Pull up a chair and grab a beverage for this one.
S1E4: Getting Free with Desiree Lynn Adaway
Desiree Adaway is a seasoned nonprofit consultant and facilitator. She leads difficult conversations around race, class, and gender, and she does so with the greatest of ease.
Simply put, Desiree knows who she is, knows why she’s here, and she’s here to help you figure out the same for yourself.
IN THIS EPISODE:
* Desiree defines what it means to be free and explains how we aren’t – no matter how free we think we are
* Comfort is a value in this country – and how that informs how we react to folks who challenge our deeply held beliefs
* The System: Fall into line, hide, be destroyed
* Reflecting on the Women’s March, and the differences between primarily-white protests vs. protests led by people of color
* #NotAllWhiteWomen – and why proclaiming that you’re not like the rest of the millions of white women who voted for Trump is false, and dangerous
* “Ally” is not a cloak you wear. You have to show up every single day.
NEXT WEEK: Alexis Morgan is here to talk capitalism, tech bros, and her first-hand experience interacting with one of the self-proclaimed leaders of the “hustlepreneur” movement
* Assata Shakur (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNayo…)
* Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown
* Missing Class: Strengthening Social Movement Groups by Seeing Class Cultures, by Betsy Leondar-Wright
Unfuck Yourself Show Season One Episode Four
Getting Free with Desiree Lynn Adaway
Jess: Welcome to episode 4 of Unfuck Yourself. The show about reclaiming you. I’m Jess.
Sydney: And I’m Sydney and today we are here with Desiree Adaway and I am so excited, you guys. I can’t deal– I am like half nervous, half excited because this is just great. This is the most FaceTime I have had with Desiree since I’ve started following you.
So, Desiree, if you could do a favor and introduce yourself because I don’t want to take the word out of your mouth. That would be awesome. Everybody.
GETTING FREE WITH DESIREE LYNN ADAWAY
Desiree: Sure. Hi y’all. Desiree Adaway. Who am I? I am a consultant. I am a coach. I am a trainer, facilitator. I am a big feminist and I am part of the sisterhood. I work with communities who want to be free. All the work that I do is wrapped up in personal liberation and liberation from institutions and systems that oppress us. All of my work at its core is about liberation, which is the word that I carry on my body 24/7. It’s about the things that matter.
Jess: Yes. I know Sydney and I have really similar questions here.
Sydney: No, go ahead.
Desiree: Just dig in.
Jess: A lot of times we say stuff like we want to be free or we want to move out of these systems and we don’t always talk about what that means. So really curious to hear your take of being free means.
Desire: We have all been trained or gone through a system that society teaches us how to be, how to act, our role. So, we’re born and people are like, “We’re born and we are innocent.” No, we are actually born and from the moment we are born, we are actually gendered.
Once we are gendered, that sets us on these different paths that society has already put in front of us. Even happens before you are born. People are like, “Oh, you should get pink for the baby.” and you are like, “Maybe my baby doesn’t want pink.” or whatever that is. So, society gives us all these messages.
We get them from our parents. We get them from church. We get them from school. We get them from the neighborhoods we live in. From our teachers. We are taught to act a certain way and if we don’t act a certain way, if we don’t follow the status quo, we get punished. We get punished for breaking outside of that box of what society tells us what we should be.
That shows up in lots of different ways. It reaches a point in all of our lives where we have to make the decision where we say, ” The things that we have been taught are not necessarily all true. Sometimes this happens when we are 14. Sometimes it happens when we are 64. But at some point, there is some dissonance that occurs in your life and it’s just the cycle that Bobbie Harro teaches about. Something happens in this cycle where there is this dissonance. You are like, “Wait. I was taught that the police were good and they took care of me. I go to them for safety. But I just saw 8 black men in a row killed. So maybe the police weren’t here to do what I thought they were going to do. Or maybe they do that for some people.”
So, when that happens in your mind, you have two choices. You can ignore it and say, “No. Police are top. That’s what I was taught. That’s what I’m sticking with. Y’all not going to get me out here caught up.” Or you can read and question. Expand your network and your understanding and say, “Wait a minute. Maybe what I’ve been told is not the whole truth. Maybe there are other stories and other versions of this truth. I should understand what they are.”
So that cycle of socialization that we go through is insidious and powerful. We swim in it and we don’t even know. I tell people all the time. I use language that is so incredibly ableist and so incredibly gendered and I fight it every day. Everyday. When I’m teaching, I use the term like ‘Guys’ which I’m like ‘You know not to use that term.’ I’m 51 years old. It’s what I have grown up with. It is what I’ve taught with for 30 years. So, it is the intentionality and just the everyday fighting against this very insidious way we have been taught to exclude other people from our lives.
Jess: I love that.
Sydney: And mic drop number one.
Jess: I wrote a note when you brought up dissonance. And now I want to talk about what you just said. I think dissonance is such a great way to recognize– I’m glad you brought it up. That’s, for me, been that recognition point is when something just clashes.
Desiree: We don’t like to change. Comfort has become a value in this country. We love comfort. Don’t tell me anything different than what I know. How dare you? Because I was good and comfortable. Now I see something differently, I have a choice, and my choice is to ignore it or to continue to dig in and learn more, which makes me uncomfortable. Which is probably going to make m partners, my kids, my family, where I work uncomfortable. I don’t want to do that. Because why? Because I have been socialized to be a good girl.
