H@H Ep 15: On this special roundtable edition of H@H, Ray talks with 3 members of the Black Business Students Association (BBSA) – Nuhamin Woldemariam (EWMBA ’22), Olaseni Bello Jr. (FTMBA ’21), and Jarrett Wright (EWMBA ’22) – on racial discrimination, injustice, and the deeper-seated issues behind George Floyd and other tragic events targeted against black Americans. Our guests share their own personal experiences with racism, everyday challenges they face, and give advice on how we as a society can help with educating ourselves and our community.
Olaseni Bello on the burden of double consciousness: “…it’s not just how I see myself. It’s how other people see me – this burden of always trying to dance politely again, to manage everybody else’s comfort. You’re just trying to balance, you’re trying to walk this tight rope your whole life. So of course that’s going to manifest itself psychologically, emotionally, physically.”
Nuhamin Woldemariam on systemic racism: “There’s a school to prison pipeline in this country. And the folks who are future planning for prisons, it’s literally correlated to the number of black boys who are wrongly sent to detention and reading scores from the third grade!”
(Nuhamin) on being one of the few black people in the classroom: “I had this moment of relief when I had certain classmates to speak up, raise their hand first and say what they needed to say, I shouldn’t have to be the person to speak for an entire experience because it’s an individual experience.”
Jarrett Wright on why police take such actions: “People do things based on their consequences. If I’m a police officer and I kill someone in the line of duty, rightly or wrongly, there are far fewer consequences…and because of those lack of consequences, those things create issues.”
Support the Black Community:
[00:00:00] Ray: Welcome to hear@haas, a podcast to share the wide-ranging stories of our amazing students and faculty from all the Berkeley MBA programs. Today, we have a special round table episode with students from BBSA, the Black Business Students Association, to provide perspective on George Floyd protests and racism, and anti-blackness that unfortunately still exists today in our country.
[00:00:29] Without further ado, let’s meet our guests.
[00:00:32] Jarrett: Hey, my name is Jarrett Wright. I am a EWPMBA student class of 2022. And I’m from right here, from the Bay area.
[00:00:44] Nuhamin: Hi everyone. I’m Nuhamin Woldemariam. I am an EWMBA student ASCII cohort, woot woot class of 22. I was born in Ethiopia. I grew up in Chicago and now I am a Bay area resident. Oakland, to be specific.
[00:01:02] Olaseni: Hello, everyone. My name is Olaseni Bello. I am originally from Nigeria, moved to the US when I was younger with my mother. I am a full-time MBA previously, was serving in the army and also New York licensed attorney. Happy to be here.
[00:01:18] Ray: Well, thank you guys so much for taking time out of your morning to come on the podcast. Where I want to start is the George Floyd incident that happened a few weeks ago.
Obviously, it’s a very tragic event.
[00:01:31] And so, I just wanted to ask you guys, to start off where you were when you heard about the incident, you know, and how you felt, and if you can share your viewpoints on the matter that has in the weeks that have gone by with some of the protests, and some of the rallies. I will start with Olaseni.
[00:01:55] Olaseni: Well, I was home, as probably many listeners, you know, being on the quarantine for the last couple of months in the state homeowners and pretty much home is where I’ve been. And, I was doing some work on my start-up when I came down to watch the news and you know, it’s nothing new. And my immediate reaction was more of the same because I’ve seen this so many times, right, so, I’m disappointed. There’s a sort of numbness because you, as someone of a diverse background, you’re aware it’s sort of your daily existence, but I was numb and disappointed, but again, it just added to the multiple names that have already experienced a similar fate, Breonna Taylor, and it’s just a constant, heavy feel.
[00:02:49] Nuhamin: Yeah, I was home as well. I remember just finding out about it on Instagram and going over to the news and reading articles about what happened. I would definitely agree. There’s this unfortunate feeling that you feel like, well, this happened again and it’s not just George Floyd, right?
[00:03:12] It’s the countless other names that have always had this sort of treatment and the consistencies of what happens afterward is what’s disappointing, right? Justice isn’t served. What does justice look like? Because I mean, is life going to come back? No, right. And so those are some of the immediate thoughts that always come into my head.
[00:03:35] But in terms of personally, it impacts the way that I’m now gonna have this increased reaction when I get stopped by the cops or the way I think about the justice system and how things are just unfair. It does something to you internally that you pack away. And because you have to continue moving on with your day to day, right?
[00:03:57] So I agree with this numbness feeling of, feeling helpless and, it’s now strengthening my lack of faith that I have in justice at all in this country.
[00:04:10] Ray: How about you Jarrett?
[00:04:11] Jarrett: So to be honest, I really can’t even remember where I was. I hear about these things constantly and for every George Floyd, there are so many others that we know of personally in our own lives that have gone through the exact same thing.
[00:05:02] And, I don’t really go to protests. I have a very different way of protesting. But being there on the front lines with, you know, with the sign is not typically my mode. But while I was there, when I was still at minority, which in itself was a little strange, but, you know, okay, it’s fine, whatever.
