I SEE U

I SEE U, Episode 99: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner with Karen? with Authors Saira Rao and Regina Jackson

New York Times best-selling authors Regina Jackson and Saira Rao have a distinct mission to confront white women across the country about their role in upholding a complicity to white supremacy and to help them realize the part they can play in dismantling systems of oppression.

NY Times Best Selling Authors and Activists, Regina Jackson and Saira Rao

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As a group of white women sit at a fancy dining room table, sip wine and pass the breadbasket ready to eat, another woman—the only Black woman at the table—asks a stunning question to the guests: "How many of you would trade places with a Black person in this society?" The silence that instantly hovers over the dinner crowd was not only deafening but also revealing. Entrepreneurs Saira Rao and Regina Jackson have designed a program that radically educates a specific group of individuals who they say are directly responsible for the racism and discrimination happening in this country. Their unique tactic is to facilitate honest conversations and sometimes uncomfortable dialogue over an illustrious dinner. These powerful dinner experiences offer up an opportunity for white women to acknowledge their own racism and how they benefit from white privilege—regardless of a political party affiliation. Join us as I SEE U host Eddie Robinson chats candidly with New York Times best-selling authors, Saira Rao and Regina Jackson, for a provocative discussion about their no-holds-barred campaign. We'll learn more about their Race2Dinner movement, as well as take a deep dive into their latest book, "White Women: Everything You Already Know about Your Own Racism and How to Do Better,"—which serves as a call to action to those who are looking to take the next steps in dismantling white supremacy. Both Rao and Jackson have also released a documentary available on Apple TV and Prime Video entitled, Deconstructing Karen, where viewers become a "fly on the wall" during one of these eye-opening dinners.

 

Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Eddie Robinson: New York times, bestselling authors, Saira Rao and Regina Jackson are committing their lives to ending racism. These two activists have a very specific mission. Their goal is to help white women dismantle white supremacy.

[00:00:19] Regina Jackson: Tiptoeing around white people’s feelings hasn’t stopped racism. So we are at a place where nice is not going to solve anything.

[00:00:28] Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson, and stay tuned for a thought provoking and provocative conversation with Saira Rao and Regina Jackson. Their new book, White Women, is a call to action to those who are willing to acknowledge the role that they play in upholding white supremacy. And doing nothing or remaining silent is an act of racism.

[00:00:50] Eddie Robinson: Oh yeah. I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U.

[00:00:57] Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m your host, Eddie Robinson.

[00:01:07] Saira Rao: So, I’ve heard this a couple times already, um, colorblind, and you don’t see color, and I’m just gonna drop the bomb here, that’s white supremacy. Color blindness is white supremacy. You even said, I don’t see the color of anyone’s skin because when we cut ourselves open, we all bleed red. So you acknowledge that you see the red. How can you not see the color of our skin?

[00:01:33] Eddie Robinson: No Holds Barred. Those three words are the only ones that come to my mind after reading a book called White Women. Yes, that’s the name of the book. White Women. And there’s also a documentary that acts complimentary to the book entitled Deconstructing Karen.

[00:01:53] Eddie Robinson: Now both the book and the film, more so the book per se, serve as a guide aimed at helping white women dismantle white supremacy. The subtitle of the book is Everything you already know about your own racism and how to do better. Authors and activists, Saira Rao and Regina Jackson take you on a very hard core and in your face journey to provide white women an opportunity to acknowledge their own racism.

[00:02:24] Eddie Robinson: And how they benefit from white privilege. But as sociologist Robin DiAngelo has stated in a previous interview on PBS, this can really set white people off.

[00:02:36] Robin DiAngelo: The fragility part is meant to capture how little it takes to set white people off. To set us off into defensiveness. So for many white people, the mere suggestion that white has meaning will cause us to erupt in defensiveness.

[00:02:50] Robin DiAngelo: For many of your listeners, the fact that I’m generalizing right. Right now about white people, we’ll set off the defensiveness. Individualism is a really precious ideology for white people, and we do not like to be generalized about. The evidence that white people give for their lack of racism is very revealing to what we think racism is.

[00:03:13] Robin DiAngelo: And everything I do is to try to get us off the, the surface, which is all these narratives, and get under there to the underlying framework. Because despite all those narratives, I was taught to treat everyone the same, I don’t see color, our outcomes haven’t improved. By virtually every measure, there is racial inequality in this country, and by many measures, it’s increasing, not decreasing. And I think what’s really clear, we are not post racial.

[00:03:40] Eddie Robinson: That was author Robin D’Angelo speaking on Amanpour Company on PBS in the year 2020. But don’t expect Saira and Regina to break things down so nicely. They’re tough! They’re brutally honest. Some might call them crazy, but, you know, I call them remarkable for what the both of you are doing, and I must do a disclaimer, only for the benefit of I SEE U and for Houston Public Media.

[00:04:10] Eddie Robinson: Views expressed on this episode are not necessarily those of the staff of I SEE U or Houston Public Media. There may also be words or phrases that might offend some listeners, so discretion is certainly advised. And if there are any young listeners of our audio, TURN IT UP!

[00:04:33] Eddie Robinson: At any rate, I SEE U is fortunate to have Saira Rao and Regina Jackson. Thank you both for being a guest on I SEE U.

