest friend. And I'm really glad you're here. So I want to start by letting you introduce yourself, both on the personal and professional level.
0 (2m 33s):
Will you just start by telling everybody a little bit?
1 (2m 36s):
You sure. And yes, every time we say three decades, it's amazing, but it also reminds me how old we actually are. I don't feel even though I am so with that, I am well, let's start. I am a mom of four. I've been married for 17 years to my husband who is Puerto Rican, which is significant. When we're talking about privilege and race. I am Sri Lankan American. I was born in Brooklyn, but raised in America my whole life.
1 (3m 9s):
My parents came over from Sri Lanka when they were in their twenties. My mom was in her twenties, my dad, early thirties. And then we ended up, they ended up staying after having a family, although that was not the intended plan. That's what ended up having ended up happening. So I am a cognitive psychotherapist. I've been in private practice for now almost 15 years and yeah, predominantly treat anxiety in adolescents and adults.
1 (3m 40s):
And on the side I do a podcast and it's kind of two podcasts in one, right?
0 (3m 49s):
Describe to one, you get them both, but it's still a very impressive amount of podcasting that you're doing.
1 (3m 54s):
Thank you. Thank you. That's a side gig right there. So that, I mean, in a nutshell,
0 (3m 60s):
Yeah. So I think you know this, but just to fill in a little bit why I wanted to talk to you today, I have been talking on this podcast through white picket fences and have gotten to chapter seven and chapter seven in white picket fences is called insidious irony. And it is a chapter about how, if you are a person of privilege and we'll talk a little bit in a second about what that actually might mean how that can be harmful, not just to people who have been excluded from privilege, but actually to people on the inside of that.
0 (4m 32s):
And so it's in that chapter that I talk about having an eating disorder in high school succumbing to the pressure of living in a culture of individualism and success and achievement. And I think back because you literally lived with me and were walking beside me for much of those years of high school, because we went to boarding school together. And then you also now in your role as a psychotherapist, have a great deal. I think of wisdom and insight and looking in on a culture of anxiety, which is prevalent.
0 (5m 4s):
And I've certainly had to work my own way through that. But also I see that in the culture I live in more broadly. So I want to talk about how affluent educated and predominantly white communities experience anxiety and depression and what you see as a psychotherapist. But I also want to talk about your story and our experience in growing up in a culture of privilege specifically. So I just thought, we'd start by even talking about privilege itself. Like when you were thinking about the concept of privilege, what do you think that means?
0 (5m 38s):
And then how, how do you think about yourself? Like, are, do you consider yourself a person of privilege? If so, what does that mean? How do you think about that?
1 (5m 45s):
Yeah, that's a good question. And one I've been thinking about a lot, especially since everyone has become more attuned to the conversation of race, it's been, it's been something I had to think about it because I've had many well-meaning white people and even South Asians, because South Asians experience privilege in a different way, even though many of us are Brown. Right, right. Have had many people come to me and say, I don't believe in white privilege, you know?
1 (6m 16s):
And, and that's, that's a tough discussion to have with someone who's pretty fixed on that to understand what it is. So I think if we can articulate it in terms of other types of privileges, it might make it more clear how someone may have advantages that they did not earn that were just bestowed to them by society. And that's, that's basically how I see privilege. And it gets a little, you know, it gets a little tricky when we're talking about socioeconomic privilege.
1 (6m 46s):
I feel like that has been the privilege. I've had most of my life coming from two doctors parents. And was it earned? So in that sense, my parents came to this country with $50. Yeah. It was hard. It wasn't earned by me. Right. I didn't work for that money. I was given that money or been born into a household that, that did well. Right. Did my parents work for it? Yes, they did. So however, I also recognize for them being South Asian and being physicians, there was an automatic respect that they earned that, that, that was almost expected as physicians.
1 (7m 27s):
Right. That maybe, and, and, and, you know, if we go back to implicit bias and tell me if you, if you want me to define terms at any point, but your listeners have been listening. So I know that they, they know. So it is not unusual for someone to assume that I'm a doctor. Right. And, and other scientists
0 (7m 48s):
Looking at you and knowing that your parents are
1 (7m 50s):
Doctors. Yeah. Knowing that my parents are, or even not, not, I'm a psychotherapist, I'm not an actor. Right. There's a difference. But automatically I'm assume that I am, whereas, you know, going through school. And I happened to go to med school and successfully drop out some of my black friends in med school. Like it almost came as a surprise to people when they found out that they were physicians, there was another assumption
0 (8m 18s):
Expectations in the culture.
1 (8m 21s):
Gotcha. Right. And how did that assumptions fall? How did those assumptions follow them into their career versus a South Asian person as a physician? Right.
0 (8m 32s):
Right. I mean, as you know, you were in my wedding along with two other South Asian men on my, on the husband's side and they are both physicians. I, you know, I do think it's easy to carry expectations and assumptions about people based on where they're from. And even as you were saying, although your parents didn't start off with money, there was this that they had as a result of their professions. And then you inherit that, but then you also inherit.
