Zach chats with Race2Dinner co-founders Regina Jackson and Saira Rao about the genesis of Race2D, how exactly its dinners take place, their experiences running it and so much more. This episode features explicit language. Listener discretion is advised!
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Zach: What’s up, y’all? Now, look, you know that we try to keep it clean on Living Corporate, but every now and then we have folks come on who are impassioned, and we are not ones to censor anybody if we really believe in the heart of what it is that they’re saying and the mission that they’re doing. So the conversation you’re about to hear does contain some harsh language, so listener discretion is advised. Catch y’all next time.
What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach with Living Corporate, and you know what we do. We’re having real talk in a corporate world. How do we do that? We talk to black and brown entrepreneurs, executives, activists… let me see here, what else? Public servants, creatives, artists, influencers, educators, you know what I’m saying? Anybody who is black and brown or an aspirational ally. We try to have them on the podcast and have real conversations, right? These real conversations are centering underrepresented and marginalized voices. We’re having conversations that often go unhad or whispered in a corner. We’re trying to have those out loud and on a digital platform so that they can be accessible to everybody, and we do this weekly, and we have dope dope dope dope DOPE guests. So today we have two guests at the same time, yo, at the same time. Saira Rao and Regina Jackson. Yo, so let me–so I got these two bios here, y’all. Y’all know what we do. You know I try to read the bios just so y’all can have an idea of what’s going on, then we get into it. So here we go. Saira Rao grew up in Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of Indian immigrants. For forty years, she wasted her precious time aspiring to be white and accepted by dominant white society, a futile task for anyone not born with white skin. Several years ago, Saira began the painful process of dismantling her own internalized oppression. Saira is a lawyer-by-training, a former congressional candidate, a published novelist and an entrepreneur. Now, look here, if y’all don’t recognize what kind of podcast this is about to be by the bio that I read that they gave me, listen, I’ma just go ahead and drop the Flex bomb right now. It’s about to be spicy in here. Now we’ll go ahead and go Regina. Now, born in 1950, Regina remembers an America where everything was in Black and white. Burned into her memory are; the beatings and horrific treatment of civil rights workers throughout the South, the Goodman, Chaney & Schwerner murders, the murder of Viola Liuzzo, the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the murders of President John Kennedy and his brother Robert. The violence perpetrated on innocent people going about their lives by white people, it is these memories that drive Regina to push for real change in America, which is why she co-founded Race2Dinner. Saira and Regina, welcome to the show. How are y’all doing?
Regina: You know, I’m doing great. Saira?
Saira: I’m doing pretty well, thank you.
Zach: So I read some bios, but can we get into y’all’s own stories as to why Race2Dinner came to be and how?
Saira: Well, like my bio said, I ran for Congress exactly two years ago, and I ran in–we live in Denver, which is a predominantly white city, and I ran on an explicitly anti-racism [platform] about the racism within the Democratic Party, which, you know, we know there’s–the Republican Party’s entire platform is racism, but there’s ample racism within the Democratic Party. And so, you know, what I found was a long line of white ladies wanting to have coffees, breakfasts, lunches and dinners with me, and 99.9% of the time it was for them to tell me very indignantly that it’s not them, “not all white women,” and then they tick off all their civil rights accomplishments in the past and their safety pins and how awesome they are, and really just telling me about how I had them wrong, that they were individual–you know, “Stop painting all white people as the same,” and so, anyway, I had to do those because I was running for office and I needed to [?]. After I lost in June of 2018, I became a big target of sort of the alt-right, Breitbart, Fox, those places, and the invitations for these lunches and dinners didn’t dissipate as I had hoped. They just got more and more and more. And I continued to do these lunches and dinners in good faith, recognizing by the way I was not just out hours and hours of my time. It also took a tremendous toll on my mental health. And by the way, these ladies never picked up the bill. And I was, you know, paying for dinner [?] for babysitting because I have two small children. Anyway, that’s when last December this happened with Regina.
Regina: So when Saira ran for office, I immediately fell in love with her because she was talking about racism that doesn’t get talked about in the United States, and she was talking very provocatively about racism. She wasn’t being nice. She wasn’t not using the white privilege and white people. I mean, she was talking it, so I immediately volunteered for her campaign. I worked on her campaign and got to know Saira, and I was like, “Wow, I really like this woman.” So I had had a white friend who said to me–she said, you know, “I’m just over Saira. She hates white people, and I’m just gonna be done with her,” and then in the next breath she says to me, “But if you can arrange it, I’d like to go to lunch with her to talk about it.” So I talked to [Saira] and Saira said to me–she said, “You know what, Regina? I’m not doing that anymore,” she said, “But I’ll tell you what. If she wants to have a dinner and invite some of her white lady friends and you do it with me,” she said, “I’d be happy to do that,” and thus was born Race2Dinner.
Zach: Wow. It’s–okay, so let’s talk a little bit about, Regina, the exchange that you had. Why do you believe that your friend at the time said that Saira hates white people?