[00:04:41] Regina Jackson: Thank you for having us.

[00:04:42] Eddie Robinson: Okay. When I went and watched the film, it was all centered around this dinner aspect. So explain to I SEE U what Race2Dinner is and how did the two of you come to me? What’s going on there? Go.

[00:04:58] Regina Jackson: Okay, Saira ran for office in 2018 against a long term, you know, those people get in Congress and they think it’s a lifetime job, long term, Democrat, liberal, white woman. Saira ran, and her whole platform was anti racism.

[00:05:32] Regina Jackson: So, uh, every time Saira would give a speech, white women wanted to talk to her. They would line up around the corner and what they wanted to say is, not me. I’m not racist. So, uh, we had a mutual friend, an Indian woman lawyer who was working out at the airport, trying to get Muslims back in the country after Trump said no Muslims can enter the country.

[00:05:58] Regina Jackson: Secondly, I’m establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic. Terrorists out of the United States of America. So this congresswoman had a town hall meeting at the police station, mind you. And this young Indian woman went and she said, What are you doing about this people’s civil rights? And she was told that civil rights was not one of this congresswoman’s issues.

[00:06:29] Regina Jackson: Hear that civil rights was not one of her issues. So she went on to press it and they threatened to throw her out of the meeting. When I heard that I was done. I went to work on Saira’s campaign. I thought, you know, I like this Saira Rao. She just says it. She just puts it out there. She doesn’t care what anybody thinks.

[00:06:51] Regina Jackson: And, uh, we became fast friends. And I had a friend, a white woman, in our community, we only live less than a mile apart.

[00:07:00] Eddie Robinson: Okay.

[00:07:00] Regina Jackson: Who says to me, I’m done with Saira. She hates white people, but if you can get her to go to lunch with me, I would love that. So Saira goes, I’m not doing that anymore, Regina. She says, I’m entertaining these white women because I’m courting votes.

[00:07:15] Regina Jackson: She said, I’m paying for everything. I’m paying for a babysitter and they’re not going to vote for me anyway. She said, but if your friend wants to have a dinner. And invite her white lady friends, and you do it with me, she said, I’ll do that. Take it from there, Saira.

[00:07:31] Saira Rao: And you know what, what the straw that broke that Karen’s back? Is that I said Beto O’Rourke was a white savior. And, if I lived in Texas, I would vote for him. And, I just donated to his campaign, and you should too, because multiple things can and are true. And so that’s, that’s what set her over the edge, you know, and so, yes, we had this dinner, the first dinner, and it was full white woman, the Broadway musical. They’re crying, you know, shaking, arms folded. You know, like, we both are just like, yeah, this is, you know, what they do. So, I posted about it on Facebook the next day, and it went fully viral. It went fully viral. We had hundreds and hundreds of women, I wanna do a dinner, I wanna have a dinner, I wanna have dinner, and then a white woman by the name of Patty Ivins Specht, who had been following me on Facebook. DM’ed me and said, you know, I’ve been following your work and watching how white women respond to your work.

[00:09:10] Saira Rao: And I’ve been waiting to figure out how can we do a documentary? How do we capture this? And now this, can I come and film one of your dinners? And Regina and I were like,

[00:09:18] Regina Jackson: Yeah, right.

[00:09:19] Saira Rao: Okay, sure. Come do it. She pulls up three months later with five film crews from L. A. And so what you see on, um, in Deconstructing Karen is actually one of our very first dinners. Uh, and that’s it. That’s the movie. It’s one of the very first inners.

[00:09:37] Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson and you’re listening to I SEE U. New York Times best selling authors Saira Rao and Regina Jackson are here to talk about their latest book entitled White Women. It’s a call to action to those who are looking to take the next steps in dismantling white supremacy. The two are also featured in a documentary that you can check out on Apple TV called Deconstructing Karen.

[00:10:03] Eddie Robinson: Why do you think we’ve tiptoed around whiteness for so long? You know, because this book, this film, it feels like. You know, you’re ripping the Band Aid off when it comes to dealing and confronting racism once and for all. And on some level, that’s what this country needs, right? But you’re not attacking it as, as, as being nice.

[00:10:25] Eddie Robinson: You know, Saira as an Asian woman, Regina as a Black woman, tell us why you think we’ve tiptoed around calling out whiteness for so long.

[00:10:35] Regina Jackson: Well, I think Black people have had to tiptoe around whiteness just to survive. You know, I’m old enough to remember lynchings, Jim Crow, all of that nonsense. And if you said or did something that white people didn’t approve of, you know, depending on where you live, they just take you and lynch you, you know, lives were at stake.

[00:10:59] Regina Jackson: And as a professional person, uh, in a corporation, you had to. And if you were lucky enough, you got to advance. And the only way you did that was tiptoeing around white people’s feelings.

[00:11:16] Eddie Robinson: Saira?

[00:11:16] Saira Rao: 100%. I mean, nothing, nothing makes white people angrier than calling them white people. Literally, like, and that’s, that’s the con, right?

[00:11:27] Saira Rao: Like, you both have been Black your whole lives, and, and that’s on a good day. The stuff that, the other stuff that they’ll call you is, is, is not awesome. Um, I’ve been brown, I’ve been Asian, I’ve been Indian, I’ve been all sorts of things, right? But white people are just people. They are the default. So even by saying the word white people, that is somehow an attack.