Jess: That good girl is–
Sydney: –tricky beast. That sneaks up all the fucking time.
“BEING GOOD DOES NOT GET YOU FREE.”
Desiree: I was right. I was taught to be good girl. And you don’t talk back and you don’t use this certain language and you don’t show up in a certain way. Because we get cookies when we are good. We get jobs and people ask us out on dates. Everybody loves us and we get stroked at Thanksgiving. All the things happen when we are good.
But being good does not keep other people safe. And being good does not get you free. Being good keeps you in line. It actually keeps you small and hidden. Getting free. So, when I say let’s go get free, what I am saying is ‘Let’s acknowledge that there is no one way for anything and no one thing fits everybody.’ We don’t have to center certain people.
What would happen when we center all of us? What would happen if the voice of an undocumented trans woman held just as much value as a white man on Wall Street?
Sydney: That’s a dream world I would like to live in.
Desiree: It would be a totally different world. It would absolutely be a different world. We have to acknowledge that as part of that socialization, we make fun of other people. We belittle other people. We belittle their existence. We belittle their history. We belittle their lives.
We do this all the time because that gives us power. We work in this hierarchy and I want to stay on top. For me to stay on top, I have to justify why you are at the bottom. If there is no justification why I am on top and you are at the bottom, again that is dissonance. I have to be like, “How did I get on top?” DO I deserve to be on top? And maybe that answer is, ‘No. You don’t.’
Jess: Usually, the answer is ‘No. You don’t.’
Desiree: Exactly. But we justify this myth of meritocracy which says, ‘I worked hard to get on top.’ I did all the things right. I was good and I got to the top. We know that’s a lie. We know people who follow all the rules and bad things happen.
Jess: I noticed that the other day I was watching yet another video with someone giving a speech and somewhere in their story was about how they did all the right things. They did X. They did Y. They checked off every single check box they had to check off to be that good girl. To be that good person.
And where they ended up is the same place I think a lot of us end up which is miserable and feeling that dissonance and knowing that things aren’t right and knowing that there is more. It is such a bullshit story. Not about the people’s stories but the story that we have to do that.
Desiree: It is because the more and more we follow this cycle of socialization, and is a very thin road that they allow you to follow. You don’t get to go out of this super thin road and once you do-. The way that this country has worked and still works and the President that we have currently is a great example of how this works- is that we expect that you fall into line.
You fall into line what we say goes. You do not get to at all–in any shape or form–be different. You check the box. You follow along. If you don’t do that, we try to make you hide. We have rules and laws that say we don’t see you. Native Americans– we push them as far away from cities and peoples are isolated so we don’t have to see them. We do bills in states like North Carolina–bathroom bills– so we don’t have to see people. That bathroom bill is not about what bathrooms you actually use. It’s about how do we keep trans people out of public spaces. I’m not talking about all that work stuff that was latched on to that.
So, you assimilate or we make you hide. The last thing is, if you don’t do that, we destroy you. We take away your livelihood. We take away your work. We take away your land. We’ve done this throughout history and we still do this today. We think of religion– we assimilate. When you didn’t assimilate, we made you hide. Hello. Everybody that wasn’t Christian by what we define as Christian. Let’s move these Mormons out to Utah. Out West. If you want to survive.
Jess: Let’s kill all the witches.
Desiree: Let’s kill all the witches. Let’s move Cherokee. Let’s make them walk across country. And then if you don’t do what we say, we destroy you. We lent you. We take away your ability to make a living. To be seen. To be acknowledged. To be heard by community. We teach stories and mythology about how you were bad and wrong and all the things. We have to fight against that. We have to fight against this very real way that this country has dealt with anybody. That was different and pushed back on this empire.
Jess: I think that you just hit on a really good point like so many of us have this thing about being seen. Sydney and I have talked about this a lot.
Sydney: Once or twice.
Jess: Being nervous about being seen or being who we are or actually using our voices. Whatever the case may be. It actually does go back to that. We are taught that if we do that, that we are not safe.
Desiree: No. No.
Jess: If we are not safe, then we are not free, which goes directly into your work.
Desiree: Yeah. You were taught in all the ways not to do that. Not to step out of line. We know what happens when you are the one that brings up all the issues at the work place.
Jess: You get fired.
Desiree: The minute that there are layoffs, you name somehow lines up on a list.
Jess: I think every performance review that I ever had said something to do with me being a troublemaker.
Desiree: Yeah. You don’t fit in. You are not really part of a team. All the ways that we exclude people. We exclude them because I need you to follow along. If you don’t follow along, then honestly then I have to question my own life. I’m not ready to question my own life. So, I need you to just be grateful that you get a check. I need you to come in and do what you need to do and leave.
And trust me, I’ve been there and I have two small children as a single parent. I’ve came in. I’ve punched my card. I’ve done what I had to do and left. There was a part of me up to a certain point physically I couldn’t do it anymore. I became sick. I’ve always become ‘Choose me.’ and say what some needs to say. I’m not going to be ashamed for saying what needed to be said. It took a while to get there.