Regina: Well, because Saira was saying she hated white people. [everyone laughs]
Saira: [laughing] No, I didn’t. I didn’t say that. No.
Zach: [hold on a minute there playa sfx, laughing]
Regina: Okay, it’s up for debate. [laughs]
Saira: No, I literally never said that. So the thing about this particular woman was that I said that Beto O’Rourke is a white savior, and she was one of these women who was, like, obsessed with Beto O’Rourke and went to Texas to volunteer for Beto O’Rourke, and I said, you know, Beto O’Rourke is a white savior, and I also donated to his campaign, and if I lived in Texas I would vote for him. You can actually, you know, hold various things to be true.
Zach: At the same time, yeah.
Saira: At the same time, and so that’s what sent her over the edge. And that’s actually–at the dinner she brought that up as the thing that sent her over the edge, and she, you know, got really angry when I wouldn’t budge on the fact that Beto O’Rourke is a white savior. Frankly, I think Beto O’Rourke might acknowledge himself that he’s a white savior. And so, anyway, she cried. She got super mad. She did all the stuff that white ladies too.
Regina: This is a white woman who called herself my friend. She thanked me for, you know, teaching her about racism and helping her to be a non-racist. She told me how much she loved me all the time, blah blah blah. When we started our Race2Dinner website and we decided to do a Patreon, you know, where people sign up for $5 a month or $12 a month. This white woman, who had told me–she’s a widow, never had any children–that her income after her husband died is $200,000 a year, and I said, “Will you sign up for our Patreon?” She told me to put it [?] on Facebook. Needless to say, we are no longer friends, ’cause she talks the talk but she doesn’t want to walk the walk.
Zach: So you’re saying she has over 200–I’m sorry, but I’m shocked, ’cause I come from humble beginnings, right? And I’m not from Denver. Like, I’m from the South. So, like, you said–just to go back a second, you said her income is over $200,000 a year?
Saira: Yeah, and she won’t spend $60 a year on our labor, on our writing. She wanted us to put it on Facebook for free.
Regina: And see, we have really been talking about that issue, how white people don’t want to see black and brown women especially paid for our work. Now, you know, they’ll pay $40,000 to go hear–what’s her name?
Saira: Glennon Doyle.
Regina: Yeah, Glennon Doyle, but they can’t pay us for our labor in a personal, private, small group conversation?
Saira: That includes dinner and booze.
Regina: That’s more white people nonsense, and I’m not having it.
Zach: I mean, at a certain point you’re just like [what more do you want from me? sfx] You know? Like, what is this? Like, what are we doing? Like, y’all see this effort. Y’all know that it’s valuable. Recognize it financially. And y’all know that the way this system is built–capitalistically–that we need the bread to survive, so come on. Like, come up off. So I hear that, and it’s interesting, ’cause Race2Dinner, it reminds me–and I want y’all to walk me through this format, ’cause I’ve been to a couple of events like this where, like, you get together over dinner and you talk about quote-unquote culture. I want to understand though. Like, talk to me about the format of Race2Dinner, how it works, and just how it’s set up.
Regina: Okay. Well, one of the first things I think there is to recognize is that most white people don’t even know that they [?], okay? In the book “Waking Up White” by Debbie Irving, she talks about white culture, and us as non-white people, we recognize it because we have had to live it in order to, like you say, survive. It’s perfection. It’s being nice to everybody.
Saira: It’s talking about nothing.
Regina: Yeah, don’t talk about hard stuff. Don’t upset people. You know, that’s the culture that we were all raised in, and they still want to just talk nice, and we say, “You know what?” The other thing is they’re all in their feelings. “You made me feel.” Can we curse on this show?
Zach: Yes, absolutely. Go ahead.
Regina: [laughs] And I love to say, “Fuck your feelings.” [Zach laughs] That’s between you and your universe. That has nothing to do with me, but they are always up in their feelings, and that’s one of the things–in Race2Dinner, if you have to cry, you have to leave the room.
Zach: Really? If you start to cry, you are [?] from the table?
Saira: Yeah, cry or get really angry. But to answer your question about painting a picture for you. So, you know, why is it dinners? People say is it “Why is it dinners? Why can’t you do conferences and keynotes?” Blah blah blah. Here’s what we know about white women. White women are devoted to being nice and polite, and there’s nothing more impolite than getting up and leaving the dinner table, period. The setting is a beautiful dinner table in a woman’s house where she’s serving dinner and she’s pouring wine. And so this is the white woman’s happy place and safe place, a dinner party with other white women, right? And, you know, every once in a while maybe they go to dinner parties where there’s A black woman or An Asian woman or A Latina woman, but, like, you know, they feel very comfortable, so they come in and kiss kiss, “Oh, my God, how are you? You look great, you look great,” the whole nine yards. And then they sit down, and instead of “Oh, my God. What are your kids doing this summer for summer camp? Oh, my God. My husband’s irritating me.” We just–it’s very, very much like this. Like, everyone go around the table and say why you’re here, and you literally have, like, a minute or two to do that. ‘Cause early on we were like, “Why are you here?” And they would just, like, pull out their resume and start telling us about how they volunteered at Planned Parenthood and they went to a Black Lives Matter rally and whatever, and so–anyway, after that, the next question is “Please go around the table and name one way in which your racism has presented itself in an action that you’ve done recently,” and then they basically fall out of their chair. Like, you might see pee come down their legs, because it’s like… they can’t leave. They all want to freak out and run out of the room, but they can’t because they’ve got this nice beef tenderloin and a glass of Chardonnay sitting there and it would be rude as fuck to do that. So then they have to actually do that.