0 (9m 3s):
And we're going to talk about this. I hope in a little while, like growing up in America with skin that looks different than mine and all the assumptions and expectations that come from that when I have been traveling around, I'm not doing that anymore because of the pandemic, but for the past couple of years, as I've been traveling around the country, talking about white picket fences, I don't know if you know this, but I bring you up at almost every stop because yes, for a variety of reasons. But specifically, because I talk about the Venn diagram of privilege so that we're not only talking about whiteness, because there are other ways to experience privilege, which I think you just described.
0 (9m 42s):
And yet whiteness is one of those ways to experience unearned, social advantages. And I use you as an example of someone who's willing to say, yes, I have privilege in my life and I do not have white skin, but that does not mean that there's no such thing as white privilege. It just means that there are other ways to talk about privilege as well. And it's a more complex question or situation, but it also doesn't mean let's get rid of that concept altogether. So I did want to talk about just boarding school.
0 (10m 13s):
So you and I went to boarding school, which, you know, most Americans hear boarding school and they think they must've gotten into a lot of trouble. And I will just tell you this nurse, the trouble that neuro and I got into, we got into trouble. One, she did get into trouble way. We got into trouble. As we both had not been elected. We'd made it to the runoffs of the student government. And we were not elected to the student government. And we were so sad that we walked to a restaurant and bought chocolate cake and ate it.
0 (10m 44s):
And then we walked back and apparently we weren't allowed to be there. We didn't even know that we got I'm in trouble. And we were 18 years old. We were, we were 17 or 18 years old and it was a 10 minute walk. I mean, it was so absurd. The Dean of students actually thought it was absurd too, that we got reported for this. But anyway, so we were not very, we were not traveling. It's not a military school. Right. We were rule followers and we went to boarding school. That was a place where there, I think you could say it was kind of like an elite institution where a lot of affluent and educated people went in order to be prepared for, you know, college and careers without a doubt.
0 (11m 28s):
And I also know, I feel so conflicted when I think back on my time at boarding school, because I learned a lot, I was exposed to wonderful teachers and ideas. The people who are still the most important to me, people like you and some other friends, as well as my husband, like I met you all there and I've continued to just lean on and rely on those friendships. And obviously my marriage for, you know, my entire adult life. But it was a really time for me personally. I think this is true for you too.
0 (11m 58s):
And I think that's true for a number of different reasons, but I did want to just ask you to reflect with me a little bit about that time and specifically about being a person of color in a majority white school in a, not just a school, but a residential environment where we all live together and in a culture. And I can't speak to how it is now, 25 years, 30 years later, but a culture that I think was kind of built upon what we might call whiteness and the expectations of whiteness.
0 (12m 30s):
So I'd love for you just now as an adult to reflect back on that a little bit in terms of what that experience was like for you and for other people of color, because I know that you, you know, obviously had friendships where you and I talked about these things, but I was obviously talking about it as a white person. And I know you had friendships beyond that, where you were talking about what it felt like to be a kid in a very white environment.
1 (12m 55s):
Yeah. When I saw this question, I was thinking about it because honestly I felt at, at our boarding school, did you say the name of it or no, I haven't. It's okay. We don't have to, we don't have to. I just, yeah. So I definitely had my friends of color and they were your friends too. And because of the circles that we ran and we were all very connected and, and we connected knowing that our experience was different, but we didn't necessarily talk about it all that much.
1 (13m 28s):
And I didn't actually process what went on in my experience at that school until I went to college. And I think I talked to you about this. I read James Weldon, Johnson's autobiography of an X colored man, which talks about biracial identity. And in some sense, being Brown, not being black, not being white. I felt like I had this biracial identity, meaning that I fit into both circles in different ways. So that made me rethink, okay. I knew that I felt different at that school.
1 (13m 60s):
And especially, it's not even just being a minority, but also being female because being female in a male dominated boarding school was also very much an experience. Right. And I think many women would the time at which we went to boarding school would attest to that as well. Absolutely. So I, I look at my life now and how I, how race is a part of my identity and how it is so much a part of my relationships in one way or another. And this is why I say I was raceless.
1 (14m 30s):
We knew people were of different races, especially if you were not black or white, but Hispanic or Asian or South Asian, we never talked about it. Yeah, no, we never really asked people, Hey, where are you from? You know, what, what's your family like? What's your culture? Like, it was, it was almost like it was unspoken because if you talked about it, it would not be a positive thing. That's how I felt. And, and you know, if you think about adolescence, it's a time where you're trying to separate develop your identity, but at the same time assimilate and fit in and being that there were such, such a smaller population of minority students.