Sydney: So, when you talk about a liberation– I don’t know how else to ask this so if this is offensive then please feel free to correct me–as a white woman, am I allowed to talk about liberation in the same vein that you do? I hear you talk about the systems and we are all oppressed by multiple systems, some more than others. So, am I appropriating the phrase– liberation?
Desiree: I don’t think so because this is it as an oppressor, you lose in this game as well.
Sydney: Yeah. For sure. 100%.
Desiree: There is just as much damage done to you just as much as the oppressor as to me being oppressed. Like men absolutely harmed by such misogyny.
Sydney: How would you explain to a man that patriarchy is not just something that just impacts women?
Desiree: How do you explain to white people that racism is real?
Jess: Fucking listen to me.
Desiree: So, I always say people have to be teachable, reachable, and ready. Like they have to be able to hear that. They have to have that dissonance which shows them different and be ready to say, ‘I’m not going to follow the status quo.’ And for some that happens when they have a kid.
Sydney: Especially if the kid is a daughter.
Desiree: Especially if the kid is a daughter. Then they are like, “Oh, wait a minute.”
Sydney: Hang on a second.
Desiree: What do you mean my kid can’t play ball? Again, some people get it and some people never get it. It’s just like racism. Today is black women’s equal pay day. I don’t know if you have seen some people on Twitter but these white men are bananas. There like, “There is no such thing.” “You should just work harder.” “Get better jobs and make more money.”
Sydney: If only it was that simple, Mr. White Guy.
Desiree: There’s this thing called data. Y’all should look at it sometime. You should read it. Like there’s research that shows that white women make 80 cents to the dollar, black women make 63 cents to the dollar, Hispanic women make 59 cents to the dollar like what? What in the hell people?
Sydney: We are just making shit up. That shit aint real.
Desiree: Like literally. They are like, “This isn’t real. That’s a made-up hashtag.” I was like oh okay.
Sydney: Yeah, like we like to bring this upon ourselves.
Desiree: You know what I enjoy? I enjoy being a black woman who is educated and still makes less money than other people. I’d love that. That’s my favorite part of my life.
Sydney: That’s on my list of favorite things. Like close to the top.
DIGNITY DOES NOT NEED TO BE EARNED
Desiree: You are right. What do you say to a man? You just keep saying it over and over and you don’t let them dim your voice. You know this is to be true. And if you know it’s to be true–. So, this is my thing with people who are like hearts and minds– some people don’t agree with me on this– I’m like, “I don’t really care if you like women. I really care if you like black women. I do care when you harm black women.” Three systems and laws. That I actually give a good fuck about.
So now this is what I’m doing so you don’t harm me or mine. So, people at like, “They just have to know you and understand.” You don’t have to know someone or understand someone’s life to give them respect and dignity. I think that’s the biggest pack of shit I have ever heard in all my days. Can I cuss on here?
Sydney: Yes, you can.
Jess: Please do.
Sydney: It’s called Unfuck Yourself.
Desiree: Yeah. I ask 20 minutes in. But it’s the same thing. Like ‘I don’t know them.’ Like I need to know you to open the door for you or you deserve some dignity just because you exist? Just because we are here together?
Sydney: Didn’t realize that dignity needed to be earned.
Desiree: Exactly. I don’t feel like when I make a statement about my life or death that I actually have to justify it. Like I post on Facebook all the time and I don’t come back to it. Like people be arguing and going back and forth about stuff. I never come back.
Jess: You had two of those this weekend.
Desiree: I don’t come back and look at it in part because you know what? I said what I had to say. I made my declarative statement. I don’t have to justify it.
Sydney: Without skipping ahead too much, this is a good segway into Dear Sister and Sister Summer. That was one of the things that I liked about your Sister Summer experience was like on those conference calls– Desiree hosts the writing intensive which she will talk about in 5 seconds when I get done talking– but you were like if anyone wants to share, please share. We’d share and she’d be like, “Thank you for sharing your truth.” That was it. There was no reflection. There was no coddling. There was no hand holding. You were like, “That came out of your mouth. That was your truth? Thank you for sharing that.”
Desiree: This is my thing. Individual stories are never up for debate. Ever. Your lived experience is never up for debate. Like mine is never up for you. So, if you tell me, “You know I was at that meeting and I was saying the things and nobody’s paying me attention and it felt like some serious sexism and misogyny happening there.” I’m like, “Yes, Sydney. There probably was.” Because you were there and you experienced it. Not me. So, I don’t have to be like, “Sydney, what did they say? Really? You think that what they really meant?” Hell yeah!! You know what they meant in that moment.
Sydney: I wish more people who facilitate groups and group experiences subscribe to that mentality as well. Because there is a time and a place for coaching and that wasn’t what I signed up for and that wasn’t–
Desiree: That wasn’t what you got. It was about sharing these experiences. I think, for me, there’s some learnings there about what can we debate. We can debate data. We can debate policy. There are certain things. Yeah, let’s put that on the table and dissect it and look at it and let’s do what we need to do. Someone comes to me and says that that is their lived experience? No. It is never up for debate or discussion. I’m like, ‘Yeah. Thank you for sharing that.’ I mean that. You know what you don’t get to do. You don’t get to take my life and dissect it and say, “Really? Was your life so hard, Desiree?