[00:11:49] Saira Rao: Because now suddenly they are racialized. And when you’re racialized, you have to actually be honest about where you fall on the hierarchy, and what that means for you. And for white people, that means a history of being genocidal monsters, and you gotta start grappling. That’s why we tiptoe, though. That’s we tiptoe.

[00:12:08] Saira Rao: You say white people, it takes you down the rabbit hole of whiteness, white supremacy, and your role in it, and, and they get furious. You call that out and they get furious. They want to come and kill you.

[00:12:48] Eddie Robinson: Coming up, is calling someone a Karen a slur? Some have associated Karen with the N word. But how does the history of these terms affect the meaning and the power behind them? And, I SEE U producer Laura Walker joins in on the conversation to bring in a real world example of how white fragility can play out in the workplace and the profound impact that can have on people of color. I’m Eddie Robinson. I SEE U returns in just a moment.

[00:13:45] Eddie Robinson: Be sure to subscribe to our podcast. I SEE U with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

[00:14:14] Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson. We’re speaking with authors and activists, Regina Jackson and Saira Rao, about the role that white women play in upholding white supremacy. You know, and that may sound a little academic, but consider this notorious example from 1955.

[00:14:37] Eddie Robinson: A white woman accused Emmett Till of whistling at her in Mississippi. Emmett was then kidnapped, brutally tortured, and then shot in the head. The perpetrators tied a large metal fan to his neck with barbed wire and threw his body into the Tallahatchie River. The lynching of Emmett Till galvanized the civil rights movement in the 1950s, and it sounds like ancient history, but Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman whose words directly led to Emmett’s murder, Passed away just this year, 2023.

[00:15:15] Eddie Robinson: This is recent history. Still today, white women are believed and safeguarded. Even if that comes at the expense of black lives. I say all of this because you hear the terms Karen and Becky. And while some have called these terms pejorative, the history doesn’t quite exist to equate these terms to something similar to the N word. So, Saira, Regina, what is a Karen? What does it mean if you’re called that? Or, a Becky?

[00:16:01] Saira Rao: Karens and Beckys are all white women. All white women are Karens and Beckys. What does that mean? All white women possess white power. The way that white women use and misuse and weaponize their white power is the kind of Karen or Becky you are. So are you the kind of Karen or Becky who calls the cops on Black men who are bird watching in Central Park? Are you the kind of Karen or Becky who calls the cops on Black children for selling lemonade? Are you the kind of Karen who calls the manager when you see a brown woman in a hijab walking around Target with a backpack? Or, more likely, you’re the kind of Karen, and, and Regina and I are intimately familiar with this kind of Karen, who gets angry when you’re called out for your bad behavior, and instead of dealing with it, you weaponize it, and you freak all the way out, and you try to burn everything down.

[00:16:57] Saira Rao: So you see this kind of Karen behavior. Common Karens in this, in this, uh, place are workplace Karens. You know, a Black or a brown woman. It’s like, I don’t like the way you did that. I don’t like that you did this or did that. Instead of dealing with it on an interpersonal level, what does she do? She is angry.

[00:17:13] Saira Rao: Because you’ve, you’ve, you’ve somehow, you know, pulled the rug out from her, her white power. And she will go behind your back. She will get you demoted. She will get you fired. She will ghost you. She will make sure that she ruins your life. And that’s why all Karens and Beckys, unless you are conscious, conscious about how you are using your power, You’re going to be misusing it and you’re going to be causing all kinds of violence all over the place.

[00:17:39] Eddie Robinson: It’s interesting that you’ve brought up that example of a Karen in the workplace. You know, that’s why we wanted to bring into the chat our I SEE U producer, Laura Walker. You know, Saira, Regina. Your book, you know, white women, Laura, you’re a Black woman, you’re a professional in every sense of the word. But while we were preparing for this interview, you shared with me a personal story of yours.

[00:18:01] Eddie Robinson: And so we thought we’d have you discuss it on the air with our special guests. Laura, welcome to this side of the mic.

[00:18:08] Laura Walker: Thanks, Eddie.

[00:18:09] Regina Jackson: Hi, Laura.

[00:18:10] Laura Walker: Hi, Saira. Hi, Regina.

[00:18:12] Saira Rao: Hi Laura.

[00:18:12] Laura Walker: First of all, great book and documentary. So, I used to work for this really high end furniture retail company, um, that was based in California.

[00:18:26] Laura Walker: And, after working on this special project in our corporate offices, there was an opportunity where I was able to, um, take my experience into a retail location in a store in Houston, Texas. I was going to have my own team and teach them everything that I knew. The only thing is I had no control over the hiring process.

[00:18:51] Regina Jackson: Of course.

[00:18:53] Saira Rao: So when I got there, the whole team was in place. And there was this one white woman. And it was really hard for her to understand any of the material that I taught her. I would try to make it more digestible for her, but she was not understanding any of the concepts compared to everyone else that I had on my team.

[00:19:14] Saira Rao: And so after a while, she decided to go to the supervisors and say that I was singling her out. And I was discriminating against her. By treating her differently and me in the workplace, I’m the type of person that I just want to do my job. I just want to do my job. So I may not even come to a supervisor if there’s an issue with a person.