1 (15m 7s):
It's not something you necessarily wanted to call attention to, especially not being in the majority minority, meaning not being black. Right. So I think, I think if you remember, we saw Asian people, international students, they formed their crew. They sat together in the cafeteria as Betsy and him talks about black students did the same, you know, when you were an other minority at that school, cause it's ready to jump out of my mouth when you are, when you're another minority, not so much defined, you couldn't really find your immersion experience.
1 (15m 43s):
There were, I think some minority groups did, but it, it wasn't necessarily, it was I think a part of identity that it was easier to subjugate then step to step into because of that fear of not fitting in.
0 (15m 57s):
So I'm curious, actually, I want to talk about Beverly Tatum for a minute because she was your teacher, correct. In college. And she, for any listeners who don't know who she is, she wrote a book called, why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? Which certainly was a question I asked to myself, but never said out loud when we were in high school and probably throughout, you know, some portion of my college years and maybe my twenties as well. And I remember the way in which she flips that question and says, why are all the white kids sitting together in the cafeteria?
0 (16m 31s):
And she's really writing about the development of racial identity and what it looks like to develop a racial identity, which you're kind of beginning to speak to. So I'm wondering if you can talk about your own development of a racial identity, but also have that was different for your parents coming as immigrants in their twenties, to the United States and also for your children who are growing up in both a different time and in a biracial family. And with you, you know, parents who are talking about this perhaps differently than your parents did.
0 (17m 3s):
So I'm curious just about that idea of like developing a racial identity and how that has operated.
1 (17m 9s):
Yeah. That we could do a whole podcast just on that right there. But yeah, let's, let's talk about that. So I think if we can start with my parents, right, because them coming to America and then raising us and witnessing some of the experiences we've had with racism and discrimination, and I'll give you a very basic experience that my sisters and I all had, we'd come home from like third or fourth grade and say, mom, you know, that kid was not nice today called me a chocolate milkshake for Chrissy was like a brownie.
1 (17m 43s):
Someone called her a brownie, which happens to be my favorite foods. So anyway, I, they, my mom turns around. She goes, so we'll go back and call them a vanilla milkshake. I mean, this, this was for, you know, and I think had I not had that experience now, knowing my background, I may treat the issue. I mean, I do treat the issue differently with my kids when that happens. But you know, that response was, my mom was very callous, but part of it was, she didn't understand it for her.
1 (18m 14s):
She was like, why are you even bothered by this? Why are you even bothered? Who cares? Who cares? Who cares? And part of that, and I, I realized this later on and I believe this is true for adults. Who've immigrated to America who have gone through their major formative years, their identity forming years in a country where people look like them, where they are the normal. It doesn't bother them that much because it's not a wound that keeps getting opened, right?
1 (18m 45s):
Depending, you know, there's not triggers there. They form two. They are, there was nothing in their society necessarily based on race or appearance that told them you were less than, you know, you are not good at, you were not as beautiful. You were not as valued, you know, based on images from the culture and messages from the culture. Whereas when you grow up in America as the other, and I'll give you just like a very simple example, like we never wanted the Brown Barbies. They were not as pretty for us.
1 (19m 16s):
And also some of them were so dark. They didn't look like us. And at that time, like dark was not beautiful. Even in the culture that I come from. It's still like, my mom saw me yesterday. She goes, you are so dark because we were at the beach. You know what? I was like, I like it like this. That's okay. It's okay. Like you can't see the unevenness in my skin. That's normally there. But for her, that was a negative thing. Because the more light skinned you are, the more beautiful you are. So when you grow up in a culture like that, and I just said, that was part of my parents' culture, but it was a different degree than it is here.
1 (19m 53s):
Right. We're actually talking about race. We're not talking about people of the same race. We're talking about different races and what is valued versus what is not. So when you grew up here and you're constantly having those experiences, you do second, guess yourself, you do try to conceal your identity. You do try to fit in that. That is the backdrop of how we are trying to form our identity. Step into ourselves, become proud of ourselves when there's, there's constantly things sending us messages that are counter to that.
1 (20m 23s):
Right. So you, so you can see growing up as an adult, as in a culture where you are the norm, you know, all the messages are saying, okay, yes, you can. And I'm really simplifying this because yes, there are other things that came into play where my parents grew up ethnic group, you know, status. If you're Hindu cast, there are all these other things that affected them too. Right. But it didn't have to do with color or race in that sense here, growing up in that environment, we're not as confident when those things happen.
1 (20m 54s):
It takes much longer for us to get to that point where we're like, who cares? You know? And then when we think about it systemically and seeing things on a bigger scale, okay, this actually affects us. In other ways, you know, I have black friends who can't get into certain neighborhoods because they're black. You know, now it's bigger than just being called a name. And the awareness of that is also very heavy. Right.