Like you have the degrees and you own your business and you put your kids through school. So really how hard was your life?” If I tell you my life was damn hard, it was damn hard. It was damn hard for me. It was hard for me. And as a community member and someone I am in a community with, your only response to me is, ‘I see you and I understand that.’
Sydney: So, tell us a little about Dear Sister. Where that came from, how it originated. You have been doing that for a year and a half now.
Desiree: Oh yes!
Sydney: It’s glorious. I love it.
Desiree: Dear Sister has been longer than a year. It’s getting close to two years. I think it started in November of 2015 and I just woke up one morning, got my coffee– I usually get back in the bed– and I grab my phone and I check out all the interwebs. So, I was in bed and I wrote a love letter to women.
I just wrote, ” Dear Sister,” then I wrote something that I wanted every woman to hear. I wanted especially women of color to hear but it was for everyone. So, I did it. Then I woke up the next day and did another one and another one. I have never missed a day since then. Including when I went in and had two surgeries. I was literally like this before they gave me the drugs
Jess: So those are not scheduled?
Desiree: No. I write them every morning. It’s just what I feel– what’s on my heart and mind. When Facebook suspended me for 3 days at one point in time, I had other people post my ‘Dear Sister’ posts for me so I wouldn’t miss a day. I’ve become this practice for me. I don’t know what the messages are going to be They come out of me. There hasn’t been a day that has passed where some woman has said to me, “I needed to hear that message today. At this moment. At that time.” So, I don’t pre-think about them because I figure that is part of the magic is that I don’t know what it is going to be but somebody needs it. I’m going to give them that medicine they need right at that moment.
Jess: You have given me my medicine on many days.
Desiree: So that’s what started. People would always say, ‘Are you writing a book? What are you doing with this?’ I was never doing anything with it except get up every morning to drink coffee and write me a ‘Dear Sister’ before I started my workday. I’ve been doing it for a year and a half and in May I was in the shower. I was like, “Oh. I know what I can do with these ‘Dear Sister’ s. I know the summertime is super slow like if you are working and I wanted to provide something for women. Some reflection. Something they could think on or write on that would help them. I’m not a writer. I hate writing. It’s God’s punishment. No seriously. It is so hard for me. I’m always like, “Why must I write?”
Jess: You might hate it but you are great at it.
Desiree: I hate it. I like spelling and all of that– that’s for other people. For me, it’s not about the writing and if you are writing correctly. But it is all about what does it mean to free that voice in you. Because I would hear all the time from women– women my age, in their 50s– who would say, “I don’t know what to say.” You want to know what makes me angry? I call bullshit on that. You are a grown woman. You know exactly what you want to say. You are scared to say it. You got taught not to say it. You are worried about the consequences of saying it. But you know exactly what the hell you want to say. So, say it.
That for me was it. I started this summer which was a reflection. You got a ‘Dear Sister’ and 3 or 4 writing or reflective prompts. It was self-paced. we had 90 women total who participated. When I tell you– I was literally like 20– I have never done anything like this before because I am a quick start. I literally had the idea in the shower and then the next day I went live with it because why not.
Sydney: Why waste time?
Desiree: Why waste time because the only thing that would have happened is nobody would have bought it. Okay. I already had it written up. Alright. So, nobody buys it. I don’t die from that at all. I think we get so worried about these things that I am like. ‘If I put something out there and it is not received. Everybody loves it … nobody sees it. I’m like, “Nobody died. Okay. Let’s try the next thing.” When we talk about activism in this work, there’s no one right answer.
This is always about a learning lap and how do we learn and how do we try and how do we fail. How do we get our asses back up? We did the ‘Dear Sister.’ I mean, ‘Sister Summer’. 90 women participated. It was awesome. I had such a lovely awesome time with it so I am going to do it again in December and I am going to call it– Erica Hines gave me this name. She was like, “So you are going to do this again?” I said, “I don’t know. I can’t call it ‘Sister Summer’ if I do it in the fall.” She’s like, “You call it ‘Sister Solstice’.” Pow. Pow. Pow.
Desiree: Thanks Erica. I’m probably going to do it in December. Start the year with some reflection.
Sydney: Which is a beautiful time of the year to do it too.
Desiree: It’s a beautiful time of the year. She’s so smart. I literally put it on my calendar in December to remember. Because I won’t remember. For me, it was more about what did it bring up for you. What did it make you think about? Where did it push you? What were the questions that you didn’t want to answer that brought up all the stuff for you? That’s where we need to dig in. We need to dig in where those difficult pain points are and that’s how we do that work.
NOT JUST CISTER
Jess: You mentioned the learning lap a second ago. One of the things I love about the ‘Dear Sister’ posts is you can– I can, outside looking in– see your evolution there. You’ve got — I don’t know when it was you made the change– but now it’s ‘Dear Sister’ not just ‘Cister.’
Desiree: I can tell you when I made that change. It was right around the Women’s March because while I was not going to participate in the march–I never had plans to– I was not going to begrudge other women for participating in it. I was going to shut my mouth and be quiet. That was my plan. Then the day of the march, I was never going because I had previous engagement.