[00:19:44] Saira Rao: I’m just going to be focused on doing the best job that I can. So after this conversation that she had with supervisors, they actually, um, had me create an action plan, um, to where I would keep track of what she was doing and keep track of what everyone else on the team was doing and we would kind of compare where her progress was and she really wasn’t getting any better.

[00:20:13] Saira Rao: And there was one day where she literally walked off in tears. Um, and told our supervisors that I was being so mean to her and because she was bringing the complaint, they were more inclined to believe her than me. And this went on for months, um, of the crying and telling on what I was doing and back and forth, back and forth until one day I actually heard her say that her plan was to keep doing this until I got fired.

[00:20:49] Regina Jackson: She got you in trouble.

[00:20:51] Laura Walker: Yes. And probably the only reason why I didn’t get fired is because I was the only person in the building with that kind of experience. And so when I sat down and read your book, I was immediately reminded of this experience.

[00:21:08] Laura Walker: And I was like, that’s it. The white woman tears. So how is it that we can teach them to do better and then from the standpoint of a person of color or as a Black person, how do we navigate this type of situation and how should I have dealt with this? I thankfully was, you know, able to exit and, you know, get a new job, but for some people, they’re not able to leave.

[00:21:36] Regina Jackson: A couple of things. First of all, they know what they’re doing. Like, you know, she was, yeah, they know. So, um, you know, we need to be aware of that. What, what worked for me was that when I was in corporate America, when I felt those things coming on, I would call my immediate boss who was vice president general manager, and I would say here’s what’s going on I just need you to have my back and he did every time but see you get your support before you need it. Right, so you I let him know this this is what I’m dealing with and I’m gonna need your support and white women you know, they have to make a choice just like everybody else.

[00:22:21] Regina Jackson: They have to make a choice to be part of the problem or be part of the solution. And, and I tell people, I don’t need anybody’s ally. If you’re going to be in this work, I need you to be an accomplice. I need you to get down and dirty in the dirt with me. So the ones who want to are doing it. The ones who don’t are resisting.

[00:22:45] Regina Jackson: And I think it’s always going to be that way. You know, it’s a choice. It’s a personal choice about who do you want to be as a human being.

[00:22:55] Saira Rao: Yeah. And I want to add to that, Laura, first of all, I’m sorry that happened to you because I don’t think that any of us here are affirmed ever. Regina talks about that a lot.

[00:23:04] Saira Rao: We’re not seen, we’re not believed. So I SEE U and I believe you. And I’m sorry that that happened to you. First of all, second of all, I’ve come to realize, I mean, I feel like I’m aging in dog years in this work that it’s worse than I originally thought. It’s not that they hate. Eddie, Saira, Regina, and people who look like us, they hate themselves.

[00:23:27] Saira Rao: So it is the, how do we get them to do better? They don’t recognize our humanity, which is what, what this is. We have been dehumanized, right? To the point where we are not humans. And so it doesn’t matter if police kill people who are not humans. It doesn’t matter if we throw people in the concentration camps because they’re not human.

[00:23:44] Saira Rao: They dehumanized themselves. They do not see their own humanity. They’re not in touch with their own humanity. That’s why they don’t have real relationships with themselves and with each other. That’s why white women are constantly talking s*** about each other, stabbing each other in the back. And so that’s what they do. That is by does they do that because that’s all they know how to do. That is their B that is learned behavior. So an until and unless. White women learn how to love themselves and learn how to love each other. Truly, it’s going to be more violence and death and destruction for everybody else because they hold the power.

[00:24:22] Saira Rao: You know, if, if we had the power to end this, it would have ended by now. We do not hold the power. So further to reverse discrimination or reverse racism, Black and brown people cannot be reverse racist against white people because we don’t have the power to do it. We don’t have the power to do it. It’s literally a physical…

[00:24:42] Saira Rao: And so my thing is, I don’t know how you can get someone to learn how to love themselves and how to get someone to learn how to feel like in touch with themselves. And, and that’s the billion dollar question. And instead it’s a billion dollar industry of self help. What they’re all learning how to do is how to get in better shape and, and how to like learn, like lose the next.

[00:25:00] Saira Rao: Someone said famously, like if white women. Even tried one 10th as hard on ending racism as they did to lose the last, the final five pounds.

[00:25:08] Regina Jackson: We wouldn’t be here..

[00:25:09] Saira Rao: It would have ended decades, centuries ago.

[00:25:11] Regina Jackson: You know, there are some things that I do as a Black woman. Number one is I affirm myself and I affirm other Black women.

[00:25:19] Regina Jackson: So I have to tell you, I have a daughter who’s 47. And I, when I’m out about the community, cyber can tell you. And I see Black people. I acknowledge them. Hello, King. Hello, Queen. They get these huge smiles on their faces and it makes me happy. My daughter goes, Mom, stop it. It’s weird. I’m not stopping it.

[00:25:43] Laura Walker: It’s not weird.

[00:25:44] Regina Jackson: I’m not stopping it. If you don’t like it, step away because I don’t believe that we get affirmed and acknowledged and seen. So I make, I take it upon myself to do that to my people.

