227: Racism, Racial Equity, and Relationships - with Neil Sattin

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How do we confront our blind spots and tackle the ways that racism and privilege affect our relationships, our lives, our society? And...our podcasts? This week's episode is not meant to be a complete answer to those questions - just a beginning to the conversation. So today you'll hear more about the "hidden agenda" of Relationship Alive - how what you've been learning is a crucial part of taking care of yourself as we change the world. And how racism has impacted my journey - and the evolution of the Relationship Alive podcast. Yes, let's all be part of the solution. I can - and will - do better. It's that important. #blacklivesmatter

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!

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Amazing intro and outro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters

Transcript:

Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. I'm doing a little bit of a different episode this week than what I had planned. If you tuned in last week to my show with David Burns, then you know that this week was intended to be an episode that was going to be a session that David did with me around being overwhelmed. And it's an important episode if you are interested in hearing how David Burns uses his methodology, Team CBT, as a way to help me work through a problem that many of us are going through these days, which is being overwhelmed by just the sheer amount of things that are happening in our world today.

Neil Sattin: So it's an important episode. And yet I couldn't sit by and not address what is literally happening in our world, in our communities along with the pandemic right now. Which is responding to systemic racism and white privilege along with police violence towards black people, toward minorities, toward protesters. I couldn't be silent, and I wanted to talk to you about it this week. Generally, I've tried to keep Relationship Alive fairly non-political. And the reason behind that is because I feel that the purpose of Relationship Alive is inherently political, even though we're talking about how to have successful relationships. It expands beyond what we do with our partners with our spouses, it expands to the world around us to how we are with our kids with our parents with our extended family with our friends, with our co-workers with the authorities in our lives.

Neil Sattin: So, I've always viewed Relationship Alive as being something that is contributing to the overall betterment of society, not just in being able to experience more love with your partner, but also to experience more love, and harmony with your fellow humans. And granted that's not possible all the time. And yet in this moment, this is really the first time that I've felt called to not be silent to be explicit in my own personal support for Black Lives Matter. For the idea that our skin color doesn't determine who we are in this world, and that there should be racial equity in terms of how our society functions, and it just isn't that way. It just isn't.

Neil Sattin: So, in today's episode, I'm going to give you a little bit of my own personal story, my own background here, and I'm going to talk a little bit about Relationship Alive and some obvious things that you may have noticed. I want to address them head on, because they're important in terms of recognizing just how pervasive white privilege is in our world, and in how we recognize who the experts are and who they're not. And I want to tackle that head on. So that's what today's show is going to be about, a little bit from me personally, and a little bit of a statement about what direction we're going to head in this show. But first, I just want to remind you that Relationship Alive is an offering for you to help you have an amazing relationship. And as I just said, my hidden agenda is to help the world be a better place. So if you are finding the show to be helpful, then please consider a contribution. Anything... Any little bit counts.

Neil Sattin: And today I want to thank these listeners who have made a contribution to help support Relationship Alive. Their names are Sylvia, Angie, David, Margot, Drew, Lydia, and Valerie, Keerthi and Jewels. Thank you all so much for your generous and ongoing support of Relationship Alive and our mission. And if you want to make a contribution, just visit neilsattin.com/support or text the word "support" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

Neil Sattin: In today's world, we could all use some help communicating with each other and I've actually put together a guide with my top three relationship communication strategies to help you connect to another person, no matter how challenging the thing is that you are trying to connect with them about. It's relevant today. Figuring out how to communicate with so much polarization in the world. To download the free guide just visit neilsattin.com/relate or text the word "relate" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions.

Neil Sattin: We do have a Facebook group where listeners gather to create a safe space for others and for you to talk about relationship-related matter, and that's the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook. And if you have questions, you can email them to questions at relationshipalive.com, and what's super awesome is if you record yourself asking the question, then I can hear you and I can answer you here on the show.