So, the day of the march, there were stuff around the hats and things that I ignored. I was just like, “People have never done this work before. Let them enjoy it.” And then there were all these signs that connected genitalia with womanhood. A lot of my trans friends were really hurt. I made a comment and I said, “Not all pussies are pink and not all women have them.” You would have thought I said, “I kill baby seals.”
Sydney: Right. Talk about a dramatic reaction to truth.
Desiree: The drama of it all. It was all too much. It was a lot. But again, I said I am not saying a word. Let them enjoy their parade like march. But for some people, I was great. They had not done anything like that before. It felt wonderful. Call to action. Love it.
And then, here comes pictures with white ladies and pink hats taking pictures with cops. I was going to ignore that too until they showed the picture of some of the women taking pictures with cops from Chicago. I’m from Chicago. They’re the worst police in the universe. They have had so many federal suits brought against them. They had a black ops site where they would take people in for a portrait. They have paid so much money for torturing people. The DOJ had just put out another report on them when this march happened.
They were just taking selfies with these cops. I was like, “Really? Y’all have got to be kidding me? Because when BLM marches or any other marches cops show up in riot gear. But when these ladies show up at a march with pink hats, the cops show up and take selfies.”
Jess: And then you have of the people who say it as because how they showed up–
Desiree: Right and then that’s exactly it. It led to a good protest was. That was when I really lost it when they were saying, “We protested correctly.” Oh, there was no problem with the police. There were no arrests. I was like, “You really think that’s how a protest goes? That people did it wrong and you did it right? That’s why people get in trouble with the cops?”
Some of the clients I work with are legal attorneys and observers who come out during protests. They’ve been literally teargassed while they are out there, doing legal observation. I have had clients that we had to raise money because they were going to be out doing legal observation and they were told to bring their own literal flap jacket with them. They need to bring their own Kevlar vest so don’t tell me that folks like Dr. King, the Black Panthers, Black Lives Matter, these people throughout history police have literally sick dogs on them we are doing it wrong and you are doing. I kind of lost my shit a little bit.
Jess: I feel like that is good to do every couple of weeks.
Desiree: No. It was awesome. It was great. My favorite part about that is that picture I posted went viral– it went everywhere. My favorite was my cousin tagged me in something somebody somebody somebody had posted it and she’s like, “Yo. That’s my cousin.” She tagged me in it and I was like, “How did they get it?” She was like, “Dude. This is everywhere.” But I stand by it. I think it is so funny. About a couple weeks ago, I posted. I said, “Hey. It’s been 6 months since the Women’s March. How do people feel about it?” I think 3 people responded.
Jess: That’s it?
Desiree: That’s it. Nobody else responded. I thought that was super telling that only 3 people responded.
Jess: I saw it when you posted it. You had just posted it so I was like, “Oh, it will come back in my feed later once people started commenting again.”
Desiree: You never saw it again.
Sydney: I didn’t even see it in mine. That’s how little engagement there was because that’s usually how I get a lot of your stuff– the ‘Dear Sister’ stuff, I have you on see first. But that one– nope. Radio silence. Didn’t see it.
Desiree: I mean, it was total crickets. I was like, “Anyone? Thousands of people showed up. Hello. Hello.” I found that to be super fascinating. I do think they have done great work. I do think the women who brought that Women’s March together, that final group did good stuff. They are still active and still doing amazing work. Nothing is against them and there is nothing against anybody who marched for the first time.
It is understanding that context and the entire picture of where that fits in to really– a long, long, long history of women of color especially black women for being in the front of the line and being the architect of social change movements. I found that all really fascinating. It is just the context and the history.
Jess: It brought up– at least from what I saw– a lot of some of the underlying least talked about problems within feminism and any justice movement. It’s still bringing stuff up. On the one hand, that’s good and on the other hand I wish people would just listen.
Desiree: Well, you know it is very fascinating. We all know 63 million folks voted for Donald Trump. I’d like to say, they didn’t trip. It was no accident. They got up, got dressed, got in their little vehicles, drove to the place, stood in line, and actively chose him. Of those 63 million, white women did a whole lot of that choosing.
Sydney: Yes, they did. Yes, we did.
Desiree: I’m like, “It’s so funny because it pisses people off when you say that. It’s a fact.” It’s not made up. It’s truth and people still love to say, ‘Not me.’ Okay, but your sister did and your cousin and your grandma and your nanny and your boss, and your kid’s teacher did. Let’s think about who those folks are. They are your kid’s teachers. They are your ministers. They are your neighbors. They are your guys.
Jess: The government, the bank–
Desiree: Right. It’s all those people. You are like, “I didn’t do it.” But you know what? People around you did. For you to want to separate from them, I find it really fascinating. About 12 percent black men voted for Donald Trump. I know exactly why they voted for Donald Trump.
Jess: I’m all ears because I don’t.
Desiree: Oh no because they tell themselves– which is a lie– some story about immigration and folks coming in and taking their jobs.