0 (21m 17s):
And you've talked about, I remember you mentioning that your son, Samuel, just being concerned for him. I think, you know, in this very particular way as a Brown man growing up in America and in ways that I think again, if you think about your parents, when they were growing up in Sri Lanka, those would not have been the same types of concerns for safety. So I'm not for that reason, not for that reason. Right? Exactly. There might've been other reasons to be concerned for safety. Yes, I am wondering about, so we've talked a bit about like personal experiences and I'm thinking more broadly about people who are in a similar social position today, mostly white affluent, highly educated achievement oriented communities, which is really where both of us still live.
0 (22m 6s):
And you now run a cognitive psychotherapy practice in a community that has a lot of people who would, you know, describe themselves as white and educated and affluent and from everything I've read. And then also just anecdotally, the rates of anxiety of depression, of substance abuse are high among that population among youth and adults in affluent and educated communities. So I'm wondering if you could just talk a little bit about where that anxiety and depression comes from, because it seems as though if you have the material advantages and the quote unquote success that the culture is telling you to have, right?
0 (22m 47s):
Like you look like the lady on the cover of the magazine, or you've got the house that is being, you know, featured in home and garden or you've got her neighbor does or whatever, why is there still this pervasive sense of not having enough and of just like fear and worry that is plaguing. I think so many, both youth and adults in these communities,
1 (23m 12s):
There's so much discontent even with having so much, there's so much discontent because someone always has more, someone always has different and there is a constant comparison culture that we're in. And I think that that is kind of central and especially because now comparisons are so readily accessed through social media, I think, and even though it's not a genuine comparison, you know, what we see often on social media is disingenuous or filtered or curated on that level.
1 (23m 45s):
I think comparison has a lot to do with it. And I just, I do want to say though, I think, I think it is the affluence that contributes more to some of that anxiety and depression, because I've seen it across the board in our community. And we do live in an affluent community with Asians, with South Asians, even with Latino and black people in our community. Right. So
0 (24m 10s):
I just, actually, I heard Isabel Wilkerson speaking on a podcast cause her book about CAS just came out and she said, she said that among the African American communities, the rates of hypertension are the highest among affluent African Americans. And she said, she just went over and over and over the research. Cause she's like, wait, shouldn't that be the opposite? That like once you've got the money, at least that stress has taken, been taken away. And she has some theories about why that's not the case, but she was saying exactly what you're saying that like for African-Americans hypertension is highest among those who are in positions of, you know yeah.
0 (24m 50s):
And educated affluent communities where she is saying they are essentially having to operate out of the place that America sees them as belonging to. And so there's just this like anxiety that comes with that, which, you know, may or may not be what's going on there, but that seems reasonable.
1 (25m 7s):
I think that's very reasonable. And you have all of the pressures that come with affluence and we'll talk about it in just a second, in addition to not really having a community around you, that completely understands you, you know, you're trying to reconcile your identity in some ways as well. And, and like you said, own a place that you deserve, but maybe you're not viewed in that sense consistently. Right? So I, if we start with the kids, right, because that's where a lot of this begins, it's just, you're at this level of attainment where identity and value is so linked into accomplishment, right?
1 (25m 51s):
So we're talking about there's expectations. Now, when you come from a certain socioeconomic class, you're going to go to college, you're going to get a good job. You're going to make money. And there's a certain idea of how this should be done, even though you may drop out of college and actually be really successful. That is not the norm. That is not the expectation in these communities for the most part. So you have that level of pressure on these kids, which is then, and then that leads to being, over-scheduled being kind of a performance based culture, all of which is continuing, you know, developing this path of unhealthy lifestyle, right?
1 (26m 29s):
So then we're stressed and anxious. And what do we do? We either go on medication or we self-medicate in different ways with alcohol drugs and, and all of it can lead to anxiety and depression if it's properly addressed and systemically addressed when we're talking about a family system in that sense. So that starts young, but that pressure doesn't let up. As you get older, there's still these expectations to have the big house, to have the big life, to go on the vacations.
1 (27m 0s):
So here you're a family in these cultures, you're doing well, but life is expensive. Life is expensive. And if you can't provide what you think these other families in your bracket are providing for their families, that leads to anxiety. And I often find at the root of anxiety, there is self esteem, self worth issues. We doubt ourselves. We question ourselves, you know, and that leads to a certain questioning of our worldview, our world, around us.
1 (27m 32s):
Anyway, we criticize ourselves and, and the many situations that we're in. So I look at it as coming from a certain set of expectations that you also inherit when you're a part of those communities, expectations on yourself for women, women are thin in this, in these socioeconomic, you know, they're very thin. I mean, sometimes the moms are thinner than the 13 year old daughter. And then that's an image that the daughters are looking at. So it is so widespread.
1 (28m 3s):
I always see it in terms of tentacles. They're so far reaching and the depth of some of these issues go down several layers where it really becomes then systemic affecting kids, affecting adolescents, and then continuing on into adulthood, into adulthood. And, and basically it has to do with expectations and pressure and not feeling one, many of which are not realistic or not real. I mean, we might look at that vacation that your neighbor went on, but who knows what else is going on in their house?