Regina: And we used to–we just changed that format, because we used to [have] everybody introduce themselves, and then we’d talk about our background and why we were there, and what we found is we would have two or three women in every dinner who would not say a freaking word. You know, the lurkers. So we finally said, “This is not okay. If people are going to be here, they need to engage.” So we make everybody talk about, you know, “This is why I’m here, and this is how I notice racism in myself.”
Saira: In myself. So, you know, you go to one of these, like, liberal white person dinner parties, and they’re sitting around for hours trashing Donald Trump and trashing the Republicans and talking about–like, they pat themselves on the back. It’s like the Backpatting Olympics, right? Who is the most awesome white person in the room? This is a place–and by the way, they try. So, like, at the last dinner party–and look, these are not bad people. We’ve got to break down this false binary of racist bad, not racist good. That shuts down the conversation. But there’s a white lady there who’s lovely and [?], and we asked her “What is the racist thing you’ve done?” And she starts rambling, and then she says, you know, a friend of hers ends every conversation with “Me love you long time.” And all the other women were like, “What?” And I was like, “No, no, no. How are YOU racist? Stop deflecting it to your friend.” In that case, which she could have easily said–but she didn’t, she can’t [?] anything else–is “I’m racist because I’ve never shut that down.” So that’s the silence is complicity. So all this, like, “The Republicans are bad,” what about you? Like, what are you doing? Like, what are you doing? Like, silence is complicity, you know? And even though the Republicans are quote “bad,” white America allowed this to go on. Donald Trump didn’t invent racism. He just capitalized on it.
Regina: That was my turning point, this whole Make America Great nonsense. I’m like, “No. I’m done with white people nonsense. I’m done.” You know, they need to step up and call a thing and be the wonderful people that they seem to think they are.
Zach: And Regina, so your profile, the fact that you were–you know, like, you were active. Like, you was moving around during the civil rights movement and you’re still here in 2020. So, like, have you ever had situations where people have, like, either alluded to or told you to, like, get over it or it was a really long time ago or times have changed, and if so, like, how do you react or respond in those situations?
Regina: You know, I don’t think anybody would tell me that. [everybody laughs] But I have [this?] attitude. You know how us black women can give off that “Don’t fuck with me today?”
Zach: Yes. [everybody laughing]
Regina: [?] going on generally 24/7. It’s like–[to this day sfx] So not today, not ever. Not having it.
Zach: Oh, my goodness. I love it. The spice. The energy on this podcast, it’s reached incredible levels, and we’re really just, like, still in the beginning. So when it comes to–and even, like, honestly, like, the tone of this conversation, right, the unapologetic, like, very to the point manner in which y’all are speaking and in which, like, I see, like, your website communicates as well as your online personas. I’m curious about what feedback or critique you get when it comes to, like, the idea of civility, right? ‘Cause I feel like even today there’s a lot of folks who are still, like, really hanging their shingle on civility, and they use it almost, like, as a cudgel to, like, silence voices. I’m curious as to how y’all respond to that.
Saira: That’s what it is. Calls for civility is calls for silencing. And I’m just curious, when has–so civility is code for being nice, right? When has nice saved people of color [?]? Like, was niceness there to save Trayvon Martin? Is being nice saving the brown and black people who are dying in concentration camps around the country? Is niceness [saving?] the Palestinians, upon whom we are, you know, aiding [Israel? and dropping bombs upon them?] Like, being nice is code for doing whatever the fuck you want to oppress people and not getting called out for it. That’s what being nice is.
Regina: Exactly. And remember that Dr. King said that white [moderates,] they would rather have order than justice. You know what? I’m not about order. Fuck your rules, okay? Fuck hurting your feelings. Fuck being nice. Let’s talk the real deal. Let’s talk about how you’re hurting black and brown children, how black boys and girls get treated in school, how black people are being [?] out of their communities onto the streets by gentrification? Let’s talk about all that, and if it requires me to be nice, then it ain’t happening.