Jess: So, the same story a lot of white men tell themselves–
Desiree: It’s the same. Right. But 12 percent of them agree. I know exactly what that story is. I know exactly why they did that. Some were because of one issue— they are Christians and they don’t believe in abortion or something like that. But the majority is about immigration and jobs. I’m like, ” Yeah. This is what happened. We can’t be like ‘I’m not them so let me separate myself. No. You are them.” I’m that dumb black man who voted for Trump. I have to get in his ear and be like, “Let me tell you what you did. What you did is not what you thought you were going to get.” I just don’t feel like we get to leave folks behind because they didn’t do what we wanted them to do.
Jess: When you say that– go back and pick them up and educate them–
Desiree: If you can but I don’t think we get to sit around and say, “I’m not them, which makes me feel I’m better than them or that I am smarter or nobler than them.” You know what? They’re your relatives. That’s just the reality of it. I am a firm believer that you don’t leave people behind. I don’t get to be free and leave this person.
Now what I’m not going to do– I’m going to get super black on y’all–what I ain’t gonna do is not going to put John in Iowa’s need before Tameka’s in Compton. He’s no better and big American than she is. And we know what happens when we center everything around John. So, let’s think about what happens when we center things around the most vulnerable in our communities. What would that look like? What would those conversations look like? What would those programs look like? What would these systems and institutions look like if they were built around our most vulnerable? I think it would be a totally different world than we lived in.
Jess: It would.
Desiree: I’m like we got to figure out how not to lead people behind. Because if we do we are continuing to be likeness over wellbeing. Nobody can tell me differently. White women enjoy sitting at the hand of white men and that power and being close to that power. They chose whiteness over their wellbeing, over their welfare, their health, and their wellbeing.
Jess: And their children.
Desiree: And their children. Actually, I have a theory and this is just a theory. I think white women made that choice not because of their husbands. I’m probably going to say some things that will probably offend some people but white men will divorce older white women in a heartbeat and leave her for a young white woman. I think that white women really of a certain age– my age and older– did that so their sons will stay in power because their sons are the ones who would help them in old age.
Jess: I hadn’t even thought about it in that way but that makes a whole lot of sense.
Desiree: I think it was about not necessarily their husbands but making sure their sons stayed within the top of that power structure.
Sydney: I have a friend that I knew voted for Trump who is the mother of two boys– white lady, rural Oregon, she’s probably watching so hey– That makes so much sense now because a lot of the stuff she was talking about–. One of the things I asked her was how can you listen to somebody who talks about women that way and vote for them and how is that a good role model for your sons? She said that the people in power have never been a role model and she teaches her sons–she is he provider of that education and those examples rather–
Desiree: But those men will stay in power so then her sons will get access.
Sydney: So that puts that into perspective on that. That’s fascinating and makes perfect sense once you articulate it.
Desiree: So that’s my theory. You can throw tomatoes at me later. I think that an unconscious way that women made that choice. If it wasn’t their husband, it was about making sure their sons would take care of them at an old age. Stay on top of the food chain.
Jess: Because they already recognize– I keep saying they– Because we already recognize that we’re not at the top and won’t be–
Desiree: Yeah. The reality is this is the last grasp–
Sydney: Oh yeah. For sure.
Desiree: When you look at just demographics, there are more brown and black folks who are under the age of 18. By 2040, it’s going to be a brown majority within this country. California already is. It’s the last grasp. We understand that having that hierarchy the way it is—it’s on its last legs. Folks are fighting really hard to keep it. They are fighting really hard to keep this empire going. This empire runs on black and brown bodies to fuel it.
EXCLUDING WITH LANGUAGE
Jess: So that kind of brings me back to something I wrote a note about when you said this earlier about you were saying how you have a lot of ableist language and stuff and it’s just that daily showing up and checking yourself– I think that is for me that is a great reminder. This is something Sydney and I talk about a lot, with myself in my head. We don’t get to be post-racist. That’s not a thing. That’s helpful for how we move through and how we phrase things and also being kind to ourselves when we screw up because we are going to screw up.
Desiree: It’s not something you get. It is every day you show up. Everyday. Like every day I show up and say, “What kind of language am I using? Who am I not recognizing right now? Who is being excluded? Who could I have given the mic to?” Every day you have to do that and show up in those ways. Also with the understanding — I am not a believer in giving out cookies. Oh my god. It drives me insane. People are like, “Oh my God. [unintelligible] and McCain saved the world.” I’m like, “They did their damn job. “
Jess: Honestly not even.
Desiree: Not even. AT the very minimum, they said, “I’m not going to be negligent and vote on something that hasn’t been scored by the CBO.” They didn’t come in and say let’s do something super. They did their job. And guess what? I went into the grocery store and they sold me groceries. Okay, everybody did their job. Can we stop the stroking because people did what they are supposed to do? You show up with a little bit of empathy and sympathy and I’m supposed to give you a cookie? No, you did what you were supposed to do.
Sydney: What you should have been doing for fucking years.
Desiree: For years.
Sydney: Your whole life you should have been doing this shit. You aren’t getting cookies for showing up on a Tuesday.
Desiree: It’s hysterical. I’m like, “Yeah, no. Thank you.” I saw Erica who works with me on trainings and stuff and I’m like, “Okay. You did that. Thanks.”
Jess: Thank you for doing the bare minimum to be a decent human being.