Neil Sattin: So I think that's it for the business that I need to cover. Let's dive in to this topic of racism and racial equity, and I think I just want to give you a little bit of my own just personal background, personal perspective on this. I grew up being raised Jewish in a predominantly Christian community. And for the most part, even though it was, it was weird to be othered. It was something that I was fortunate that I never really felt victimized by that I never felt any anti-Semitism growing up that I can recall. And I took it upon myself to talk to my classmates, my school mates about being Jewish and what that meant to me and what our traditions were. And part of being Jewish at least the way that I was raised was also an awareness of our history as a people, and in particular the ways that Jews have been persecuted throughout the history of the world and in terms of recent history, in terms of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany.

Neil Sattin: So I had a consciousness even as a young child of what that meant to come from a community that had been singled out for death. Now fortunately, I never experienced that. And growing up here in the States, I felt for the most part pretty safe and being Jewish is not something that is visible, for the most part to other people. I did have an interesting moment when I was in my 20s, and I was at a cousin's bar mitzvah at a university. They hosted the bar mitzvah at the university. And if you don't know a bar mitzvah is like a coming of age ceremony for Jewish kids at the age of 13.

Neil Sattin: A Bar or a Bat Mitzvah. If you are a girl. It's about being ushered in to being a responsible adult in the eyes of the community. And so I was at a cousin's bar mitzvah and I was looking around and I noticed something that I had never noticed before which was that the people who were surrounding me, who were mostly students at this university, because there was an actual synagogue on the campus of the University - which was something I hadn't experienced. I went to predominantly Christian liberal arts school out on the West Coast.

Neil Sattin: And so I was looking around and I noticed that the people that I was looking at actually looked a lot like me, and I had never really thought about myself as looking any different, from anyone else. Again, this kind of veers into this notion of white privilege because there was nothing obviously different about me, but I did notice - Oh. There is something about me and where I come from, that makes me look a little bit different than, for instance, the people in the community where I grew up, who were predominantly either French-Canadian or from Ireland, with a few English people thrown in there.

Neil Sattin: So that was the community that I grew up in. And not universally true. There were exceptions to the rule, but I looked different than they did and that explains in some respects, some of the experiences that I think I had when I was a kid. That again, weren't about anyone consciously singling me out or not singling me out, but I think it plays into the ways that we perceive other people in our lives. We are used to people who look like us who act like us, who talk like us use the language we do or the languaging, if we speak the same language, but we use different kind of ways of pronouncing things or different idioms. We are geared towards looking for where we're similar, and how that makes us safe and in some respects, the way that our differences might bring us danger.

Neil Sattin: And I think there's more for me to learn about this because my guess is that on some level, there are some things that are hard-wired into our system to be suspicious of something that's different than us as a means of protection. Now, that doesn't mean that we are in danger at all, at all. It's about something that we've talked about here on the show a lot, which is noticing the ways that our body responds. That physiologically, we are having a response to the world around us and being able to respond to that in choice.

Neil Sattin: To not be victims to our own physiology. So, in the ways that we are carrying around our own trauma or the trauma of generations, or the trauma of things that we see around us, whatever that is, that we're carrying with us, when we are triggered, in the moment, it is worth paying attention to what's happening in our bodies so that we can respond, so that we can regulate ourselves and bring ourselves back to being in relationship with the people who are around us.

Neil Sattin: So while I was "other" I was definitely privileged as well. My parents were educated. We lived in a very peaceful suburban community where things were relatively pretty safe. I wasn't worried about whether there was going to be food on the table and I definitely wasn't worried about if I rode around town, on my bike at any hour of day I wasn't worried about being accosted by police officers thinking that maybe I was up to no good. I might have had to worry the times that I was up to no good, but I definitely wasn't going to get singled out, just because of how I looked. And I wasn't in danger because of how I looked. And so I got to grow up feeling relatively safe and secure, in a world that a lot of people don't feel safe and secure in and I'm aware of that.