But all of the, all of the violence, all of the bottle-throwing, all of the aggression from the crowd, from what I have seen all came from white people, and it was especially pernicious because every glass is being broken, all of that stuff, that’s all going to be blamed on us at the end of the day. And all of that aggression is going to be blamed on us. And so later on, while I was watching social media, we can get the news, talking to friends, it didn’t matter.
[00:05:58] Black, white, Indian, whatever, you know, they’re like, well, you know how black people get when they get angry, they tend to break things. So, you know, just leave them alone. And hopefully, they’ll stop breaking things because you know, they’re angry and we’re gonna be safe when, as soon as they’re done.
But there’s a cyclical, cyclical effect there because that same thought process is the thought process that is why when you pull me over because black people get angry and they tend to break things, I should probably pull out my gun and get ready. You know, it’s that same thought process that happens.
[00:06:38] And seeing that firsthand really affected me.
[00:06:45] Ray: And thanks for sharing that. I think your point on, you know, no matter what the true story is, people of color and black people are blamed. Oftentimes wrongly for crimes that, you know, they probably didn’t even commit.
[00:07:01] I think the next question I want to ask you guys is, the theme of numbness and that this happened again is pretty prevalent. I think all three of you guys had said something to that effect and that kind of begs the question of, there are some deeper-seated issues. that underlie these actions, right?
[00:07:27] These actions of violence, these actions of injustice, these actions that have affected not only George Floyd but also Ahmaud Arbery, you know, really all the way back to Rodney King and even further back in time, what do you believe are some of the deeper-seated issues that still exist today?
[00:07:49] Olaseni: There are many, and I’m not going to be able to cover them all. And so, you know, my student colleagues here, the one thing that I think many of us would have experienced this sort of the perception, as a minority.
[00:08:08] Very difficult transition. So, growing up those formative years there, I became acutely aware of color. Nigeria, it wasn’t something that I was really aware of. I was a majority, right. Different instances, my mom and a single mom, always hold her head up. I can tell you instances in South Carolina where she would take us to church and we would walk in.
[00:08:33] My mom would hold her head high, walk through, and not sit in the back, find a seat in the middle, close to the front. I found these extremely humiliating as a 10, 11-year old. The feeling that intense hatred in a place of worship. So, there’s so many hypocrisies in your daily existence here. One thing you said, love your neighbor.
[00:09:01] And soon as that’s done, you walk out into the street and you treat someone like they’re subhuman.
[00:09:08] The perception of black skin is a threat or on the other side, when you are in a place where you clearly stand out and as I did when I worked on the trading Florida financial bank, everyone’s assuming there’s a special reason that you are here.
[00:09:26] And you’re constantly trying to fight against that perception, right? There’s a saying that perception is a copilot to reality, what people see is what they believe. And if someone doesn’t have a black friend, they only know what they’re fed by the media or from Hollywood. You have to have personal experiences with people to engage people.
[00:09:50] So the deep-rooted aspect, which is really coming out nowadays with people saying they’re allies and reaching out, how can I understand this more? And those are good. I’m glad that people are reaching out and saying, how can I understand this more? What can I do? Because that numbness, we all have it. If you’re non-black or non-person of color, it’s easy for you to dilute that conversation, it’s not that big a deal, the police are great, everyone’s treated equally, such as people in Trump’s administration just said, we do not think there’s systematic racism in America. You’ve got to be joking, right? So, from private to personal, the micro to the macro aggressions, it’s a constant hustle life set to a fault.
[00:10:37] It’s like an obstacle course. And Jarret mentioned anger. The perception of being an angry person, if you’re not smiling, if you don’t make others comfortable, it’s not even about them being comfortable. It’s by you making them comfortable. So culturally and socially, I think that’s one place where people have to question what their engagements and the preconceived notions are of people of color because that bleeds into so many things. And it’s easy to say, I am not racist or I believe in equality. I think many people would argue that the Central Park Karen would probably say that, MBA from a top 10, donated political campaigns, she would say I’m not racist, but yet at a moment where she felt angry, she reached for that privilege by saying, I will call the cops and tell them that a black man is, whatever she would say, harassment by women.
[00:11:38] Just those trigger words. She knew that when she made that call, his chances of leaving that situation without harm is substantially reduced. That’s privileged. Again, she might not say she’s racist, but she knows how to pull the levers at the right time. People really have to question and look deep into themselves and say, am I part of the problem either because I’m silent, because I’m ignorant, because I just don’t care.
[00:12:09] And so there’s less of a reason for you to care if you’re not personally affected by something. That’s just human psychology, right? And so that’s one place where I’ll just stop there and say that beyond the institutions and the policies and the history in today’s age, if you’re not speaking up, if you’re not saying that looks wrong or is one of my classmates said, if she sees a black person pulled over by a cop, she has a certain privilege as a white individual, she will pull up and tape it after asking him it’s okay.
[00:12:44] And she’s been in instances where cops left without even giving the person a ticket, probably cause they had some nefarious intent. So being an advocate is so important, what that means for you personally. And it’s so easy to let everybody else control the narrative. You have a voice. And so, if you’re passive and you say it’s not, it’s not my time to speak, it’s not my issue, then you’re part of the problem.