[00:25:58] Saira Rao: We, um, I can, I can confirm that Regina absolutely does that. And in places like New York city and Toronto, she’s saying hi queen King, every 10 seconds, it’s amazing what people are like, whatever.

[00:26:08] Saira Rao: And we were at a hotel in Toronto checking in and she says, Hey King to this guy. And And he was so excited and I said, Regina, I think he’s Indian and not Black. And she goes, he can be a king too. And he was super excited about it.

[00:26:23] Laura Walker: I’ve actually had someone do that to me before.

[00:26:25] Regina Jackson: Yes!

[00:26:26] Laura Walker: And it felt so good the rest of that day.

[00:26:28] Regina Jackson: You feel good.

[00:26:29] Laura Walker: It does feel good.

[00:26:30] Eddie Robinson: I’ve never had that happen.

[00:26:32] Laura Walker: And if I can ask just one more question. One of the profound parts of the documentary happens at the end of the Race2Dinner. Um, there’s a conversation between, um, Michelle and Marnie. And, um, in this conversation, um, everyone kind of comes to the realization that, um, Marnie, who, um,

[00:27:01] Regina Jackson: Right.

[00:27:01] Laura Walker: Marnie, who, um, is a self proclaimed Trump supporter,

[00:27:04] Regina Jackson: Trump supporter.

[00:27:05] Laura Walker: Is able to see, you know what? I am a racist and here’s why, and here’s what I can do to be better. Whereas Michelle, you know, a proclaimed liberal woman and the solution to everything is love and you know, why are we being so negative by talking about, you know, race in the way that we, you, you both do during the dinner. She can’t really change by the end of the dinner or see why there is a need to change.

[00:27:39] Laura Walker: Why is it that someone with, that follows a party that has very, very, you know, provocative and at times problematic views, able to see maybe there’s a reason why I need to change but a self proclaimed white woman, liberal woman doesn’t feel the need to change. Why is that?

[00:28:06] Regina Jackson: Well, you know, uh, liberal white women and one of the women at the table said it. They think they’re good. They think They’re giving to the community, they believe that, you know, they’re not racist, so their internal picture of themselves is totally different from how we see them. And you know, when, when you don’t make space internally to change and to learn and to grow, you don’t do that.

[00:28:37] Saira Rao: Yeah. I think that’s exactly right. It’s, it’s, if you, if you inherently think that you’re a part of the solution. And not part of the problem. You become, you, you, it’s very, you get enraged when it’s pointed out that everyone’s, I’m, I’m part of the problem. You know, Asians in this country have played a very specific role in keeping Black people down.

[00:28:57] Saira Rao: Keeping ourselves down and propping up white supremacy look no further than the affirmative action case.

[00:29:01] Regina Jackson: Yeah.

[00:29:01] Saira Rao: Literally, they, they handpicked Asians to, to, to bring forth that case and now affirmative action has gone to the detriment of Asians as well. You know, like, that’s how we’ve, we’ve been, we’ve been used. And I’ll tell you what, like, back to aging in dog years, this book now has been out eight months. And a hundred thousand books are in circulation.

[00:29:40] Saira Rao: I mean, this is a gigantic book, right? Lots and lots and lots of white people and non white people are reading it as well. But plenty of white women who have read the book, who have sat with the book, have reread the book, have, have done work with us, still act like nightmares. Still, even after all of it, and in some cases act like the biggest, most gigantic nightmares you’ve ever met in your life, because there’s always a breaking point with white women.

[00:30:08] Saira Rao: Always. If they, if, quote, push too far, they will always revert back to being the violent person they were taught to be from the beginning. Because in the end, they can always go back to just their, their comfort zone, and they can always find white solidarity, always, even in the most woke, woke, woke, white space, they will always find solidarity, and the four of us who look like this, and my goodness, women, black and brown women, are their greatest targets on the planet, they will do everything together to bring us down, always.

[00:30:42] Eddie Robinson: And if I could just pick up on that, do you think that that’s really, in essence, The hurdle of why there’s not significant, impactful change immediately because of the notion that they have each other’s backs, you know, and know that they have each other’s backs. So why should we change?

[00:31:04] Regina Jackson: Yeah, well, and you know, they are getting the benefits of whiteness. So you have to, why, why would I want to change when I’m getting all the benefits of whiteness and I can still pretend like it? You know, I want to do good and I want to make a change. So it’s, you know, it’s a never ending struggle. We don’t have the answers. We just figured we would try something different. We would try radically honest conversations.

[00:31:31] Eddie Robinson: It’s definitely radical.

[00:31:33] Saira Rao: The benefits of whiteness until you no longer have the benefits of whiteness. So two existential crises we’re facing right now is a society where white supremacy has is eating itself, which is guns and climate catastrophe. Right? 100 Both of those things are 100 percent driven by white supremacy.

[00:31:49] Saira Rao: Guns are the number one killers of kids and teens in America, including white children. So, if they can’t pull their heads out of their a****, and pull their feelings out of their a****, and show up to end the nightmare that’s killing their children, climate catastrophe to We’re all Like, humanity is on the brink of getting wiped off the Earth.

[00:32:08] Saira Rao: You know? And they And they can’t do it. If you want a good example of what this looks like, look at the way The Squad has been treated in Congress. By the Nancy Pelosi’s. They have been so dragged for everything. AOC, Cori Bush, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, you got all of them. Right? Latina, you got Palestinian, you’ve got Black, you know, the whole, Pramila Jayapal most recently.