Neil Sattin: Now. One thing that's interesting, as I think back on my own upbringing, I watched a lot of Saturday morning cartoons. There was this whole thing that maybe you've seen or was maybe was part of your life called Schoolhouse Rock that was basically propaganda and education rolled into catchy tunes, and cartoons on Saturday mornings and one of them that made this big impression on me, was the great American melting pot - this idea that America was this place where we could all learn to appreciate our differences appreciate each other that we all came together. Now, I'm aware that there is a part of the original melting pot theory was not about that at all. It was about, everyone becoming part of one culture this homogeneous culture that was based on this, the idea that kind of Anglo-European culture was the norm. That that was what we wanted for everyone and I don't agree with that at all.

Neil Sattin: And that was never part of my consciousness I was much more of this idea of appreciating just how different people were. And wondering what that was like for them. I had a classmate who was Chinese, I had classmates who were refugees from Cambodia. The town that I grew up in had a black mayor, even though as a whole, there were not many black people in the town where I grew up. Hardly any as far as I know. And so I got to live in this fantasy world, where everything was okay. Even though I knew deep down that you didn't have to go far to find places where there was danger for others, based on how they looked. And honestly, I don't know a lot about the experience of people who had darker skin than me, in my community. I don't know what that was like for them. And it gets me curious. It gets me curious to know, because I can't imagine that it was always easy.

Neil Sattin: And of course, on TV, there were plenty of opportunities to see darker skinned people doing bad things and lighter skinned people being the heroes and the victors and this subtext has permeated so much of our culture. Maybe we'd read one book. The Invisible Man or To Kill a Mocking Bird. And then everything else, we would read in school was centered on a white culture. Why is that? Why are the things that are considered normal considered normal? Well, it's because we're a product of our environment, right - and finally we are at a place where we're changing, we're challenging this idea of what's normal as well we should be.

Neil Sattin: And we're struggling to do the things that are in many cases the most challenging which is to figure out our blind spots. Now, this is challenging on any number of levels, to figure out where you are blind to the ways that you treat other people, the ways that you show up ineffectively, because in our... And each of us has our own world within us, and in that world, everything we do makes perfect sense. So it is actually quite challenging to see the things that we do that don't make sense. And I think that there's this book that a lot of people are talking about right now, or have been for the past year or so, White Fragility which is a lot about how challenging it is for privileged people to recognize the ways that we support systems that are oppressing other people.

Neil Sattin: And we have to work together, we have to call things out for how they are, and we have to work together. That's what I'm working towards here. So when I see footage of black people being murdered by police officers in the case of George Floyd in Minneapolis apparently because he maybe had a counterfeit $20 bill. I realized just how much further we need to come as a society. It's not that I think all police are bad. In fact, there have been many times where I've been grateful that police have been around. And what I think is important is that we address the ways that culturally we are perpetuating oppression and violence and profiling against people of color. I'm just going to say, clearly that it's not okay. And then on top of that, when I am watching footage of protests happening and seeing the police, the people who are theoretically there to protect and serve us citizens, they're here to protect and serve us. And yet when I see them violently swinging at protesters, pushing old people over, something has to change, it's not right. It's not okay.

Neil Sattin: And there's something about it that chills me to my core, it goes all the way back to the questions that I had as a kid about how did that happen in Germany, how did that happen that a group of people is able to be singled out and murdered and people either stood by watching or participated in it. How was that okay? And I remember over and over again, thinking whatever power there was that let me grow up in this place, The United States of America where I didn't feel like I had to fear that kind of violence. In fact, I thought that there was a consensus pretty much around me that that kind of violence against humans wasn't okay. Growing up in a tiny town in Maine, it was easy to believe that that wasn't actually happening, still, just against other communities of people.