Saira: Yeah, you know what’s super not nice? Stop and Frisk. You know what’s super not nice? The Muslim ban. You know what’s super not nice? These concentration camps. And so I’ll tell you what though, Zach, is, you know, before I even ran for Congress I spent a year, 2017, going the civil way. I went to the University of Virginia, and at that time most of my [?] in life were friends that I had met at the University of Virginia, overwhelmingly white women. By the way, like, I was in an all-white sorority and I wore [Laura Ashley?]. So I used to think that I was a white woman. [?] And I tried. You know, I did dinners with these friends. I cried, they cried. I made them–you know, I patted them on the back. I massaged their feet. I think I might have painted a toenail or two. I mean, I did all the nice, civil things, and every single time–it was, like, straight out of an SNL skit… which, by the way, SNL is also a toxic, white, liberal mess, but it was, you know, “We don’t like your tone. You just seem really angry.” My favorite from one of these women was “What are you doing? You’re completely alienating everyone.” And I said to her, “Who’s everyone?” And I said, “Are you unaware that there are people of color who actually are in agreement with what I’m saying?” And she was like, “Oh, I never thought of that,” because she literally–the only people of color [she knows?] were me, one–and she’s a nurse, so a couple of her colleagues. She has a black woman colleague and a brown woman colleague, and she said to me, “Well, I asked them, and they said that they think you’re crazy, and, like, [that?] racism is untrue.” And I’m like, “They’re not [safe?] to say that. You’re, like, their boss,” you know? And somebody said–it’s very funny. They’re like, “If you’re white and you have a brown or black friend who doesn’t talk about white people, then you don’t have a brown or black friend.”
Regina: I was gonna say, now, my big thing, I started working, volunteering, mentoring in a high school about six years ago, and I would–the woman who ran the program and started the program woudl tell me all the time that I hurt her feelings. You know, everything you say hurts their feelings, and I sounded like I was angry, and I just started saying, “You know what? I’m mad as hell, and I could give a shit about your feelings, so deal with it.” She finally resigned, and I [?], and now the program is being run by people of color.
Saira: Yeah. And by the way, like, of course we’re angry. I’m sorry. Like, white women literally go batshit crazy if their spin class instructor is 5 minutes late. Go fucking crazy, right? They’re angry and it’s fine, like, that’s fine, but we’re not supposed to be angry about systemic oppression. We’re not allowed to be angry about that, but they can be angry about a yoga instructor or a spin class instructor being 5 minutes late. It just goes to show you they don’t care–it’s not only that they don’t care, they actively are fine with being participants in this. They just don’t want you to call them out for it, and in some ways that’s the difference between Republican woman and Democratic women, the 50% that voted for Donald Trump versus the one who kind of sat idly by on let Donald Trump win, you know? Do you know how many white liberal women I know who voted for Hillary Clinton, but their husbands voted for Donald Trump, and they didn’t speak a word [?] Hillary Clinton. They didn’t put a Hillary Clinton sign in their yard. When I would come into their house they would be like, “You can’t talk about Hillary Clinton here because of So-and-so.” So what’s the difference between the husband who is voting for Donald Trump and the wife who is silent? Nothing. You know, feasance versus non-feasance. It’s all the same thing. Not acting is acting.
Zach: And so I’m curious, like, again, the delivery of this, and even with the [criticism?] that you’ve received like “You’re not being nice” or “It’s not being [?]” or whatever the case may be, and yet Race2Dinner is a whole organization. Like, y’all are an active organization, so clearly–
Regina: That’s the other thing [?]. These white women want to say, “Well, what do we do with our money?” It’s like, “It’s not your business. Do you go into Nordstroms and say, “What do you do with your money?” We’re not a non-profit. This is a business.”
Zach: And so I’m curious. Like, it seems as if your approach was so off-putting and alienating that your business would not be viable, and yet it is, right? [Both: Yeah.] So talk me through–
Saira: That’s a good question. You just asked the question “Why?” One woman put it to us like this not too long ago, and I think this is it. She said a lot of stuff. She’s the woman who said to us–I said at this dinner, particularly dinner, you all don’t see Regina and I as your [equals.] You don’t see our humanity. You do not see our children and grandchildren as your children and grandchildren’s equals. You don’t see their humanity. 7 out of the 8 of them just shook their head. “Oh, my God. Wrong, wrong, wrong,” right? Woman to my left, you know, God bless her, she paused before she spoke and she said, “You know what? I’m not gonna lie. I don’t. I don’t see the two of you as my equal. I don’t see your humanity. I don’t see your children and your grandchildren, Regina, as equal to mine,” and there was a collective gasp, right? Like, they couldn’t believe it, and then little by little they were like, “Yeah. I mean, that’s right,” and at the end of the dinner this woman said, “I feel such a sense of relief. I feel relieved,” because white supremacy kills everybody, including white people. It’s like a disease. It’s toxic and it kills you. And she said, “This is the first time I’ve been able to actually acknowledge this to myself, say it out loud, say it in a room full of my peers and say it front of the people that I harm every [day?],” and I think that’s it right there. She articulated why we’re able to get people to come to these dinners, because it is a relief for them, at least, you know, the ones who are willing to accept it and come in with fully open minds and leave their fragility at the [door.] I think it’s a relief.
Regina: And, you know, one of the things that I want white women to do–and I don’t know why it’s so hard, but it is, is to just step up when you see injustice, when you see racism, when you hear it, call that shit out and let things fall where they fall. They never do that. They’re always dependent on us to be the ones calling it out, and I’m like, “Y’all started this shit. Get in here and stop it.”