[00:13:11] Nuhamin: Yeah,
[00:14:01] We’re bombarded with it, in entertainment, at school, when you’re at the park, when you’re shopping, it’s infiltrated into the way that we interact with one another and society. And so, I think a huge thing that I keep telling folks is you have to do some critical self-reflection and a lot of unlearning. That has to come together.
The unlearning has to be actively anti-racist and anti-blackness, right. And so, for me, when I think if someone says, well, niceness is not correlated with being not racist, right. People usually automatically think, well, I’m a good person. Just like Central Park ‘Karen’, well, I do X, Y, Z, but at the end of the day, what are you actively doing to be anti-racist and how are you fighting against anti-blackness?
[00:14:56] One thing that I’ll add is,
talking to your friends and family members about anti-blackness and not having one of your black friends having to be present. For me, I have a higher level of expectation. If you’re not black and you’re my friend, I expect you to talk about anti-blackness and actively be anti-racist whether or not I’m there.
And here’s the thing. That takes a lot of research, right? You can’t enter a conversation or you can’t have a dialogue with folks who may not be on the same page or who are ignorant, just because they don’t know, without understanding context for yourself. A few ways that I keep telling people, okay, if you don’t know do research, cause I’m not going to teach you.
And I have a whole philosophy on that we can get into later because this is a different question. But things like food deserts, people don’t even know food deserts exist. People don’t know about red lining when it comes to housing discrimination. People don’t know that skin coloring cream is the biggest item across markets in the globe, right. This isn’t just a US issue. So, fighting anti-blackness in any culture that you’re from is so important. And, I’ll end with just a piece of, when you think about folks who share, cause I’ve heard this a lot lately. Well, there are other ways that different ethnicities interact with white people or with the police or with the system. And they have a history as well. It’s a yes, and, right? It’s a yes, and, but think about from a historical perspective, do research on your identity and your history and what that looks like from a power and privilege perspective.
[00:16:48] At Haas, we have a higher percentage of people who identify as Asian, Asian, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander. But when you think about from a US context, let’s think about the history, right? There’s been some major injustices that have happened to that identity group as well. But how are we here?
[00:17:11] How did we end up with the model minority myth? Like what are we doing to undo that? But when you think about how we got here. I recently learned cause I’m starting to do my own research, how in 1965, there was a new immigration act that allowed Asians to come in, but only at high levels of education or with skill.
[00:17:32] And so it’s this system that was predetermined for them to be successful, right? And then when you look at history, it’s okay. Well, what were black people brought here for? And then you think about how black people built this country, without pay by the way, you know what I mean? And so, there are things in the historical context that we have to look at to also see how they play into the day to day stereotypes.
[00:17:56] And I’m not even gonna get it into the media, so I’ll end right there. Cause that’s another issue that we could talk about for hours.
[00:18:03] Jarrett: I couldn’t agree more. You know, I think that, I mean, me, it’s such a potent point in that we are
[00:18:31] And then you very much notice it.
if I’m a police officer and I kill someone in the line of duty, rightly or wrongly, there are far fewer consequences for me than if I, Jarrett Wright, regular black guy on the street doing the exact same thing. And because of those lack of consequences, those things create issues, you know. In the military, don’t let me speak for you, but our military, they can’t just go into a different region and act with impunity.
[00:19:37] There are consequences. There is a code of honor that our soldiers represent, represent us with while they’re overseas. I feel like those that protect us at home, it’s only right that they have the same level, the same standard that our men and women that protect us across borders do. And people have to care because it’s baked into society, because people experience it in the air that they breathe. You know, it’s hard to care about what’s normal. It’s hard to care, especially when normal works really well for you. I understand that, I do, but it’s just not right
[00:20:32] Jarrett: Something that’s in Vogue right now that I fundamentally disagree with is someone says something racist, someone says something that you don’t like, they’re immediately deleted from Facebook. Or, you voted for Trump, I can’t talk to you anymore, we can’t be friends. What you’re doing is you’re burying that person further in the silo that they shouldn’t be in in the first place.
[00:20:54] I think, my own personal opinion, that it’s our duty to reach out even further to those people with opposing viewpoints, because being blunt, they’re part of the problem, but their eyes won’t be opened without some experiences with black people. Their eyes won’t be open unless they figure it out. You know?
, it’s exhausting, but, you know, when normal works with them really well, it might be a heavy lift for them and me, I need people to care because it’s not going to be until we reach that critical mass of people caring that things in this country are going to change at all.