Neil Sattin: And now we are in danger here of having the might of weaponry and a militarized police wheeled against the very citizens that theoretically they're supposed to be protecting. And for some reason, the President of our country thinks that it's okay to incite violence to keep bringing up the second amendment as if we don't know that that's about not so subtle call to arms, how is that helping our world? It's not, it's not. It's upsetting, it's distressing and I think it's important for us to be having this conversation. So next week's session with David Burns is going to be even more relevant, maybe because I'm stirring things up here with this week's episode, but also because we have to take care of ourselves so that we can have this larger conversation and so we can be allies for each other and allies for a world where the people who do bad things are the people that are held accountable and that the people who aren't doing bad things are left alone to just be people.

Neil Sattin: And maybe there's something really wrong with potentially paying for cigarettes with a fake $20 bill. If the person even... If George Floyd even knew that that was a fake bill, who knows, right? But come on, the punishment has to fit the crime. If there's a crime going on, it definitely didn't call for being murdered. Now, I respect that being a police officer that is not any... It can't be an easy job. It can't be. It's definitely not going to be an easy job if you view the community that you're in as your adversaries as opposed to trying to build relationships in the community, and create an overall fabric of everyone, trying to hold each other accountable to civil behavior. There are places where they're getting this right, there need to be more places like that.

Neil Sattin: Now I want to talk a little bit about the podcast, because here's a place where I don't want you to think for a moment that I have a blind spot. Before I do, I do need to take a moment to mention this week's sponsor, whose support I also really appreciate and they are here to support you through these times. Their name is BetterHelp. And if you are looking for extra support around the things that get in the way of happiness or achieving your goals or dealing with the stress of what's happening in our world or your own personal world from the comfort of your own home or wherever you are, you can use BetterHelp. BetterHelp will assess your needs and match you with your own licensed professional therapist. And you can chat with that therapist via text at any time and you can schedule weekly video or phone sessions, all without having to go anywhere. It is more affordable than traditional offline counseling, and they do offer financial aid if you qualify.

Neil Sattin: They also offer a broad range of expertise so that you can find the person most suited to helping you with your own unique situation. So whether it's depression, stress, anxiety and dealing with racism and our place in the system, whatever it is, that's up for you, try out BetterHelp to help you move past the places where you are stuck. And because you are a listener of Relationship Alive, BetterHelp is also offering you an extra 10% off your first month. Just visit BetterHelp.com/alive and join over 800,000 other people who are taking charge of their mental and emotional health. Again, that's BetterHelp.com/alive and thank you so much BetterHelp for your support of Relationship Alive.[TK REMOVE]

Neil Sattin: You can probably hear the emotion in my voice because this stuff is affecting me deeply. And I stand with Black Lives Matter and the other organizations that are dedicated to justice and racial equity and rooting out some of the obvious ways that that isn't happening in the world, and some of the less than obvious ways. So, let's talk about one of the less than obvious ways for some of you, and maybe some of you haven't noticed this because sometimes racism and racial equity in our support of a just world isn't necessarily about what we do, it's about what we don't do. And here on the show, I've wanted to have a diverse group of voices represented. And just to give you a little insight - when I started this show, it was really important to me to find the top names in the field, to have the top-most respected people on this show to talk about relationships and doing them better.

Neil Sattin: And by and large, those people have been on Relationship Alive. And I'm so grateful. People have done countless hours and hours and years and years of therapy sessions and research, and who have the experience to merit, being recognized as experts and leaders in the field. And each of them has also taken me on a journey as I learn, as I read their work and talk to them. Inevitably those books and conversations lead me to another person, to another set of ideas. And many of those people have been on the show. And so this show has been curated by me and my curiosity, by the issues that I've personally been struggling with or that I've seen others struggling with, and by this observation of who the recognized world leaders are. Now, I want to tell you that when you look at who's headlining - the keynote speakers for various conferences that are happening around the country in the English-speaking world.