[00:32:34] Saira Rao: They open their mouth and these white women do not have their back. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, my God, she’s like the patron saint of white feminism, right? She has been put on every throne on the planet, but when they say or do something, she’s the first person to be part of the, you know, part of the silence.

[00:32:53] Saira Rao: So the Republicans drag them. And the white women in Congress remain silent, say nothing.

[00:33:08] Eddie Robinson: Coming up, we wrap up our unguarded chat with Regina Jackson and Saira Rao. Is it possible to be blind to race? Especially if race is just a social construct. Wasn’t the dream of Martin Luther King about peace, love, and unity? When we come back, we’ll discuss why it’s so important to confront race. And why this focus on white women to begin with?

[00:33:36] Eddie Robinson: Be sure to follow us on social media. We’re at I SEE U show. On Facebook, Instagram, and X, you can find photos and videos of our interviews and more follow us and join in on the conversation. I’m Eddie Robinson. You’re listening to I SEE U. Our final segment comes your way right after this.

[00:34:11] Eddie Robinson: Be sure to subscribe to our podcast, I SEE U with Eddie Robinson, you can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

[00:34:46] Eddie Robinson: This is I SEE U. I’m your host, Eddie Robinson. We’ve been chatting unguarded with Saira Rao And Regina Jackson, their latest book published by Penguin entitled White Women, Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism And How To Do Better. Serves as a no holds barred guide to examining racism from weaponizing tears to gaslighting.

[00:35:11] Eddie Robinson: This book also helps realize the part white women can play in dismantling white supremacy. Regina and Saira. I want to ask about something that we hear from some white people when they find themselves confronted with race in this topic. It’s that classic response. I don’t see color. I don’t see race. How is that type of statement harmful to BIPOC communities?

[00:36:02] Saira Rao: I mean, that’s colorblindness, that’s colorblind racism. So if you don’t see color, he does, you know, you don’t see the reality of race. And if you don’t see the reality of race, you’re actively upholding white supremacy and racism and xenophobia. It’s as simple as that. I mean, so, so I don’t see your color.

[00:36:17] Saira Rao: So then therefore, when I call the cops on you, it’s, I don’t know what the history of cops is. We’re calling cops on Black and brown people. If I don’t see color, you know, my burning it down because you offended me couldn’t be racism because I don’t see color. How can it be racism if I don’t see color? It completely absolves white people of all guilt.

[00:36:36] Saira Rao: And what do they do? They weaponize MLK’s words. This is what they do. They take words that Black and brown people say, beloved Black and brown people say, and then they weaponize it. You think Martin Luther King was advocating for colorblind racism? Give me a break. Of course not. You know, but they took his words and they weaponized it.

[00:36:53] Saira Rao: You know what we never hear about? Letter from the Birmingham Jail. How about that? How about that? Why don’t we ever hear about MLK’s words about that? They pick and choose, and, and, and even in Deconstructing Karen, you see that the white lady goes, I don’t see color because when I cut, when we cut ourselves open, we all bleed red.

[00:37:44] Saira Rao: I’m like, but you just, you see the color red but you don’t see black and brown? Give me a break. This is all nonsense. This is why the book is titled, Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How to Do Better. It is actually calling out the inherent gaslighting of white womanhood. We know, you know, you wrote the script.

[00:38:02] Regina Jackson: The great pretense, that’s what I call it, the great pretense. And I’ve had discussions on, you know, when you acknowledge something, right? You are required to make a choice. You are required to say, okay, I need to change this or I’m going to leave it the way it is. Well, that’s why they don’t acknowledge it because it’s easier to pretend like. You don’t know something than to acknowledge how wrong it is and have to do something. So it’s the great pretense. We know, you know, we know that you know.

[00:38:37] Eddie Robinson: That’s right. That’s right. The energy present in these dinners. You know, I mean, the best way I can put it to describe what’s going on. Y’all aren’t nice. You know, the best word to describe the energy is intense.

[00:38:52] Regina Jackson: Well, let me just add to that. The one thing you cannot do at our dinner table is cry. We’re not tolerating white women tears because we know what that’s about. Um, being nice hasn’t stopped racism in, I don’t know, 450 years, you know, tiptoeing around white people’s feelings hasn’t stopped racism. So we are at a place where nice is not going to solve anything.

[00:39:18] Regina Jackson: And we separate being nice from being kind because white women niceness is killing us all. When you don’t speak up, and that’s part of their niceness, you don’t correct anybody because it’s not proper. When you don’t speak up, when you see other human beings being harmed, you are giving your tacit approval to that behavior.

[00:39:42] Regina Jackson: So, no, we’re not nice to you, we don’t tolerate crying, and your feelings, it’s called emotional intelligence, get some.

[00:39:53] Saira Rao: Yeah, and that is also one of the great cons. There are lots of cons. And, and one of the greatest is if you are direct, like we are, if you speak like this, the way I’m speaking right now, the way Regina speaks, it’s not only that we’re not nice, we’re mean. We’re angry. We are, wait for it, abusers. This is my personal favorite. We are abusers of white women. So let’s get this straight.