[00:22:05] Nuhamin: I’m reflecting back in the day when we used to have class in person and probably virtually too. I am one of two black people in our cohort and I’m not even talking about the whole class of 2022, right? But whenever the professor brings up something that has to do with slavery or blackness and the way that interacts with the economy, I am expected to say something and whether or not that’s an expectation that I’m putting on myself or that’s the anxiety that’s coming out, I remember I had this moment of relief when I had certain classmates to speak up, raise their hand first and say what they needed to say, which I aligned with, and that provided the sense of relief and that’s what I want to continue seeing. I shouldn’t have to be the person to speak for an entire experience because it’s an individual experience. You can’t stereotype for a whole group and how they might perceive something, but that’s the kind of future that I hope to see in the classroom at Haas. And that’s only one person. Imagine if there were 10 or 15 people raising their hand, right? So that sparked a memory. But another thing that I neglected to share as a part of the education that people can start to learn more about because it’s relevant, in terms of how we, as black people, have been systematically dehumanized. One fact that I like to share with folks is how there’s a school to prison pipeline in this country. And so, the folks who are future planning for prisons, it’s literally correlated to the number of black boys who are wrongly sent to detention and reading scores from the third grade.
[00:24:16] Ray: Oh, wow.
[00:24:17] Nuhamin: The third grade. And so, when you learn things like that, you start to realize how early the planning is.
[00:24:25] Olaseni: Well, I mean, the point is, definitely resonates, there are a couple things. First, if you’re listening to this and you haven’t seen 13, you should definitely see that.
[00:24:35] Ray: I would say I watched that last night actually.
[00:24:38] Olaseni: That’s like three, four podcasts by itself. But one of the points that was made about, you know, the classroom I recall being in law school and, yeah, there weren’t that many of us in the classroom.
[00:24:51] But whenever we touched on a topic that dealt with equality, that was civil rights movement, especially in constitutional law, I remember having these exact same complaints my other black friends, like why do I have to be the spokesperson? Because my professor would look at me, ole-shimmy. He mispronounced my name.
[00:25:13] What do you think about, boom, every time without fail. And my perspective is I’m living it, right? And so, I understand in classrooms that diversity of discourse helps enlighten other people, but it’s hard for me to capture the full history, because I’m going to be looking through my perspective, but added pressure.
[00:25:36] You as a person who experiences daily and day out outside of this classroom, this isn’t just a topic for conversation. This is your life, right? You constantly have to be, well, this is what I think. And it’s welcome, but you would want other people to speak up. And one of the things that Jared said, look, I think, the reaction of removing people from social media.
[00:25:57] I actually went through this personally. Trayvon Martin died when I was in Afghanistan and was just disgusted and hurt, but also this concept of fight for freedom, right. That’s something we’re willing to die for, concept of freedom and to feel this disconnect with back home a 17-year old was killed because he looked like me.
[00:26:20] There were some comments that were made on social media by people that I perceived as being brothers in arms. And I felt like I didn’t have to look at that. Over time as this continued to happen, yeah, there were connections, but after awhile I was like, I don’t need to look at these comments.
[00:26:44] Every time a black person is killed, we changed the narrative. Oh, blue lives matter. Okay, cool. All lives matter. We keep changing the narrative to dilute the conversation. And,
[00:27:08] I don’t want to be affiliated with these folks. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, obviously, that falls in the umbrella of freedom. I respect that, but, I’ve said this many times, I do not want to be the most diverse person in a state, in the city. I want to be like, I’m tired of carrying that batter because I can’t change my skin color.
[00:27:28] You know, I’m Uber chocolate dark, as people will tell you that there is even within the spectrum of colors, there’s even more intensity when you’re like really black and being like, okay, like you’re a threat, you’re angry. This perception, like, I don’t always want to be the person that’s going to enlighten you and educate you.
[00:27:46] I can do so by my actions, by the life I live, by perhaps career trajectory if you will say, Oh, you’re the exception or blah, blah, blah. And you may be the only black person or person of color as someone knows. I get those circles where you can move the needle as an ambassador, right. But it’s a burden as well.
[00:28:02] Right? It’s difficult. And you know, second point that Jarrett made which was, you know, the rules of engagement. I do think police need to be trained. Too often, especially in small towns in the South it’s power, it’s unbridled power. You can stop anyone you can because of how you feel, not because of the law, because there’s so much interpretation there, right?
[00:28:29] If I’m going three miles over the speed limit, well, technically like you can stop me, right? So, I’m going to try to comply beyond comply, like I need to over comply. My mom told me every time the South, she said dead men have no rights whenever you’re stopped. Just put your hands on the steering wheel, turn on the lights.
[00:28:50] Like she instilled that level of concern awareness. I tried to be Uber polite when your bowel stop. When I was at university, I put my university sticker on the back of my car. And when I did do that, I will stop less but still stopped. You’re constantly doing this dance and I submit to you that I’m 39, like Suvi, 39.
[00:29:16] I’ve lived in the South and loved the other experiences I’ve had and to manage, manage these experiences with police, it’s challenging. Even as a licensed attorney, cops still made me nervous, even though I know my rights, they still make me nervous. Because if they pull the trigger, who controls the narrative? The impunity with which they behave, it gives, it reinforces that behavior.
[00:29:44] Yeah, I’ve got a stand before we go, we’re trained to know that nothing takes away our inherent rights to self-defense, right. However, the rules of engagement or proportionality applied. It’s even harder in Afghanistan because everyone’s dressed the same. You don’t know who is the enemy, you just don’t know.