Desiree: Do I acknowledge that it’s hard? Yes. But guess what? This is it– this is part of that psycho- socialization. You believed the lie it was easy. We believed the lie that if you do these things, our lives will be perfect. I’m always like, “Who told you this was easy? Who gave you that message?
Sydney: That’s the thing, Desiree. It’s not that easy and I found this in my work, in my space. All you can do is just show up and understand impact is more than intent and don’t explain it away and don’t be a horrible asshole of a person–
Desiree: If you mess up, say ‘I’m Sorry.’
Sydney: Yeah, no shit. Like if you get dragged or someone calls you out, don’t delete the post if we are talking about online communication. Don’t go run away. Don’t delete the labor/ no labor like keep it up and learn from it. I feel like Jess posted yesterday/this weekend, ‘Hey white folks. Let’s get our shit together.’
Jess: Prompted by the comment section in your two posts, Desiree and Staci and a couple other people I’ve been watching this last week like what the hell. I always get there 8 hours too late like—
Sydney: I don’t want to dig this all back up when it’s resided itself, just to show that I’m not a dick but like I’m just blown away. I appreciate the distinction, Jess, you made. I say ‘They’ a lot and I’m one of the white ladies. I match the description. I gotta stop saying ‘They’. It’s one of us. Gotta round up our people. I just– I don’t know.
Desiree: I’m fascinated by it because people don’t want to believe reality. It’s really difficult. This can’t be true. But like what if it’s true and real. That people are happy with our president– they are happy.
Jess: It just blows my mind.
Desiree: They are happy because he is doing exactly what they want him to do.
Sydney: He’s keeping up his end of the bargain. He’s doing all the terrible shit he said he would. Or at least trying. All things you those were horrible. Yeah, checking those boxes. It’s fine.
Desiree: They are like, “I can’t believe it.” I’m like, ‘You can’t?’ That’s fascinating. When did any point in time Donald Trump show you he cared about trans people? Hen?
Jess: When he stumbled through LGBTQ community?
Desiree: Right. So when was that? That’s fascinating. Show me the receipts?
Sydney: This shouldn’t be surprising. We are so out of integrity. SO out of what we are used to as far as politicians and how they face us publicly but this isn’t new. This shouldn’t be a surprise by any stretch.
Desiree: This goes back to when he first started. I remember when people were like he is such a joke. This man is not a joke. What he is saying is super dangerous. Y’all think it’s cute and super funny and he isn’t going to win. But I knew– a lot of people of color knew people were pissed after Barack Obama. This was a direct reflection which occurred.
Donald Trump has showed us who he is which is fascinating. He is 71 and eats hamburgers every day. This man is never changing. He’s going to tweet tomorrow and the next day and put on his robe at 5:00 and watch tv and eat a burger and call it a day. That’s what y’all elected. He is showing up exactly how he is and people are like, “Oh my god. I can’t believe this is what we have.”
Jess: He tested the waters. This was not his first run. Not his first announcement of running.
Desiree: He had been tweeting about the birtherism stuff for two years prior.
Jess: He might run. Then he would pull out. It was really fucking smart.
Desiree: He showed us who he was and as much as we don’t like it, this country wanted that. They wanted him. This country hates women so much that they chose him over one of the smartest women. Even though she is not my first choice either, but one of the smartest most hard-working women on this planet. They chose him over her.
Sydney: That’s all we need to know.
Desiree: We love to tell stories about who we are but reality tells stories of who we are as a country. We tell ourselves all kinds of stories about who we are. But how we treat people tells us who we are. Not the lies we tell.
Jess: I know somebody is going to comment, ‘But the electoral college.” I know. We’ll address that real quick.
Desiree: The Electoral College was made because of this racist country.
Jess: It was designed to work exactly the way it did.
Desiree: It’s another day with why and this is who we are. This is why we are here. I love the resistance. I love that people are learning and trying. The resistance is bubbling. There has always been a resistance in this country. There will always be a resistance. That has been led by people of color.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Sydney: I think that’s a good way to seg way into our speed round. That’s good and I could go on and on about that forever. This is a section that is to be named with 4 questions– First thing that comes to mind, if you want to elaborate on it you can. If you don’t that’s fine.
Desiree: I got my thinking face on.
Sydney: She’s got it. Who or what are you reading right now and it doesn’t have to be a book. It can be people writing online wherever.
Desiree: I’ve got it right here. I’m reading this book called Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Marie Brown. She’s a healer, a doer, and activist based out of Detroit. This is actually inspired by Octavia Butler’s exploration of human relationships and change. It’s a combo of self-help, society help. I’ve fallen in love with it.
Jess: I think I need that today.
Desiree: You do. Emergent Strategy: Shaping change, Changing worlds.
Sydney: That’s what I’m talking about. That’s good. I’m also reading this book– I read multiple books at once– Missing Class. About shaping social groups and how classism affects social recovery. How do we seek a class culture as a part of this work that we do?
Jess: So, your next question: What brings you joy?
Desiree: My children, who are 24 and almost 27. Both my daughter gives me joy. I would add my nieces too, who are 21 and 15. All of those girls give me amazing joy. My work brings me a lot of joy. I wake up in the morning to say, ‘thank you’ for a lot of things but there is not a day that goes by where I don’t thank the universe for my work and being able to do this work.