1 (28m 35s):
You know, who, who knows what other things they're struggling with? Who knows where they are financially, but we make assumptions. And then we create a value system that we're expecting ourselves to live up to. That's not realistic. So the result is a pressure cooker that it's released in anxiety and depression.
0 (28m 51s):
Yeah. And I mean, as I've mentioned already, but just for me, I think I look back at my time in high school and not only did I have this pretty severe eating disorder, but there was a sense in which my culture was telling me this is going really well. So I was really sick and I also was getting really good grades and I got into Princeton and I got leadership prizes and was essentially commended for the way I was living my life in the sense of getting all this like recognition and achievement, even though I also was like, literally in and out of the hospital.
0 (29m 30s):
And so I look back on that and I think, gosh, yeah, like it just, there was this dissonance between what I was told. I was who I was told I was supposed to be and what my soul really needed because when my soul needed, like my soul needed to know that I was okay without my achievements. Right. Like that I actually was like beloved and beautiful, not in a necessarily like physical sense, but in that deeper sense, because I'd been created with a purpose and in love.
0 (30m 3s):
And I really felt like I just kept trying to achieve more and more and more in order to prove that to myself and to the culture and it just wasn't working. And then as an adult, I've never gone back to that place of eating disorder. But I have similarly found myself in system or cycles, I guess, of feeling like I can never be enough, especially as both a mom and someone who is trying to work and pursue a sense of calling, there's just been this constant sense of pressure to do it all right.
0 (30m 35s):
All the time. And some of that has to do with my perfectionist tendencies, which not everyone has, but I think some of it has to do with this like individualistic, achievement oriented culture. And I find myself getting really stuck in myself and what grieves me about that is my, the way in which I cut off the outside world and like disconnect from other people from the needs of the world and from the gifts that the world has to offer, if I am willing to engage, especially outside my bubble and my community.
0 (31m 8s):
So I am thinking about these levels of anxiety and even of the isolation that comes from that. And I'm wondering whether this is like for you personally looking back in your life, but also from a more clinical perspective, what can we do to address this experience of isolation and anxiety? What can we do to address the harm of the achievement oriented, individualistic culture? How can we both personally, and in terms of teaching our kids, how to navigate this, like, what would your, what would your advice be just as a clinician?
1 (31m 47s):
Yeah, no, that's a good question. I think you also mentioned how do we heal from this, right? How do we heal from this? And I think we, especially starting in the home, we have to validate our families and our kids for who they are and not what they do. You know, we, can't constantly be focused on the achievement. We have to be in tune with how are they feeling and how are you feeling? Are you happy with life right now? Do you like things? If not, what can we do to change? What can we do to support you?
1 (32m 18s):
We don't ask those questions enough. We ask, how did you do in your game today? You know, how did that test go? And are you studying right? We're very much focused on the things they do rather than the person that they're becoming, not, not to say that that's completely ignored. That's not true, but oftentimes we're looking at their accomplishments as, as a kind of measure of who they're becoming, you know, rather than, than the development of their actual person of themselves, of their soul.
1 (32m 50s):
Like you said, now, what's very interesting. And I don't, I feel like I shared this with you at one point, but maybe I didn't, when I was at that school, I just put it in air quotes for people against the us. I, I felt very depressed my junior year. And I also, I mean, I was heavier than to begin with, but I gained even more weight when I was there at one point. And I didn't really recognize it as depression, but I remember talking to my parents about it.
1 (33m 23s):
And at that time we were away at school like this whole virtual therapy, wasn't a thing. We didn't really have therapists there. So I went on medication, I started on a low dose of, at that time it was Prozac that's what many people did. We didn't have the range of medications we have now. And I think I stayed on it for maybe two years and then came off it. And it, it helped me tremendously and helped me tremendously. And I'm not saying that's the route for everybody, but I know from my experience and especially clients who I've worked with, not every client, but a good amount, we have to look at all options.
1 (34m 3s):
I firmly believe that therapy is a first place to start because we have to talk. We have to talk it out. We have to get in tune with what do you want as a person, not what the culture is telling you, you should want. And, and just as an aside, I had to ask myself that question like two months ago, right? Because we can get caught in these cycles and patterns and in, in kind of the consequences of decisions we've made. And at that point, we might be feeling some tension in that place and say, well, Hey, this is what I chose.
1 (34m 37s):
This is what I committed to, which might be true on some level. But to go back to say, what do you want as a person, especially for those of us who, who have those personalities that tend to veer towards achievement, right? What do I want? And actually someone asked me that question and, and I stopped for a second. And I said, I want a peaceful life. I don't want to be rushing all the time. And I actually, I got tears in my eyes when I answered that question, because I was like, I've never asked myself this question.