Saira: Right, just like men created and benefit from misogyny, so men have to dismantle misogyny. We can’t. Women cannot. Similarly, white people created and benefit from white supremacy, so they’re the ones who have to do it. So this is–by the way, we don’t allow for other women of color in the room, because the one time we did–it was a Chicago dinner. There was another Indian woman in the room, and so, you know, she’s a member of the community. These are people that she sees at pick-up and drop-off at her kid’s school. Every time we were speaking, looking at her and waiting to see and asking, “Well, do you feel like this? Do you feel like this?” It was a deeply unsafe space for her, just like my nurse friend asking her women of color colleagues if they felt like that. That’s not safe, right? So we don’t want to put other women of color in a situation where they’re answering to white women in that room because it’s not safe for them.
Zach: In y’all’s experience of having this organization, this [business?], and facilitating these dinners, like, what has been the most eye-opening experience?
Regina: My most eye-opening experience is we had a dinner with several white women, 8, and maybe 4 of them had adopted children of color, okay? Black children, and we had one young woman–I would say she was maybe in her 30s. She had adopted a young black boy. This woman had the audacity to say that if her family and friends said something racist or harmful to or about her child–
Saira: In front of her child.
Regina: In front of her child! She did not correct them because they loved him. That’s the biggest [?] I’ve ever heard in my life, and if I could’ve taken that kid away from her I would have done it.
Zach: And so then–you know, a piece recently came out–and Saira, this was something that you actually tweeted about. I believe it was someone who actually attended a Race2Dinner event, and they said, you know, “Most folks don’t like Saira.”
Saira: Well, she said, “A lot of people hate Saira.” [everyone laughs]
Regina: And I’m like, “There, it’s out there. We can get over it.” [laughing]
Zach: And so I’m curious about what does it to look like–like, what does it look like to continue to do this work in light of those types of critiques? Like, where do you get your strength and resilience from to continue this type of work?
Saira: It’s not easy. I’ll say Regina’s a big source of strength and a big source of resilience for me. Here’s the deal. It’s a process, right? And I would be completely lying if I said it didn’t bother me when–you know, look, I’ve gotten used to most of it. I’ve gotten used to the white supremacist trolls. I’ve gotten used to the Nazis. What I do not enjoy is getting doxxed. That happened over the weekend by a white woman in Abu Dhabi. Doxxed me and my family, so put out our private information and tried to send Nazis to come hurt my family. I do not enjoy that. I don’t enjoy that my children get left out of things, you know, because their moms hate my guts. I don’t like that. It’s uncomfortable a little bit to run into these old friends of mine around town, and I know what they think of me and I know what they say about me. I don’t love that, but, you know, besides that, it’s okay. It sounds really weird. Like, I’m actually okay, because I realized that I was filling my life with a lot of nonsense, and how many times–I mean, you know, I was thinking back on this because we’re working on a bunch of stuff, but I’ve had to, like, dig deep, how many times–I was at a party once in college with these friends. It wasn’t even a party. It was a dinner, right? And I couldn’t leave because it would have been rude to leave. And it was two white women sitting across from me who were not really close friends, me, and then this white woman to my left who was a very good friend, and one white woman said to the other–her last name is an Asian last name but she’s white, and she said, “Oh, my God. When I got the letter in the mail that you were gonna be my roommate, I freaked out and I said to my parents, “What have I done in my life to deserve an [Asian?] roommate?”” And they started laughing, and they were like, “And look, it turned out great!” And my friend to the left of me, she was laughing too, and I was just sitting there stunned, and I said, “Hey, you guys. I’m Asian,” and then they all took another sip of their [beer?], like, spit it out laughing, and they go, “Oh, yeah, but you’re not one of those kind of Asians.” And I said, “No, I am. I’m actually 100%–” They go, “You know, like, the accent and, like, the weird food–“
Zach: Weird food?
Saira: Yeah, “And the smelly, weird food,” and I looked to my friend, and she just sat there and was laughing with them, and so I did what I had always done, which I started laughing too. So I sold myself down the river and I upheld–that’s how [people of color?] uphold white supremacy is I laughed as well and I let it go. How many of those experiences have I had in my life? I cannot even count them. There are too many to count, and so I’m living an honest life, and you know what that means, living an honest life? If that [means I’m hated?], so be it. Hate me.
Regina: You know, as a black woman, I have learned many, many years ago that the only way I can sruvive is I affirm myself on a daily basis. I know who I am. I know what is okay with me. I know what’s not okay. So when people start talking shit, “Regina’s this, that and the other–” And I tell my mentees that. The best way to have a good life is know who you are. Affirm yourself, and when you get crap from anybody else, you don’t have to own that because you know who you are.
Saira: Yeah. And Zach, just further to that by the way, I’m trying to start affirming myself because Regina really truly is the most [evolved?] person I know. I think a big part of why a lot of people come at me–and it’s all kinds of people. It’s not just white people. It’s black people, it’s Indian people, it’s Latino people. It’s I’m the first generation of the “model minority” born and raised in this country, right? So we’re new, and we’re supposed to stay in our lane, and we’re supposed to be extremely grateful and not call out white supremacy because we are the model minority. So there’s something extremely jarring to have an Asian lady in the middle of Colorado speaking like this. I think that’s a big part of it too. I mean, lots and lots and lots and lots of South Asian people really hate my guts.