[00:30:02] Everyone’s just dressed in the cultural guard. Right? And so, someone throws a rock, you can’t shoot them. That’s not proportionality. You’ll be court-martialed. The cops here can say I was scared, he was reaching for his phone. This inherent fear that you have makes everyone seem a threat. You should question, is there proper training? Is there, beyond the bias trainings, every black person’s a threat, because you think they’re going to reach for a small thing. There’s another video final Castiel, there’s so many videos that hurt beyond like, they all hurt. But even when the girlfriend was saying, Hey, like he has a gun, he has a license to carry the gun.
[00:30:47] You could just say, she’s taping the whole thing. And the cop still shoots. I mean, what does that tell you? My words don’t matter to you? If I say I can’t breathe, if I say I have a license for this, if I say, Hey, I’m reaching slowly into my glove compartment, like I’m showing you my hands, like you have to announce every action because if you’re shot, the perception will be, well, you must have done something.
[00:31:13] And that cop was justified. We have to change that burden. We have to switch that around and ensure that, why did you shoot and what are the mechanisms could we take to deescalate? I know we now have body counts, but tasers, and I’m not saying cops jobs aren’t inherently dangerous. Soldiers jobs are inherently dangerous too, but again, unless we’ve been fired upon, we cannot engage.
[00:31:35] We can’t just start shooting into the crowd. And I just don’t understand how our military can be trained, but our domestic force can just, it’s like the wild, wild West. And I know all cops are not bad. That’s not what I’m saying. Just like all black people are not bad. Just like all white people are not bad.
[00:31:57] The narrative is the numbers. Look at the data. And thankfully we have devices that are recording. What about all the ones that weren’t recorded? All the stories that were not told? This is a small, small percentage. And people still want to change the narrative. Like even with the video cameras, people still want to question it, change the narrative.
[00:32:18] Imagine how much difficult it was in the sixties, seventies, eighties, right? It’s frustrating. So, for me, this has been such a long journey carried by African-Americans, by people of color. At what point do you say we’ve been marching, MLK, thank you. There’ve been laws. What else can we do? The justice system will incarcerate black men at a higher rate.
[00:32:43] The federal sentencing guidelines would show that higher prosecution and longer rates for possession of crack versus possession of cocaine, that disparity in the laws already shows planning the new, I don’t know how many was mentioning that, Oh, cocaine is a wealthier drug. Wealthy people have accidents and we want the people to white, so they should have lesser prison sense.
[00:33:06] Think about how that makes you do faith in the criminal justice system. I mean, I’ll stop there, but I just, the burden is so hard to carry and yeah, people should educate themselves now, just like, you’d want to know your alphabets. You want to know your mathematics as a kid, people should know the history. Like this is essential.
[00:33:29] Nuhamin: Yeah, that, I mean, you are preaching because there are so many things that we can continue learning. Someone brought up in a conversation that I was reading how, well, a lot of the work is black on black crime and black people are dying. That was triggering for me. And the first thing I thought was, wow, you’re so uneducated.
[00:33:54] You didn’t even take the time to do your research. Had you done research and I’ll speak for my city in Chicago, there are cops who have dropped off crates of guns in black neighborhoods in order to entice gang wars and then arrest everybody the following weekend or for months to come. And so, the fact that people aren’t even educated with what’s actually happening and make these large scheme assumptions of, well, these are the results.
[00:34:25] It saddens me, but it also allows me to see how much education there is, how much space people need to take the time to actually learn before they make generalizations. I also wanted to comment around Jarrett’s perspective. It’s something that someone challenged me recently and I had an aha moment.
[00:34:46] Where I’m this person I was speaking with, they have friends with different political perspectives and I always encourage folks, well, you need to have a diverse group of friends, whether it’s religion, race, ability, career, whatever that looks like, get to know other people. But when I looked around, I was like, Oh, I think everyone in my immediate circle and perhaps even larger circle potentially has the same political viewpoints. And I started to realize, okay, that’s interesting. That’s something that I can work on so that I can understand people’s perspectives. I’m not to argue, but just to understand, right, we can have this conversation that’s constructive. But when it comes to taking the burden of educating others, I am choosing to no longer do that.
[00:35:43] And even when it comes to protesting or whatever in these past few weeks, I’ve noticed while we have a lot of allies out here with us in these streets, white allies, Asian allies, Latina, Latino allies, like the list goes on and on, and it’s been so beautiful. The fact that it’s also global, like you have people in Tokyo marching for black lives matter.
[00:36:09] You have people in Paris, you have people in Sydney. It’s beautiful to see. And so, the aha moment I had was how this is an opportunity for us as black people to sit back and start healing. We need to start healing because the trauma is so real. All of us talked about how numb we feel whenever we see a video like that. The amount of healing that needs to take place inwardly is so important.
[00:36:39] And another fact that I’ll throw out there, there’s been studies done on why there’s a higher rate of black women who died during childbirth. And people didn’t understand why. And it’s because of the trauma that’s carried internally from generation to generation to generation from when we entered this country.