1 (35m 11s):
And I realized, the question I've been asking is what should I want, what do I need to be doing right now for myself and my family? It was never, what do you want? So, and there's a difference. Or even as a Christian, I, I know I asked what does God want of me? Right. You know, and sometimes I answer that question based on the lens of what are my gifts. So then what should I be doing with them? Right. Not realizing that what I truly want in my heart and my soul, God probably wants for me too
0 (35m 42s):
Well. And that's what I'm thinking about. As far as like that question of what do I want, I want a peaceful life. And the consequences of that might be hard to actually reckon with, right. If that means the process to get there. Yeah. Process to get there. Maybe that means you're going to make less money. Maybe that's going to mean that you're going to lose some status, right? Like there are these consequences, even though I would imagine that also would really lead towards healing for whether it's you personally, your whole family, you know, they're there.
0 (36m 14s):
But I, I have experienced similar times where I recognize what I really want is counter-cultural on some level. And am I willing to reckon with, you know, going in a way that is not going to conform to what our culture says I'm supposed to want. And I do think there's been great freedom and growth, and it's been really good, but there's some strange hardship about giving yourself what you want also. So
1 (36m 42s):
It is, and, and part of it is you feel, you can feel like you're disappointing people. Now, like I mentioned before, I, I left med school, which was a huge deal being the first foreign to, to doctors being South Asian. I mean, it's literally, I think taken them out to be like, Hey, this is what you were meant to do. And thank you for the four grandchildren that wouldn't have happened if I was in that. So that was a huge thing.
1 (37m 12s):
God confirmed it a million times over. So I knew, and my parents could accept that, or God confirmed it to you. We understand, but it wasn't like I'm rejoicing in the fact that you're choosing something that I didn't, I don't want, you know, so,
0 (37m 29s):
Well, so actually, can we pick up there a little bit, because I know that, I mean, one of the things that was a lifeline for both of us starting in high school and in our friendship, and certainly through then has been a specific faith in Christ, like as Christians, and yet at the same time, I think we can both look at these issues of privilege and of race and of class and see that Christianity also has a history of harm and exclusion, even as it has so much that can bring healing and can bring people together.
0 (37m 59s):
So I'm curious for you, just, how has your faith equipped and empowered you as a person of color in this world and in this culture, where have you experienced harm within the church? And what hope do you have for the church in this moment? I know you have been really committed to the work of racial healing and justice in the church, in your own local church, as well as more broadly. So I just would love to hear some of your thoughts on that.
1 (38m 28s):
I can't believe you're asking me this question today because literally my mind has been blowing up over the last two days regarding my views on the church. So let me just state, these are my views. They're not Amy, Julia, they're mine. And we might share some, but I'm expressing my own feelings about it. You know, because we've grown up like this. I mean, we literally grew up together. Our faith is everything. It is the lens in which we see our whole life. And, and as a 44 year old, I'm a lot different than the 20 year old who was walking in faith, where I thought I knew what the boxes were and we needed to fit into those boxes.
1 (39m 12s):
Even if some of the boxes were large and encompassing and inclusive, we still needed to fit into those boxes. I'm no longer sure about the boxes. Maybe Julia, I am sure about Jesus. And when, when we say Christianity and the church has not always been inclusive, my feeling is Jesus always has been, you know, and that's, and that's where I need my focus to be in navigating this. How have I experienced harm? This has been more recent, like in the last six months, I think we're, and I do feel like God is speaking to me.
1 (39m 49s):
And, and let me just preface this by saying, I love my church. I love my pastors. I love the people who lead my church, woman Hill in Bethel. I trust them completely because I've known them since high school. And we've had conversations for years about different things, and I've seen how they live their life. And just yesterday, I, and let me just give you a little backdrop. So I have been watching things happen politically and seeing different stances, taken some by the evangelical church.
1 (40m 22s):
What's considered the evangelical church and I've had white well-meaning Jesus loving people. I don't question their love for Jesus. I don't question their faith, but send me videos of Brown and black Republicans talking about racism, not existing. And, and seeing that there are definite churches that stand behind these perspectives, even though I wish it wasn't politicized, it has been, it has been hurtful.
1 (40m 55s):
It's been hurtful, especially with everything we've seen over the last six months. So if we want to talk about hurt, I'd say that's the place where it hurts instead of coming to the table saying, you know, this is not my perspective, but I really want to hear and understand why you feel this way. What are you coming from? It's been like, let me just shove this in your face, because here here's a Brown person talking that racism doesn't exist well. So when did that person become God, right.
1 (41m 25s):
To speak, to speak to the other. And why are you texting me this? When you know that I feel differently about this, right? So, and by the way, how, you know, I let those people text me and I don't really text back right away. I don't want to respond reactively. I want to respond thoughtfully. And in a way that emulates Jesus, because that actually might be the opportunities that God is calling me to, to live like Jesus in those various situations. Right. I knew from that conversation, just even this morning that someone texted me that we're not, I'm not changing anybody's opinion, nor is it my job to like, that's the Holy spirit is well capable of doing that on his own.