Regina: They just want her to shut up.
Saira: You know? They will say–I had [?] Indian people say to me, “Stop talking about Black Lives Matter,” and I was like, “They know that there’s a Muslim ban. Like, they know.” So I’m so confused. I mean, you’re called Apu how many times a week? You’re called [?] how many times? And they’re just, like, pretending like it didn’t happen. And really funny, the only Indian/South Asian PAC didn’t invite me to their gala in 2018 when I was running for Congress, and so [Andrew Yang?] actually invited me to go as his guest. And so I went. I flew out and I get there, and it’s 8 other–something like that, 8 other–South Asians all [?]. By the way, they’re all, like, super white platforms and [?], and I show up with Andrew and everyone’s literally like, “Who the fuck brought her?” Like, “Why did you all bring her?” I mean, it was just really funny. I mean, it’s funny “haha,” but yeah, like, my own people hate my guts.
Regina: You will love this. Saira says at our dinners, “I’m anti-black and all of you are racist,” and I go, “Guess what? Black people know that.” We know that every immigrant group thinks they’re better than us. We know everybody would rather be whatever than black. That’s not news.
Saira: So we talk about. So I just want to add that one last thing to what Regina said. You know, we’ll say, “Who’s racist in this room?” And most of the time no one raises their hand except for me, and they’re like, “Wait, what?” And [I’m like?] “[I’m Asian?], so I’ve been trained institutionally to be anti-black,” and then they’ll look at Regina because then the next step–you know, Step 1 is dividing and conquering, and they look at Regina like, “Oh, my God. Look. You’ve got an anti-black colleague here.” Regina’s like, “All Asians are anti-black.” Like, if I’m asking white people to acknowledge their own institutional bigotry, it would be wildly hypocritical of me and completely lack of self-aware if I wasn’t able and unwilling to do that myself.
Zach: And so it’s interesting because, like–I just find it all so very intriguing, because, like, the closer we get–and I’m continuing to have conversations about the fact that November is coming up, and, like, the closer that we get to November, it’s interesting that we’re, like–a lot of us are still kind of moving, like, business as usual, but–
Regina: I know! It’s scary.
Zach: It’s really strange, right? Like, even though, like, we remember all of the chaos, like, that happened four years ago, like, in and outside the workplace. I recall the work day–
Regina: [?] the election.
Saira: We know that. We know that.
Zach: Right, and so it’s just strange to me that, like, even from a diversity, equity and inclusion perspective that we’re not really talking about that. Like, we’re not preparing–
Regina: Yeah. Where is the [Congressional Black Causus?] Where the fuck are they? [everyone laughing]
Zach: Oh, my gosh. This has been–oh, man, this is great. But no, I find it really curious, I find it really curious. So Race2Dinner, it’s white women attending the dinners, and then you both are facilitating the dinner. What do you believe it is about–like, ’cause typically we talk about gender equity and we’re rarely intersectional. We rarely talk in [?]. We typically just say “men and women,” and the default of course there is white women. It seems as if there’s still a lot of work to be done when it comes to white women understanding their place when it comes to understanding diversity, equity and inclusion and how they fit in this role and, like, what power they wield, and I’m curious, why do you think there’s still a reticence to engage that? Even from, like, just an intellectual exercise?
Regina: Well, you know, I like to say, first of all, you all–everything you’ve made has been on the backs of black people. Let’s get that out there first, okay? So that’s the first thing they need to understand. They wouldn’t have what they have today if black people had not fought and died [in] the civil rights movement. So that’s the first thing I want to say. The second thing, when we talk about intersectionality, we’re really talking about black women and their intersection of both race and sex. So white women–this is what we try to say. You know, the foot of patriarchy is on your neck just like it’s on yours. You want to continue earning 75 cents for every dollar the white man earns? Fine. But if you want ever to have equity, enjoy the same rights that white males do, you better come and join us, because we’ve been fighting this for a long time, and we’re gonna continue to fight it with or without you, but they also have the proximity to the power. They have the proximity to the money. These are their fathers, their uncles, their brothers, their sons. So that’s why they need to be engaged in this.
Saira: Well, and the reason, you know, they always pick whiteness over gender is because they’re benefiting greatly from whiteness, and so they’ve been born and raised–but they would never say that, right? That’s the lack of honesty and transparency. They’ve been born and raised to see themselves as the greatest victims on the planet because they are below white men. So that’s it. That’s where their analysis of inequity–that’s where it stops. It starts and stops on them being the biggest victims on the planet, and as a result they erase women of color. We don’t even exist in their minds. I’ll tell you what, Zach. Use this whole hoopla around the 19th Amendment 100-Year anniversary this year. It’s a great window into white feminism. Susan Becky Anthony totally fucked black women, right? So the 19th Amendment [was not?] the women’s right to vote. That was the white women’s right to vote. And so we’re not–like, black and brown women are not celebrating the 19th Amendment, but you would think all of these freaking white suits all over the place running around and talking about how this was, you know, the year that women [?]–that’s not true, and there’s a direct line between Susan B. Anthony and Nancy Pelosi who regularly throws her women of color colleagues under the bus, starting with Maxine Waters and every member of the squad. So I’m tired of it. I’m tired of white women, you know, lumping all women’s rights together. That’s not true. That’s just not true.
