Decolonizing Your Mind: White Privilege and Internalized Racism

Episode 8 looks at unseen privileges, colorism, and how racism is a form of colonization of the mind. Specifically, we hear a perspective about how race is perceived in Puerto Rico, and how that effects relations with the US.

This brief episode continues the conversation with badasses Jamie Silverman, Barrie Ginsberg and Cristina María Carrasquillo from the previous episode on unpacking power and privilege.

Take a listen on Soundcloud or iTunes Podcasts, and let us know your takeaways in the comments below. #beheard #podcast

This is the transcript of the League of Badass Women Podcast Episode 8: Decolonizing the Mind.

Barrie: You can change where you’ve been. All you can do is be focused on having the most impact moving forward.

Valerie: Welcome to the League of Badass Women Podcast! I’m your host, Valerie Orth. In our previous episode we dove into another angle of unpacking power and privilege — the current Power Talks topic — Specifically, how to build consciousness around able-bodied privilege. In this episode, we discuss white privilege, and how racism is a form of colonization of the mind.

If you’re tuning in for the first time, Power Talks are in-person, intimate and often transformative conversations on topics related to unleashing your feminine power. These topics are curated by the League, and hosted by and for our badass members.

Barrie: I don’t think these conversations happen enough. It’s a great opportunity to get awesome women together and figure out how we can progress and move things forward and talk about what things that intrigue all of us.

Valerie: Yes! What Barrie Ginsberg just said!

And this first season of our podcast is based on interviews with Power Talks hosts and participants, about what came from those talks. I usually interview badasses for a few hours and then have to widdle their brilliant thoughts down to less than 20 minutes- which is really hard, because there’s so much more wisdom that comes from these conversations.

So that’s why today’s episode is a continuation of the deep discussion around privilege and power that I had with badasses Jamie Silverman and Barrie Ginsberg of NYC and Cristina Carrasquillo of Puerto Rico.

I know Cristina from when we both lived and worked in San Francisco, CA. She’s since returned home to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Cristina: Here in Puerto Rico, I’m basically privileged because of colorism too. Here the lighter you are, the more privileged you are. Black people, like visibly black people, the darker they are, the worse they are in terms of oppression and the experience in terms of society. Here I’m considered white, whereas over there (in the US) I’m considered a person of color because I’m from the Carribean. Anything that’s not white, you know how it is over there of course, but here it’s the dynamic. It changes completely.

Valerie: While many of the Power Talks on Power and Privilege focused on race, as you heard in episodes such as 5 & 6.

Jamie: When I was writing my own list of privileges I tried to write ones that felt unique.

Valerie: In the NYC Power Talks, they explored privileges they hadn’t ever really explored deeply before. Here, Jamie Silverman.

Jamie: One of the participants in our group talked about is the fact that we were able to gather is a privilege. We talked about China and I visited China before and I remember we were in Tiananmen Square and our tour guide was like I want to talk to you about the history of Tiananmen Square but we have to get back into the bus because we aren’t allowed to speak about it in public. The fact that we were able to get together in my office and have a conversation where nobody was bothering us. I had a safe space for people to get together and do their thing is in and of itself a privilege a lot of people don’t have access to.

Valerie: And here’s Barrie Ginsberg again.

Barrie: And I don’t think I had previously thought about how practicing my religion or talking about it as openly as I do or putting out of office days on the calendar because I’m celebrating a certain holiday. I hadn’t thought about that as privilege but at the end of the day the freedom to do so and the ability to talk about it openly and not have it be judged, ridiculed, or worse.

Valerie: Did you get into the conversation about race as a privilege?

Jamie: I don’t think that it was an explicit conversation. I wonder if that’s because people are — that it’s uncomfortable for us to acknowledge we are privileged because we are white?

Valerie: I think white is considered normal and if not pointed out that’s just one of the races and that white is a race then it just goes unsaid. It’s the norm.

Jamie: Right I think that we all think that we are relatively woke and that we do everything in our power to make sure we live in a place where just because we are white doesn’t give us any extra opportunity even though we realistically do get that. Knowing that you can walk into a room and not only be listened to but believed and be taken for your word and your experience, your expertise.

Valerie: Back in Puerto Rico, Cristina spoke about why anti-racist work has to be a primary focus for change, not only on a personal level, but on a greater political level.

Cristina: I work for an organization that mainly focuses on anti-racism and decolonization which is two things we do not separate, because for us to be colonized we had to be conditioned to believe that we’re an inferior race. Puerto Ricans itself — we’re an inferior race. Of course the media, all the sources we socialize through, to get education, near family… those are the things that make us believe that we’re an inferior race and because of it we won’t fit into the vision or world that the United States has. That’s how they keep us colonized. It’s very important for the US to racialize us, to put us as an inferior race through that process of socializing. And we’ve always been a colony — first with Spain and then the US. So we cannot talk from the perspective of other Latin American countries that are already independent republics. We work against the mind of the colonized. We don’t recognize that this is an Afro- Carribean nation. We try to negate that part of us because that’s the only way we can assimilate to the United States and their expectations.

The racism here, it’s carried in language, for instance we call the Afro hair we call it bad hair — that’s bad hair. Pelo malo. Even Black people say, “Oh I have bad hair.” The conditioning is so strong that you really internalize that and if you’re not conscious about it, you perpetuate the same thing. So I think for us and for me, specifically, what changes that is to become really conscious, really thoughtful, really aware of the language you’re using to perpetuate the same racism. I learned a racist language. Becoming conscious about that and breaking that and understanding where it comes from has a lot to do with how I use my privilege, how I work for the cause.

Valerie: Back in New York, Jamie talked about her own consciousness and using that for positive change.

Jamie: I think I’m just so aware of it and it’s always been such a prevalent thing in my upbringing. I can’t change the color of my skin. I can’t change the situation I was born into and the fact that I was incredibly incredibly lucky. Maybe, to that end, that is part of why I volunteer so much and why I do want to help host a podcast discussion. That’s what I have done and will continue to do with the lucky fate that I was given.

Cristina: Our races — they say it’s 3 races from Spain, from indiginous, and it’s a mix of 3 races and from Africa.

Valerie: Cristina went on to talk about Racism on an institutional, and even political level. For example, the census.

Cristina: Puerto Rico, they imposed the el censo from the United States. The race question — they ask questions that don’t pertain to us. Are you Native American? Are you Asian? And it doesn’t make any sense at all. People don’t know how to answer, because the truth is that we’re none of that. It’s not a census that’s tempered to our reality. And if you add on to that we were colonized into thinking that we’re inferior that’s why the results of the census were 80% white people and then only 8% African descent, black. So it’s not real. You collect that data to serve the public and we don’t have the data correct.

Valerie: Meanwhile racism is injected in the discussions around the US census as well. Trump is still pushing to have a citizenship question added to the census even after the Supreme Court ruled against it.

Crisitna: We talk about decolonization, we talk about decolonizing the politics, which is the power structure, but we specifically talk about decolonizing the mind; the internalized inferiority or superiority that we have as colonized beings.

Valerie: But with awareness and conscious efforts against racism and colonization, there is still hope.

Cristina: Racism can be eradicated and we can be decolonized.

Valerie: Thanks for listening to the League of Badass Women Podcast. Produced by and music by Valerie Orth. Mix and mastered by Dizmix. For more info visit us at leagueofbadasswomen.org. E-mail your questions and comments to podcast@leagueofbadasswomen.org. Thanks again to our featured badasses of today’s episode and thank you for being a badass.