1 (42m 8s):
So I just said, friend, I think we need to focus on our love for Jesus and worshiping him the best we can and agree to disagree on the other areas, because I have my perspective as a person of color. And I respect that you will have a different one. You may have a different one as a white person, who's had a different life experience. So let's leave it at that. You know? So I feel like I've been talking in circles and circles every time he asked me a question, cause there's so much to it, but that's great.
1 (42m 39s):
And it's kind of, that's where I am today. That's where I am today.
0 (42m 42s):
Yeah. And I think you named just that I have great hope for this moment within the church, but I also have a fair amount of fear because I think we can either entrench ourselves more and more along racial and ethnic lines, or we can say, what does it mean for us to look to Jesus together? It doesn't mean we all agree about everything, but it does mean that our identity as Christians is actually foundational and our identity from all these other sources, certainly politics, but even including racial and ethnic identities are actually next.
0 (43m 24s):
Like they're not the primary thing. And if we can believe that and like actually put, not put our faith in each other in the sense of not putting our faith in God, but actually try to have trust in each other, then we might be able to build something really beautiful. But at the same time, there's so many reasons. And I think you've given us examples just in this conversation to be like, why would I trust again? Why, why would I do that? And so I'm, I'm both hopeful and fearful for this moment in so many different ways.
0 (43m 56s):
I also, the last thing that I want to ask you, because it comes up just even in thinking about those text exchanges and the fact that, you know, thinking back to high school, you talking about being raceless and not having language to talk about this as kids I'm thinking about you and I have had a chance together to talk with people at your kid's school communities about how to talk with children about race. And I think many of us, I don't know if this is still the case, many of us grew up not being taught, how to talk about race, at least for white people.
0 (44m 31s):
But it like, that was true for you as well. And I think even now there are all these people who are like, I want to learn how to do this, but I'm so afraid I'm going to screw up because I'm going to say the wrong thing, or someone's going to think that what I've just done has been a microaggression. And I don't even know if I know what that means. And you know, there's just this sense of like, I know that I'm bumbling around in the dark. Should I just sit down and not go anywhere? Or should I try? You know, so I'm also want to know if you have anything, any advice for people who want to learn and grow, but who are scared about what that might mean both in terms of scared about what I might lose, but also just scared of screwing it up and hurting someone and getting something.
1 (45m 10s):
Yup. Yeah. I actually, I need to post a repost of blog posts on this kind of, where do we go from here? I did one for a group in our town, Ridgefield moms, just about where, where do we go from here? And I think as people started having these conversations, there was a lot of criticism, okay, you should post this, but you shouldn't post that. Or you should say this and go and make a black friend, but don't do it just because they're black. And there was a lot of confusing messages to people and you know, way back I said to add, you know, when I, when I took a physics class, physics was not my strong point.
1 (45m 49s):
I didn't expect to get it all the first time I heard it. You know, I knew that I was going to make mistakes and, and I was supposed to, because it was hard and there was a big learning curve. But as adults, we're not used to not getting things, we're able to read an article and become an expert on it and speak on it, you know? So I think we have to recognize that it's going to take a while to really get it, but there are places that we can start. One, know that you're going to screw up, expect that, expect it and, and know that we're all going to, as a Brown person.
1 (46m 21s):
I still swear by, I still ask my black friends, Hey, is this okay for me to say, as a Brown person, you know, just doesn't run. Doesn't mean I get it all and, and have your people that you can go to, to talk to. And that may be other white people who are committed to learning and growing in this together. Right. And get the books, educate yourself, read and discuss part of the reason now that that white person who texted me that text, I was not willing to engage in the conversation with that person.
1 (46m 51s):
Cause I knew it was going to go anywhere, but I have other white people who they've brought it to me. And we've had other conversations where I know they're doing the work and learning. I will spend the time and engage in that conversation with them. But if they're not coming to the table with something, it's not really worth my time, nor is it my job. Right. Right. Right. So, I mean, there are plenty out there that you can do. And I would say a good first place to start is find other people who look like you, who come from your background and have the conversations together first.
1 (47m 24s):
So you can kind of process out loud without processing with a person of color now talking, and then not to say that we shouldn't have these conversation cross culturally. We absolutely should. Right. But we need to come to the table with something right.
0 (47m 41s):
And having done. I mean, yeah. If you can do some of the work, both by reading, I mean, by talking with other people in those environments where, cause I think, I think about your physics example and the thing is like you screw up in physics, you're not going to hurt physics. Right. But you screw up in your conversation with someone and you might hurt that friend.
1 (48m 5s):
Yeah. And the language you use when you come to that, person's really important. Hey, like I I'm actually really even scared to ask you this question. I'm not even sure how to say this and if I'm offensive, please. No, I don't want to be. And tell me how to do this differently. Tell me what, how this affects you. Right. If we're coming, setting the groundwork saying I'm coming in humility because I want to learn that conversation goes to a very different place than if you come at it as, okay, I know this and now, you know, what do you think of this?