Regina: And they know it.
Saira: They know it. They’re pretending like they don’t know it.
Regina: See, the biggest issue that we have is them pretending that they don’t know shit. They’re here to pretend like they don’t know how bad it is for women of color. They know. They’re gonna pretend like, you know, we’re all treated equally. They know. So I want them to stop pretending and tell the fucking truth.
Saira: We ask every dinner–this is well over 100 white women around the country–how many of you would trade places with me or Regina? Guess how many of them have raised their hands. Guess.
Regina: The first dinner. No, one from the first dinner, remember? That we filmed?
Saira: Yeah. I mean, it’s between zero to one. So they were [?] about that, so they know. They know. So they first tell us that they wouldn’t trade places with us because they’re better than we are, and then they’ll all say–they stopped doing this though because we put an end to this nonsense–“I’m just hear to listen and learn. I’m just here to learn.” You already know because you wrote the book about white supremacy. You had it optioned [?]. You’ve made every film. It’s won every Oscar. It’s been exported to every country around the world. It’s been translated into every language. And you’re asking us to explain the book that you wrote? Like, I’m so–that’s bullshit. That’s bullshit, and we are not [?]–that’s fine, that’s the way it is, but we’re not here for it. We’re not here for your stupid ass lies.
Regina: That’s right.
Regina: We can tell you can’t wait to have dinner with us, right?
Zach: No, no, I’m here for it. I’m here for it. I actually have some mentors that would love this, and actually what I really want to do is I want to give y’all space. So we’ll make sure we’ll put all your information in the show notes, but I want to give you actually some space, like, to plug all your information. Where can [they learn?] more, how people can sign up, all of that.
Saira: Race2Dinner, R-A-C-E-2-dinner.com, and find me on Twitter–I’m Tweeting quite often–@sairasameerarao.
Regina: Regina Jackson. I’m on Twitter @ReginaJacksonMe… I think. You know, I’m old. I don’t know all this stuff. [both laugh] But we have a couple of great people working with us who schedule all of our dinners, and you can reach them through the website. And also we have a Race2Dinner Facebook page, and Race2Dinner is on Twitter, and Race2Dinner is on Instagram.
Saira: And we’re also, Zach, starting to do corporate executive teams, so boards and executive teams, because they seem to need it because diversity and inclusion is a big hoax, as you know, and, like, 95% of diversity and inclusion is run by white women. And hey, companies, white women are not diverse and are not inclusive.
Regina: Well, and where do you think they get their information about racism?
[Flex bomb sfx]
Saira: What we’ve heard from a lot of–like, the three non-white diversity and inclusion officers in the country have talked to us and said, you know, “How great would it be if you two could come in and say the things to the board and my colleagues that we can’t say without getting fired?” They can get fired. We can say the shit they can’t.
Regina: And I just had this conversation with my husband yesterday. We’ve got some things going on in Colorado with our judiciary. The office of the Supreme Court in Colorado has nine black employees out of 260 something, and none of those are at a management level. So we were having this conversation and I said to him, “You know, Gary, me and Saira, we can talk shit ’cause we don’t have to answer to anybody. I don’t have to keep a job. We don’t have to play politics. We get to just call a thing a thing.”
Saira: And I think ultimately, if we want to blow a little smoke up our bums, I think that people kind of like us at these dinners.
Regina: I could care. [laughs]
Saira: No, no, but he’s asking why they [?].
Regina: Oh, yeah. They want to be our friends. They want black and brown people to like them. And this is really interesting. I just–while we’re talking about this, I just got a three-page letter from a white woman friend of mine–[I’ve known?] her probably 40 years–who is married to a black man, and in the letter she wanted–she had read The Guardian and she wanted to know about if we were gonna take on the issue of how white women that are married to black women are treated in black women spaces, okay? So that’s what she wrote me about, and I talked to my husband and I said, “Here’s the issue. We can’t trust you.” I said, “When 53% of [white women] voted for Donald Trump, and then they want to tell us, “Oh, we’re in your corner,” we can’t trust you.” So until we can trust you, I doubt that we’re gonna accept you.
Saira: Yeah, and Regina said that at one dinner last summer. You know, we were talking about trust, and one of the women said, “Well, that hurts my feelings. You mean to tell me you don’t trust any of us in this room?” And she goes, “No, I do.” She goes, “I trust Saira with my life,” but she goes, “I don’t trust the rest of you bitches.” [both laughing]
Regina: You know, it is what it is. In order to be trusted you have to be trustworthy, and white women have not proven themselves to be that.
