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and/now with connienichiu

Inspired by the Radical Notions of Grasping at Our Roots

(Photo by Erico Mantegazza)

I remember distinctly a time in my professional career when cultural competency and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) were too radical for my workplace, that the extent of multiculturalism was food fairs and performances, and that diversity meant geography — look at all the different ZIP codes we come from! — without ever looking at how the ZIP codes signified redlining, housing discrimination, police occupation, food apartheid, and the unforgettable legacies of structural racism and violence designed into cityscape maps.

Looking back now on the five years I spent at a predominantly white institution (PWI) as the founding Director of…

Inspired by Mia Birdsong, adrienne maree brown, and other BIPOC Healers

(Photo by Dan Hodgkins)

Building on Part One, I want to begin by briefly writing directly to white folks:

Racialized trauma also lives in white people — you.

As Lama Rod Owen details (and I’m paraphrasing below), the trauma of whiteness looks and feels like:

  • The ongoing proximate harm of white supremacy on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) you care about and love.
  • The loss of life-giving contributions from BIPOC because white supremacy creates barriers.
  • The soul-deadening impact of having an identity that is predicated on the oppression of others.
  • The loss of ethnicity, heritage, and community to becoming white.

That is…

We had nourishing conversation with Nicole Raines, LMFT, on her Be Love, Be Well, Be Whole podcast (that Dena is also a podcast co-host of). We talk music, defining and tapping into hope amidst grief and injustice, and the stellar move, One Night in Miami.

Listen on all the places where podcasts live. Transcript of the conversation has been slightly shortened, though we did keep the transcript as close a mirror to our original conversation, which means a lot of run on sentences. Enjoy!

Nicole: Here we are Dena with Episode Two and we have another guest. So just might take a moment for us to introduce ourselves. I’m Nicole Raines, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

Dena: And I am Dena Scott, licensed clinical psychologist.

Connie: Hi everyone. My name is Connie Chiu. And I am a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion practitioner.

Nicole: Welcome Connie…

“Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” — Prentiss Hemphill

Unsplash Image by Valentin Salja

Admittedly, we’ve been quiet on the internet lately, navigating our personal and political storms. Within these storms, we’ve noticed a lot of noise on (social) media — some are violent and triggering, some performative and empty, some vulnerable yet hopeful, some patronizing and shaming, some quick-fixes and WTFs, some comical (in good and bad ways), some artistic and tender, and all considered a version of truth by their creators.

Yet to us, everything still felt like a spectacle, a performance of who we wanted to be wrapped up in transactions, not transformations.

We were/are overwhelmed.

We started looking for the…

“If you don’t live politics, politics will live you.” — Marlon James

We are back with part two and not gonna lie, this one is even sassier than the first. You know that feeling of getting angrier and angrier cause you keep thinking about it? And how you start to spiral and get stuck in that negative energy?

Yeah, that’s us.

And we’ve decided to let ourselves spiral and get stuck for a bit, to go all the way through the emotional tunnel (thanks Dr. Emily Nagoski). We can only see and feel the light at the end if we go all the way through. …

“We become what we practice, and we are always practicing something. Is what you are practicing aligned with healing and equity?” — Staci K. Haines

Our advice this week is a list of ten things we hate about — okay, it’s not you, unless you fit the bill. It’s actually ten things we hate about how “diversity work” is described and (sometimes) actualized. These are our pet peeves, work rage, eye rolls, WTF texts, and angry emoji faces.

Consider this a series on “what not to do” — seriously, don’t do these. So here we go:

ONE. Calling any form of racial injustice and violence against BIPOC — “race relations.” Nope. Delete that from your vocab cause there are no “relations” here. None at all…

“Racial inequity creates wounds that we have to deal with in the systems.” — Jerry Tello

We’ve been waiting to exhale.

As we exhale, we’re not here to add more commentary, analysis, or noise to the election outcome (are we still waiting?). We wrote this Tuesday morning and we’ve been scooping ice cream straight from the tub since. #ben&jerrysforever

What we’ve learned from historical and personal experiences is that the pain and sadness creep in during a catastrophe, and hit deep in the aftermath as things quiet down into closure, settling in like one finale of many.

This aftermath is when our internal rumblings quake and unfurl, a release that is both needed and all consuming…

Our advice this week: grasp at the roots. Radical has turned into the new “woke” where it’s become more of an identity to wear and less of how we intentionally and critically analyze systems of oppression.

We’ve been wondering:

What does it mean to be radical?
What makes our actions and approach radical?
If we’re not radical in 2020, are we simply being performative in our allyship and DEI work?
Or has radical become another way of virtual signaling our “wokeness” to others?

To be honest, we’re nervous that radical will be co-opted into the next hashtag activism or performative justice trend. And of all people, we — Dena and Connie — can’t stop a trend when we can barely begin one. So this our humble PSA.

To echo Angela Davis, we believe that being radical…

“To be present in history, even as nothing more than a chuckle, was a universe away from being absent from it, from being written out of it altogether.” — Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Don’t bring people in as “neutral” identities; bring them in as people with historical ties — this changes the way we relate to each other.

No matter what your role is in your team, organization, or community, always push deeper on what diversity means. Reject the notion of neutrality and objectivity. We are all people with historical ties that matter.

In a white supremacist society, there is no such thing as a “neutral” identity. Why? Cause neutral = white. And yes, whiteness has historical ties. Be accurate and #DontWhiteWashHistory

Similarly, being objective (aka a version of being colorblind) is so…

and/now with connienichiu

a radical space for revolutionary wellness and collective rising through the prism of racial justice and social healing (

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