1 (48m 37s):
Or what do you have to say? So I think the way in which we approach it is also really important with vulnerability and humility and there was something else I was going to say about it. Oh, be compassionate towards yourself. Right. You know, forgive yourself. Yes. It does not mean you're a bad person nor does that. Other person think you're a bad person. If you don't get it right, right away. I think for many people of color and I'm not speaking for everybody, but for many of my, myself and many of my friends, we're just happy people care.
1 (49m 12s):
You know, we're happy people want to have the conversation that they want to learn more. And that they're recognizing the injustices that are a lot bigger than just name calling. You know,
0 (49m 23s):
I have been astonished by the graciousness that people of color have shown me in my, I mean my whole life. I mean really, but certainly in the past few years in having these conversations, because I do feel like, I mean, I can name times when I have screwed up and I've needed to go back and say, I'm sorry. I see now that when I said that, it probably actually was not what I meant for it to be, you know? And I just, the degree of graciousness, which I think goes to what you're saying, which is that it is for a white person to say, I'm gonna do some work to understand and to think some things through.
0 (50m 1s):
And then I'm going to come with humility and vulnerability into these conversations. And that, that even like, it takes courage to risk feeling uncomfortable, especially for those of us who have, as we've been talking about growing up in a culture where you were supposed to know things and get it right, right. Like,
1 (50m 20s):
And be good at it.
0 (50m 23s):
Be really good at it. And it's like, okay, I haven't learned this and I'm not at it, but I'm going to try anyway. And again, you can do that in a responsible way with some of the things you've just said for sure. But there is a sense of just needing to take some risks of being uncomfortable of being humiliated, even of being in a position of vulnerability. But I've also found that so often what that risk of vulnerability leads to is an opportunity for a deeper relationship that ultimately leads towards a more loving encounter and exchange of learning and growing together.
0 (51m 3s):
And there's been so much more beauty and grace and joy and delight in my life as a result of being willing to risk those conversations, risk, screwing up risks, saying it wrong. And so yeah, I've felt kind of crappy and like, Oh, I did that wrong. And I feel embarrassed at times, but I've far more have felt just so grateful for the opportunity to understand more, to get to know some, I mean, various friends along the way of these last couple of years who are just such beautiful people and I've learned so much from them.
0 (51m 41s):
And so I think I really appreciate what you're saying here, as far as being willing to take that risk and know that yeah, you gotta be compassionate to yourself and forgive yourself and go for it because that will mean that could really lead towards healing and not just healing in terms of the people on the side of exclusion, but healing for the people who are in these position of privilege to learn, you're actually not so isolated and you don't have to be so afraid. And there is space to move towards people, even in a bumbling way, there's space to do that and to be connected and to really expand who you are and who we are as communities as well.
1 (52m 28s):
Yeah. And that's, that's genuine vulnerability, right? The, the ability to kind of make the mistake and, and be okay with it because we know that we're moving towards something that has a greater purpose. And then when we can adapt that, we model that for our families, we model it for our kids. We teach them that, you know, you don't have to get everything right. But, but let's all move to something that we know is important that we know is right. That we believe for all people.
1 (52m 58s):
And let's have the conversations, especially when, when there's silence right. Where we don't say anything. Well, we don't have the conversations because we're uncomfortable. We convey the message to our kids is that this is not okay to talk about. Right. And then nothing happens and nothing gets done and it will do far more harm. So that's why having the conversation, especially in your families are so important.
0 (53m 20s):
Yeah. I think there's a lot of hope when we think about the conversations that we and our generation is happy with our kids and what, what could come from that. And I think that's probably a good place to end this conversation. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you for being here and for giving your time and yeah. Blessings. Thank you. Talk to you again. Yes, we will. Okay. Bye. Thanks so much for listening to love is stronger than fear.
0 (53m 51s):
We'll be sure to note all those references in the show notes, and I'd love for you to share this podcast, share this episode, subscribe, give it a quick rating or review. We would love for more people to benefit from these conversations. Also mentioned that Nuro releases her own podcast twice a week, which I don't know how she manages doing that, but it is called all things life. And it covers a range of topics that are related to what we were talking about here today. So check that out as well. If you're interested, I want to thank our cohost breaking ground.
0 (54m 23s):
If you want more podcasts articles, videos from a Christian perspective, you can go and check out breaking ground dot U S. I'm thankful for Jake Hansen for editing this podcast. Amber Barry, my social media coordinator. And I did want to mention that next week I will be talking with Esau. McCaulley about his new book reading while black, African American biblical interpretation as an exercise in hope is an excellent book. And I hope you'll join me again for that conversation.
0 (54m 55s):
As you go into your day today, I also hope that you will carry with you. The peace that comes from believing that love is stronger than fear.
2 (55m 3s):