[00:40:21] Saira Rao: White people have, this is the history of the country, frankly the world, a genocide of indigenous people that happened here. Then the genocide and enslavement of African people, that too happens here. Then it’s a, you know, rinse and repeat cycle. There’s Chinese Exclusion Act, that’s a real thing. Japanese internment at concentration camps, that’s a real thing.

[00:40:44] Saira Rao: Operation Wetback, also real. Muslim ban, real. That’s abuse. That is a, you know, genocide and enslavement is abuse. Concentration camps are abuse. But calling it out like this? They call it abuse and so that it’s, it’s all mental manipulation and it works. That’s why we are right now. Be nicer, say it nicer.

[00:41:08] Saira Rao: Like Regina just said, really? Has that worked? Because being nicer, everyone being nicer now has given us a whole steaming pile of Nazism in this country. That’s what niceness has gotten us.

[00:41:17] Eddie Robinson: What can you, either of you remember or recall? Cause you’ve, you’ve done quite a few Race2Dinners. Uh, I would have imagined. Um, what is the most disturbing thing a white woman has said in one Race2Dinners, if you can recall the most disturbing thing.

[00:41:37] Regina Jackson: Uh, a woman said at that dinner that my former friend had, she said that. She lived in the South, and her Jewish family, her mother worked on civil rights, and she says, You don’t know what it’s like to be called a N word. I’m like, oh really? Oh really? I don’t know what, that’s pretty insane.

[00:41:59] Saira Rao: She said, you don’t know what it’s like to be called an N word lover. That’s what she said to Regina. And Regina is just sitting there like, just flabbergasted, and Regina said, You will recall that I’m a black person and the woman goes oh, oh, oh, but like this is the kind of stuff You know, I had another dinner.

[00:42:17] Saira Rao: Um, actually it was that same one. That was a, that was a nutso one. Um, The woman sitting to my right said she’s a yoga instructor in Boulder, which is like ground zero for white Wakanda, Whitekanda And I said, yes, you know, yoga in this country has been culturally appropriated. This white woman sitting next to her who doesn’t even know her, this is white solidarity.

[00:42:37] Saira Rao: She flips all the way out, reaches over and tries to grab my shirt and says, you apologize to her right now. Meanwhile, yoga lady is like, get your hands off of her, please don’t do that. You know, but they, they get so ferociously mad that, you know, if there’s not physical violence and white men, you know, white men are the masters of physical violence.

[00:42:59] Saira Rao: White women are the masters of mental manipulation. You make them mad, you hurt them to their core, and they will literally try to ruin your life. And because of white solidarity, they all stick together. They all stick together, and it works. Every single time.

[00:43:21] Regina Jackson: And Eddie, I want to point out one of the things that they do, and this just makes me so mad. I’ve gone on tirades about feelings. They equate their feelings with our pain and suffering. They are not synonymous. Somebody make Making you feel bad is not synonymous with the violence that whiteness does to people of color. It’s not the same thing.

[00:43:44] Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson, speaking with Regina Jackson and Saira Rao, authors of the book White Women, Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How To Do Better.

[00:43:58] Eddie Robinson: Let’s dive into the both of your lives separately. Regina, you first. You were born in Chicago, like you said, in 1950. You recall how Black and

[00:44:08] Regina Jackson: Cook County Hospital.

[00:44:09] Eddie Robinson: Cook County Hospital, , I mean, look, and you recall as you grew older. How Black and white America was in really Black and white.

[00:44:20] Regina Jackson: Uh, yeah, we, we, we did not socialize and I didn’t grow up in the South. I grew up, my father was military, so we moved all around. Now in the military community, it’s, it’s different. It’s, uh, your, your status officers, uh, non commissioned officers and, um, those. So you stayed within your social group. And that was fine. You know, we got along with everybody because soldiers married women from all over the world, you know, French, Italian, German, Vietnamese.

[00:44:51] Regina Jackson: Now, so that my life growing up, I lived off a military base for the first time. 16 years old, finished high school, but we didn’t socialize with white people. It was, you know, the Black kids, we stayed together and it was separate.

[00:45:05] Eddie Robinson: Sure. Sure.

[00:45:08] Regina Jackson: Then you knew where you belonged. You knew who your friends were. And I think for Black kids, and I tell my kids, if you grow up in someplace like Denver, Whitekanda. You need to be going to an HBCU.

[00:45:22] Regina Jackson: Cause that’s where you’re going to learn community. That’s where you’re going to be loved and cared for and taken care of. Cause our kids, I think schools are the worst for Black and brown kids. You know, they single out our Black boys immediately, immediately single them out. And it doesn’t get better through their whole careers unless the majority of the staff. Are are Black and brown people.

[00:45:46] Eddie Robinson: Well, what I was, I wanted to get some insight from you. If you can recall Regina, the most intense. Moment that you’ve often find yourself being triggered. I think that’s the best word. It constantly resonates in your mind and you just can’t seem to let it go. And perhaps it serve as a motivation for you to be a part of this work. What is that incident? If you can recall?

[00:46:14] Regina Jackson: Well, I think, you know, Eddie, I am not a person that gets triggered. I just don’t, I don’t have those conversations. I don’t deal in nonsense.

[00:46:25] Eddie Robinson: I love that. I love that.