Sydney: So, what scares you?
Desiree: What scares me. That’s a good question. I have to think about that. My initial thing is kind of bad movies scare me.
Sydney: That’s great.
Jess: That’s good.
Sydney: It doesn’t have to be this really deep thing. It could be scary movies. That’s cool.
Desiree: And I don’t watch them. That’s why I’m like, “I don’t know what scares me.” That’s a good question. What scares me? I have to think on that one.
Sydney: All right. We are going to have you back to answer that question.
Desiree: I’ll have to answer that question. Absolutely.
Jess: And the final question, what words of wisdom would you like to put out there in the world? We’ll change this question up a little bit.
Desiree: It would never be my words. It will always be the words of Assata Shakur. It’s our duty to fight. It’s our duty to win. We must love and care for one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains. And those are words that I say every day. I men those words. We have nothing to lose but our chains. Assata taught me that.
Jess: Beautiful. Thank you. Oh, you just mentioned your Mastermind. Did I see correctly that Erica posted? You guys are reopening registration?
Desiree: Oh, my Mastermind is closed for this round. My Mastermind will open again in January. I take new participants in January. But tomorrow opens. Erica and I teach a ‘Diversity is an Asset’ 101 class and a 201 class. The 101 class is a 4-week class on diversity, equity, and inclusion. That will be taught every Wednesday in September. That registration opens tomorrow. Our 201 class which is a 3-month deep dive into social justice issues. We are going to do racism, classism, and heterosexism. That 3-month class starts in October and goes to December. That opens tomorrow as well.
Jess: And for anyone watching, tomorrow means today because we are recording–
Desiree: Tomorrow means today. You can go to diversityisanasset.com to learn all the stuff.
Jess: Beautiful. Thank you. We will put all your links and ways people can find you when we post this video.
Desiree: Thank y’all for having me.
Jess: Thank you for coming. We were so excited when you said yes.
Desiree: Yeah, I’m like sure.
Sydney: Actually, next week we have Alexis Moran, who I know you are familiar with.
Desiree: Yes, I am.
Sydney: She’s going to be talking about capitalism, tech bros and her firsthand experience with one of the self-proclaimed hosilpreneurs
Desiree: Oh yeah. Gary. Gary V.
Sydney: He’s going to be chatting with us about that. So, I understand that you and Alexis have a kind of mentor-mentee relationship? Is that true?
Sydney: Do you want to get a quick set up on what Alexis is about?
Jess: Right on the spot.
Desiree: Alexis. Must have been about a year or so, somehow, she got into my Facebook feed. Her writing is amazing. Nobody writes like that, like Alexis. She would come in with these super in-depth answers when they would say something. But Alexis every time would take the headshot. She would just destroy people. In her answers.
And I watched it for a while. I watched it and I watched it and I was like. I didn’t know her and I was watching her and I finally sent her message. I said, “Yo. You don’t have to take the headshot every time. I get it. You are super smart and you are smarter than probably 9 percent of the people out here. You don’t have to destroy them in the process.” She was like, “Oh.” We became friends from that.
Sydney: I love that.
Desiree: I was like, “Dude, you take 20 headshots a day. You are about the destruction”
Jess: 20 headshots a day is a slow day for her.
Desiree: It’s a slow day for her. No so Alexis is this amazing combination of smarts and guts and beauty and vulnerability. I just saw something in her and I said– I get teary when I think about it–I was watching her and I said, “Why are you struggling like this? You are way too smart for this? I don’t understand what is happening.” I said, ” I see victory in you and I still see victory in her.” I was like, “Stop taking the headshots. Focus on other things and stop fighting with people on the Internet.”
Sydney: She’s so good at it, man. There is nobody who can master debate the way Alexis can. I just can’t. I haven’t see talent–
Desiree: No. It’s amazing. That’s why I would read her stuff and be like, “Oh lord. Alexis is about to make somebody cry.”
Jess: Would you believe that Alexis and I met in a Facebook group talking about meal plans?
Desiree: That’s hysterical. I would not believe that. I would actually think you are lying to me.
Jess: No. We ended up on the phone for — I don’t know she would probably correct me– 6 hours. It was all–
Desiree: She’s amazing and so she was in my Mastermind group and I’ve been sort of [inaudible] ever since.
Sydney: I love that.
Desiree: So, she’s really good people and so smart and so–and she is the age of one of my kids which– So I’m always like, “Alexis, stop it.” I give her a little mama energy.
Sydney: I love that. Thank you so much for being here. It’s been such a pleasure.
Jess: You can find us at unfuckyourselfshow everywhere. Our new website will be live this week.
Desiree: I love the name. It just cracks me up.
Sydney: We’ve got new episodes every Tuesday so stick around, we’ve got some good stuff coming around. This one is it. This episode is a winner already, I already know it and I haven’t even ended it.
Desiree: Well, thank y’all. I appreciate y’all inviting me.
Jess: Thank you for coming.
Desiree: Yeah. Let’s go get free, y’all.
Sydney: Let’s get free. I’m into it. Thank you, Desiree.
Desiree: Bye y’all.