[00:37:00] And so these are little areas of education that people can start gaining, but I do encourage us to start leaning more on our allies to have these conversations amongst each other so that we can do the healing that we need.
[00:37:15] Olaseni: I want to just drop one thing in here, the health aspect, you know, I’m start-up and the stress of living, the stress of being black in America, high blood pressure, like, I could go on for days on that and the adverse, the grossly adverse impact that COVID has had versus other races.
[00:38:19] Or God forbid, I’m walking out the door and the beep beep beep goes off. I’m like, yeah, come check my bag, please. Because you’re always carrying that burden, because it’s not just how I see myself, it’s how other people see me. Can I run after 8:00 PM at night? You know, in athletic clothing. Ah, I could, but someone’s going to be threatened by that. This burden of always trying to dance politely, again, to manage everybody else’s comfort, it’s hard. Whether you’re in a corporate environment or you’re in private setting, or the way you’re treated when you go to restaurants, like, and I mean, there’s so many micro microaggressions and you’re aware of these and these buildups and this concept of being angry, it’s like death by a thousand little cuts, but it goes on for so long.
[00:39:11] And finally there was one event and maybe you lose it. But you can’t, you can’t, you have to hold it all in. And that will manifest itself in your health. It is challenging. And so that’s one thing that everyone carries. And I just want to highlight, there are health impacts to that, there really are, constantly being afraid when a cop drives behind me, they’re going to turn their lights on. So, I make sure that I stop at the stop sign. I don’t know for how long I would stop, but I’m going to really stop, five seconds. I’m going to overdo it right. My mom told me she’s been pulled over for driving too slow because a cop was behind her.
[00:39:52] I mean, that’s real, right. You’re just trying to balance, you’re trying to walk this tight rope of your whole life. So of course, that’s going to manifest itself psychologically, emotionally, physically. And so, I just want to highlight the health component of that.
[00:40:07] Nuhamin: Yeah. And it’s not just in the streets. I’ll be vulnerable and share every Saturday when I drove to Haas, I have anxiety. I would drive up and this is the cycle, I get off the highway, I have this anxiety of, okay, I hope I don’t run into five or six different interactions that make me be the only black person in the circle where I have to speak for this.
[00:40:35] And I didn’t even notice why, where the anxiety was coming from. And I finally realized that eventually, when you’re the only one in the room. But what helps me, and this is because of my immigrant background, I’ve been taught that education is so important, right? I’m so grateful for where I am.
[00:40:55] So these are the words that I have to tell myself when I get off of the highway, I see a group of homeless people who are struggling and trying to get by and I think, wow, I’m so lucky. I’m so grateful. And yet at the end of the day, I’m still walking in with this anxiety. So, there’s just a lot of additional pressure that our friends don’t know about. I’ve never said this to any of them, but that’s because they’re great people, right? It doesn’t mean anything in terms of the kind of interactions that should be changed or whatever. It’s just the fact that this internal anxiety takes place. Jarrett and I fight all the time, but when he walks up, there’s a sense of relief.
[00:41:40] Like, Okay, cool, like I’m not the only one, but at least I could joke around with him. You know what I mean? And so, I think I share this just to raise the level of awareness of what goes on internally, one, and two, the importance of allyship and other friends in our circles to be able to speak so that we don’t have to.
[00:42:02] Jarrett: Yeah, I agree so much. My friends here have been sharing speaks to that level of exhaustion that we all feel from constantly having to be the one from constantly being looked at and constantly being created around as the example, you know?
[00:42:26] I just kinda know that I’m the representative. That’s one of those things that, you know, my parents, my family, my cousins, my uncles, everything, you know, they drill into you. They drill into me.
When you walk into a space, you’re bringing all of us with you. Don’t embarass us, you know? And it’s crushing, when we couldn’t do, it’s a failure. It’s actually, the one thing that I do fear is failure.
And you know, maybe it’s something that drives me to push as hard as I do, to sleep as little as I do, to be as active as I am. It’s just a constant fear of failing myself, of failing my people, Nuhamin, right? We do fight all the time, but I’m constantly afraid that I’m going to embarrass her because she’s like the only other one, you know?
[00:43:27] And I’m like-
[00:43:30] Nuhamin: And check – let’s add in our brother check.
[00:43:34] Jarrett: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:43:39] Nuhamin: Yeah.
[00:43:39] Jarrett: But then am I perpetuated, you know, am I holding up, Nuhamin as the example that I need to check with her to make sure that my, that I’m properly representing, you know, the quintessence of blackness. I think that I want people to have a different experience of black people. I especially hate it when people look at my accomplishments, my successes, my journey, my story, and they think, Oh, Jarrett, they say you come from the hood, you’ve come from this place and come from all of these struggles and strives and look at you now, you know, this is proof that, you know, anyone can do this. I don’t know how to just, it really ignites me because I’m not Superman, you know. I’ve done a lot of, you know, really interesting things and you know, on that basis, yeah, I view myself as exceptional. However, I am not special at all. I’m no better than anybody else that comes up around me from where I come from. I am not the product of, you know, what’s possible from coming from the hood.