[00:46:27] Regina Jackson: You know, had a call the other day about something Saira said. I said, well, let’s get Saira on the phone. You know, let’s get, I’m not talking to you about somebody else, the three of us can have.

[00:46:38] Regina Jackson: So I don’t do that. I don’t get triggered. Your feelings are your feelings. And I say to Saira, F*** your feelings, f*** my feelings too. This is not about our feelings. We need to manage our own feelings. So I’m not a person that gets triggered. I just am not.

[00:46:54] Eddie Robinson: Yeah. Interesting. Saira, you grew up in Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of Indian immigrants, uh, you write in this book, for 40 years, you quote, wasted your precious time aspiring to be white and accepted by dominant white society, a futile task for anyone not born with white skin.

[00:47:15] Eddie Robinson: I even recall in your film that you mentioned, you know, something that happened in school where this very popular boy was going to ask you out on a date, but brought you to the library, and said, my parents won’t. allow me to go out with you because of your skin color. You know, you’re a lawyer by training, former congressional candidate, a published novelist, entrepreneur. What has happened or continues to happen in your life that has sustained you to continue this work that you’re doing now?

[00:47:44] Saira Rao: Well, unlike Regina, I absolutely do get triggered and, and, you know, I can give you something that’s right now happening right now that Regina is very aware of. There’s a white woman who’s been working with us, you know, and in the end, it’s no matter how you cut it, and we’ve had other white women work for us, I’m not singling out any white woman, I’m saying they’re all the same, is in the end, you know, they look at me, and they look at Regina, and they cannot handle that we are their bosses, that is ultimately, that is ultimately the end, and so at some point, if they don’t like the way, what we’re saying to them, or the way we’re saying it, Instead of actually trying to have a conversation about it.

[00:48:28] Saira Rao: They go behind your back and they start, you know, telephone tree, like from the 80s, like going down the list, calling all the white people they know to say how, what a horrible person you are, what an abusive person you are. And then the white solidarity happens and then there’s a, an attempt to essentially ruin your life.

[00:48:45] Saira Rao: And in our cases, you know, for Regina and I, we’re, we are public figures at this point and this makes our lives dangerous. You know, this is, this is the stuff of the KKK. So, you know, trying to turn people against us. People know where we live. People know where our kids live. People know where grandkids like, it is And this is why we say white liberal women are the most dangerous because we don’t f*** with white Republican women.

[00:49:10] Saira Rao: Right? For the most part. And so we avoid them. We don’t give them our addresses. They don’t know they don’t know where our kids go to school. Right? But because we have entrusted white women with personal information, And then when they turn, that’s when it gets very dangerous. So I am, in this moment, afraid for my children right now, not because of Lauren Boebert, in addition to, in addition to Lauren Boebert, I’m afraid for my children right, right now because of white, quote, woke white women whose feelings have gotten hurt by something I’ve said and the way I’ve said it.

[00:49:48] Eddie Robinson: Thank you for being vulnerable there. Our last and final question we ask to all of our guests. Saira, since you’ve got the floor, we’re gonna ask you, of all the accomplishments, the triumphs, the tribulations that you’ve had to endure throughout your life, you’re a mom, you’re an entrepreneur, what lessons have you learned about yourself thus far? Regina, you’re next.

[00:50:15] Saira Rao: That I still, boy, are these women trying me, but I still believe that white women can wake up to their own humanity like I did, because I was dead inside for a long time. Trying to be white. And I woke up, and I got in touch with my humanity. And it’s the only way we’re going to get anywhere.

[00:50:40] Saira Rao: It’s the only way this gun violence is going to end. It’s the only way this climate catastrophe is going to end. And I have to continue to believe, in spite of, we can call it white nonsense, but what it really is, is white violence. In spite of the open and notorious and subtle and violent white violence, I continue to believe that white women also can wake up to their own humanity, and together we can make this world a livable place for everybody.

[00:51:05] Eddie Robinson: Regina, you’re a mother, you’re a grandmother, you’ve gone through so much and had to endure so much. What lessons have you learned about yourself thus far?

[00:51:18] Regina Jackson: You know, I think I am always willing to do the inner work. You know, I know I have to affirm myself. I know I have to affirm other people. I know I have to continue to change and grow and develop.

[00:51:33] Regina Jackson: And I know that I’m responsible for every human being in my life and those beyond. I take personal responsibility. For being a changemaker and a person who is kind, who’s trustworthy, who’s honest, and I, I, that’s what I do.

[00:51:53] Eddie Robinson: New York Times bestselling authors. Saira Rao and Regina Jackson, thank you tremendously for being guests on I SEE U.

[00:52:03] Regina Jackson: Thank you, Eddie.

[00:52:04] Saira Rao: Thank you.

[00:52:05] Regina Jackson: And when I SEE U, I’m going to acknowledge you. Hey, King! What’s up?

[00:52:15] Eddie Robinson: Our team includes Technical Director Todd Hulslander, Producer Laura Walker. Editors, Mincho Jacob and Jonmitchell Goode. I SEE U is a production of Houston Public Media. Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our podcast wherever you listen to or download your favorite shows. I’m your host and executive producer, Eddie Robinson.

[00:52:40] Eddie Robinson: And I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time.

 

This article is part of the podcast I SEE U with Eddie Robinson

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