Saira: Not just that, they’ve proven themselves to NOT be that.
Zach: And so then, you know, in some of the pieces that I read about Race2Dinner, I know that there are executive leaders who are white women who attend Race2Dinner, and I’m curious about, from your perspective, what is it that you’re seeing leaders are doing or not doing that is hampering inclusiveness and equity in their respective workforces?
Saira: We just had a dinner in Chicago, what, like, two weeks ago, and I would say this was one of those–you were asking what were sort of the most poignant moments, well, this was one of the more poignant moments for me because we kind of saw the whole ecosystem at play. So this woman is a nurse in Chicago, and she said–and she, like, got teary, and she said a month earlier she was in a meeting with 9 other white women nurses and doctors and their boss, who’s a white guy. A doctor, okay? A doctor. These are people who deal with brown and black lives all the time. And he said that the big thing they need to tackle in 2020 [was?] hiring foreign-born doctors, and she said, “Well, guess what I did?” And we were like, “We know what you did. Nothing, right?” So she said, “I went through the whole thing in my head. “Maybe he didn’t mean it.” But she was like, “No, all the foreign-born people that we’ve been hiring, Norwegian and French doctors. We had been hiring brown and black doctors.” And she said, “I didn’t say anything. I didn’t say a word.” And I said, “Did anyone else?” And she said no. So that to me was like, “Oh, my God.” And I said, “[?] that. So you just upheld–what you all, the ten of you white women did, was every bit as toxic as what the white guy did.”
Regina: And harmful.
Saira: And harmful. And so, you know, I said, “What if you broke the cycle there? What if you had said something?” And then Regina of course said, which is true, “Here are some of the ramifications. Let’s play this out. You could have been fired, right? They would make up an excuse to fire you. “You’ve become a troublemaker” or whatever. You become demoted. You’re ghosted. All the stuff that we’ve experienced, but they would think twice before saying and doing this harmful stuff the next time. Like, using your voice in these professional settings is so important because it moves the needle in a way that [?] they can actually move the needle. And, you know, she totally got it. Meanwhile, white lady to her right does exactly what they always do ’cause they need to set themselves apart. She goes, “Ugh, I can’t believe that you did that. I would never do that.” I was like, “No, no, no. Like, let’s back it up. Of course you would, and you do, so why do you feel–” She goes, “Well, I know that you think that it’s not possible that I’m not like that,” and I was like, “You’re all like that by training, you know?” And so, anyway, it was the need to separate herself from, you know, classic white woman behavior, and what was great is the other women at the table did come after that woman and say, “Come on, you know that we all do this. We’re all silent at dinner tables. We’re all silent in executive meetings.”
Regina: Exactly. One of the things that I make sure that I tell women, this is just the beginning. If you are going to be in this work, #1: It’s work. You will be doing this for the rest of your life. #2: If you expect to gain anything, boy, are you wrong. You’re gonna lose. You’re gonna lose relationships. You’re gonna lose jobs. You’re gonna lose friends. This is not a winning game. It’s not a winning game for us, and it’s definitely not a winning game for white people.
Zach: Oooh. See, I don’t have sound effects for, like, spiciness. That’s why I’ve been dropping that Flex bomb from time to time, but I will say this has been incredible. Before we let y’all go, any parting words?
Regina: I want to shout-out to Genevieve and Lisa.
Saira: The two white women who work with us.
Zach: Come on, white ladies. [air horns sfx]
Regina: Thank you for having us on this show, and I’m looking forward to listening to this interview.
Zach: We’re looking forward to everybody hearing it. Y’all, yo, now, I told y’all at the top of this it was gonna be spicy, so y’all don’t–don’t be emailing me with your complaints. You want to see the manager? I’m the manager. Y’all know we are unbought and unbossed, okay?
Regina: That manager stuff doesn’t work with me, so I get you. [laughs]
Zach: Yes. No, it’s not. All the emails go to me, Ade and Aaron, so we not–nope. [laughs] Y’all, this has been–man, this has been a dope conversation. You’ve been listening to the co-founders of Race2Dinner, and just thank y’all, thank y’all. Saira Rao, Regina Jackson. Make sure you check us out on Instagram @LivingCorporate, on Twitter @LivingCorp_Pod. Just Google us, you know what I’m saying? If you look up Living Corporate we’re gonna pop up there. SEO is strong enough, okay? Check us out on all of our domains, www.living-corporate–please say the dash–dot com, livingcorporate.co, livingcorporate.us, livingcorporate.org, livingcorporate.net. We got all the different domains, y’all, we just don’t have livingcorporate.com yet. Like, Australia owns livingcorporate.com, but one day we’re gonna get that domain too. And shoot, if you have questions just make sure you just DM us. DMs are wide open. You don’t have to follow us back. We’re thirsty like that. Just hit us up. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, this again has been Zach, and you’ve been listening to Regina Jackson and Saira Rao, co-founders of Race2Dinner. Make sure y’all check out the information in your show notes, and make sure you sign up and go to have a racy conversation. All right, y’all. Peace.