[00:45:05] I am evidence could be if given the proper amount of support and attention, and support because none of us can do it by ourselves.
[00:45:28] Ray: I think Jarrett, you bring up a good point because just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s likely, right? Like the system could still be rigged against you. You could win the lottery, right? Like the odds are there, but the system, and I think a lot of you guys have talked about, kind of just is kind of stacked, right?
[00:45:48] And I think Nuhamin, what you brought up the question of, how did we get here is very legitimate in the sense that really the definition of normal was defined by, you know, the founders of this country, like people that are in prior generations, right, where there was even more racism, more anti-blackness.
And a lot of these effects are unconscious. I think Marco Lindsey, who is Associate Director of DEI at Haas mentioned a lot of terms that we use in everyday life, right, to refer to negative things like black sheep, dark humor, or you know, just a lot of these unconscious things that they don’t even think about are associated with dark, with black, with dark colors.
[00:46:41] So, I guess, this issue is definitely like you guys have all illustrate with some of your wonderful stories is very deep-rooted. There kind of goes towards what I want to ask next is what can we do to help?
[00:46:57] How can we help you guys in the black community in general, lift this gigantic burden that you all have been carrying for so long?
[00:47:07] Jarrett: I think I’m going to say it perfectly earlier, educate yourself. No, I just, as an unfortunate natural state of my Jarrett Wring, my own personal being, I do my best to represent my people well and give people a different example of what’s there, but educate yourself and don’t necessarily lean on us for everything, because we were all anecdotal information.
[00:47:42] You need to go figure it out. You need to go be educated.
[00:47:47] Nuhamin: I have a whole list ready for y’all. Okay. For me. I think it’s important for us to think about where we spend our money and to fight anti-blackness, one thing that I would love people to start focusing on is supporting small and large black owned businesses. And we can’t use the excuse of, I don’t know anymore.
[00:48:17] The internet is there, Instagram is there, Facebook is there. However, I pulled up a few options for folks, because I know you’re going to do this anyway, so why not support the black-owned businesses as well? So, if you go on Instagram, there’s a page called McBride Sisters. They’ve listed 67 black-owned wineries.
[00:48:41] I know we love to drink wine. Haasies are always planning trips to Napa. So just take a look at that. Even if you’re not going there, you can order the wine, right. Look up. Look up what black-owned wineries there are in your local store. Look up on Instagram, there’s an account called The Black Bay Area.
[00:49:03] And they’ve also listed black owned restaurants in the Bay area. And that includes SF, Oakland, South Bay. There’s an entire list of places that you can support. Another place is Glo Graphics, G L O graphics. It’s this dope artist who is a black woman who creates answers through graphics. And one of the ones that I thought was really helpful during this time, ask the question, what do I text my black friends?
[00:49:37] Because “how are you doing” is a question that is difficult to answer. Perhaps if someone has gotten it a lot, they may not want to answer that question. So, she does this beautiful job of saying avoid “how are you doing”. And here are three whole options. And so, taking it upon yourself to do that research helps a lot in terms of building closer relationships with those around you. It could also help in other relationships too, right. “How are you doing” perhaps maybe just so standard and there are other ways to ask. As my brothers over here mentioned 13th, the documentary, if you haven’t seen it, please watch it. If you are going to engage in a conversation, perhaps watch that first so that you can have some context before talking, opening your mouth.
My favorite podcast is16, 19, but I want to direct folks specifically to episode two and the title of it is The Economy that Slavery Built. A lot of times when we talk about slavery, people think that, well, that happened a long time ago, or, well, yes, that is so unfortunate and it makes me sad and yes, the society that I identify with or the race identify with has benefited and I acknowledge it.
[00:50:59] However, that episode, financial context of slavery. So, the economy of the US was built based on slavery and I’m talking billions of dollars of free labor for years. And so, understanding that context and I’ll leave you all with just one more thing. There’s this of this notion of what was really bad before and things are better and they’re not, it’s just overt now.
[00:51:35] And so what’s helped with, for me to, in my learning, there’s this pyramid image that I found and I’m happy to send it out
[00:52:09] And so I just want to give a quick example, a few examples to give context to what that looks like. So, when you’re thinking about indifference, one of the examples it gives is when people say, well, there’s two sides to every story. That’s one. Well, politics don’t affect me. And then you go out to minimization.
[00:52:27] So when you think about minimization it’s well, get over slavery or it’s just a joke. I didn’t mean it like that, or we all belong to the human race. You’re minimizing the experience and the reality. And then it goes up to veiled racism. When you talk about tokenism, if there’s only one black person on your team at work, and they’re always the one called on for diversity related projects, your conversation in the classroom, if the one person who identifies with that identity as the one who’s always used. And this can go beyond blackness. This could also be, if you’re looking at the only person who’s gay for any LGBTQ related response, that’s a problem, that’s tokenism, right? And so, it continues to go up to discrimination. What does it look like? Fearing people of color, racial profiling, the school to prison pipeline that I mentioned earlier.
[00:53:26] Then it goes up to cause of violence, then violence, and then genocide. And so, when we think about history in terms of, well, no one is going to walk up to you and say the N word anymore, like that’s just absurd. Okay. That’s fine. But we’re living in this new world of what that could look like. And so, I just want people to start doing the research and not just based off of assumptions or what they read or see on the media.
[00:53:53] Ray: Thank you for sharing a Nuhamin. We’ll provide links to those resources in our show notes. What I want to end on, with our conversation today is, are there any like lasting messages that you want to deliver or send to your Haas classmates and perspective students?
[00:54:16] Nuhamin: For me, I would say that I’m very grateful for all of the classmates who have reached out. The classmates who have made the dedication to educate their friends or their family, classmates have protested with me if they felt comfortable, or if they’re allowed to, there are different ways that you can support.
[00:54:38] And I’m honestly grateful. What I would love to see is for it not to just be us, to be pushing admissions to have more black students in our program. I think that should be a collective effort. This shouldn’t just be on our shoulders to demand more diversity at Haas.
[00:55:00] Olaseni: Lasting message, well, first, some of my colleagues here, Haas is a unique ecosystem which a large extent, a good number of people are aware. I’m not, I’m not saying it’s perfect. He goes to some, but I’m saying that you find yourself talking to people who actually want to have that conversation.
[00:55:20] Right. Which is also start, I’ve marched with classmates, veterans. I’m grateful for the activism I’m seeing, for the stepping out of the comfort zone. And I want to emphasize this shouldn’t be a trend or just a social media hashtag, right? This should be a lifelong journey of being woke and being an advocate.
[00:55:48] I think that’s really the message for me. I’m really encouraged by many of my classmates, yes, the outreach has been great. In beyond the classroom, veteran,’ active duty soldiers I serve with checking on me cause that mental aspect is key. But the prolonged journey, knowing that this was the beginning, it’s not an overnight movement because if it was overnight, you know, we wouldn’t be here.
[00:56:15] Like this is a prolonged journey and it’s ingrained. And so, as we are in our internships, as we advance in our careers, let’s not forget this moment. Let’s not become complacent. Let’s not be Central Park Karens who donate, but don’t live the experience. That’s really, the message is, make sure this is enduring.
[00:56:42] Make sure you teach your kids. I have a 14-week old daughter. I do not want her marching for the same. That’s sounds counterintuitive because I just said it’s a prolonged fight, but we have the ability to move the needle. Teach your kids about bias. Have friends who are outside of your socioeconomic status, say hello to your neighbors.
[00:57:08] Don’t let the media inform your decisions. Challenge the status quo, which is one of our tenants here at Haas. But what does that mean? Don’t be fed the news experience. It ask, engage, but five years from now, 10 years from now, be aware that it can take a different form. It continues to evolve and manifest itself in different ways.
[00:57:33] So we have to be vigilant, right? It’s like when we say we want to fight terrorism, terrorism isn’t the physical thing we can just stifle out and support. Long journey is racism. Right? We can have little battles that we win, but we still have this war to fight. And so, each of us is literally a citizen soldier.
[00:57:56] If you want to be for equality, be an advocate for your actions, your dollars as no means guided us about, the prolonged engagement is really where it is. If and when the protests seem to die down, which you can protest in a different way. If you don’t physically go out there, if you become concerned about COVID or something, you can be engaged.
[00:58:21] And I think donations are great. But again, we have a history of throwing money at problems and not throwing up our sleeves and saying, how do I actually make this better? And so, yeah, messages keep on keeping on.
[00:58:39] Jarrett: I often find myself to be the only, only black person in the room, only cocoa puff the medical mom likes to say and although I’m the only one, I’m not alone. I, because there are so many allies that are there with us that will stand with us that will, that will speak up, with, within, for us.
[00:59:06] So, there’s a comfort in that. And what I would ask incoming students, my current classmates, is to be that, you know, because I know that there is more likely in their circles that they encounter people, you know, that is on team. Do you know that or just outside of where they need to be? I like to rely on them to bring them in because like I said earlier, until enough people care, I’d like to put it out there for those of us that are, that are on my side, that are on our side, be on our side everywhere and all the time.
[00:59:49] Ray: I want to thank you guys for coming on the podcast today for sharing your stories, for sharing your messages, and just being real with us. I certainly learned a few things on this podcast and I’m sure our listeners did as well.
Go check out some of the resources. We mentioned those in the show notes on Apple podcasts and on our website.
[01:00:12] Jarrett, Nuhamin, Olaseni, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.
[01:00:17] Olaseni: Thank you, Ray, for, you know, giving us a forum to speak, to share thoughts and insights. And so, yeah. Thank you.
[01:00:26] Nuhamin: Yeah, thank you. Really appreciate that.
[01:00:29] Jarrett: I appreciate you pushing the ball forward.
[01:00:32] Ray: Thank you for tuning in to this special episode of here@haas. If you enjoy the show, please share with a friend or fellow Haasi. If you have feedback for us, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m Ray Guan, and I encourage you to educate, to donate, to fight racism and anti-blackness in your own way.
[01:01:03] And we’ll see you next time here at Haas.