Neil Sattin: And you're looking for those people who are the recognized world leaders in this particular field, what you might notice is that there isn't a lot of racial diversity among that group. Which isn't to say that there isn't any, there's some, a little bit, it but not much. Now, is anyone to blame for this? I mean, maybe on some level, there are things to blame, there are people to blame, but I think you can step back and extrapolate that the systems of power and education and who has made it, who has had an easy time of finding their ways to the ranks of academia and book publishing and speaking on stages and whether it's intentional or not, choosing who else gets to come alongside them, who else gets to be speaking alongside them, who else gets recognized as an expert.

Neil Sattin: Well, the power structures in this country anyway, for a long time, have been white. And there are a lot of people who are trying to change that. Thankfully. I know when I look back over the guests who have been on this show, I feel really good about the balance of genders, men and women. I know that I could have more people on this show who represent different parts of the gender and sexuality spectrum, I could do a better job of that. And I could definitely do a better job of having people with different colored skin on this show. Again, there have been some, there have been some and those conversations have been amazing. And yet, there aren't enough. And it takes effort on my part, it's going to take more effort on my part. Now I've got great excuses. I have a busy life and trying to raise a family, trying to have a relationship, trying to deal with my relationship ending all that stuff. I've got all kinds of excuses. We all have great excuses, I think, for living life the way that we live it.

Neil Sattin: So I'm recognizing here for you that I need to do better. And I've been looking, just so you know for more diversity in terms of who's on this show. And there may be ways that it's more challenging for me because they're not people who are necessarily recognized by the "world authorities who recognize these things" as being experts in the field. And I have to get by my own sets of biases about who I want to have on the show, the ways that I might discount someone's opinion. In general, what I'm going to do is just try to find voices on the show of people I respect, people who are researching their work.

Neil Sattin: I'm not a huge fan of having people on Relationship Alive to just talk about their opinion of things, we all have opinions, right? There are some less savory phrases about that, but this isn't a show, this isn't an opinion show. At least I try to not have it be. I'm really trying to create a space for you where you can trust the information that's in front of you. And yet as I look back on it, I'm humbled to recognize that there could be definitely more black, indigenous and other persons of color represented here on the show.

Neil Sattin: I'm naming it, not because I think that... Not because I don't think that we should just all love each other as people, and that the color of our skin shouldn't matter. I do believe that the color of our skin should not matter. And yet, I do not want to be part of perpetuating a system that is only recognizing some people, not others, and that some people happen to be of a particular skin color because the systems that recognize experts are generally run by people with that very same skin color.

Neil Sattin: And I'm the one with the podcast and I have that same skin color, even though I have my own history of being a minority, a non-visible minority and generally thankfully, a non-endangered minority, and I hope it stays that way, not just for me, but I hope we can expand the sphere of who gets to be safe in this world - So that it does truly include everyone, no matter the color of your skin. So if you have suggestions for people whose work you admire and who you think would be a great guest for Relationship Alive, by all means do let me know, you can email me. My email is neilius at neilsattin.com. But it's not on you, this one's on me. That being said, I could use some help. So if you've got some good ideas, send them my way. And I've got a lot of queries out there with people and I'm doing some more work to find more people.

Neil Sattin: And my hope is that each of us finds our way to change the system, so that we all get to be safe. We all get to experience love and connection. And so more and more we know what it's like to elevate each other. And to find pathways for doing that to elevate and amplify each other. That's what I want for you, that's what I want for the world where my kids are growing up. And hopefully my grandkids and my great grandkids and whoever else is coming down the path.

Neil Sattin: Thanks for being here with me today, thanks for listening, thanks for hearing my story and I hope that it ignites something in you and if it does, I want to hear about it. So please write to me or mention something in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook. I'm not terribly active there right now, it's been honestly quite challenging for me to be on Facebook. And yet if you tag me, I will definitely see what you write. And I welcome all of our efforts to make this world and the relationships that we experience better. So sending love to you, sending love out to all the people who are in the streets taking a stand, maybe even risking their own lives and their own health with the pandemic going on. And I send love to the people who at this point maybe don't know that they actually do need to change, and I hope they find their path to change in a way that expands what's possible for them in the world 'cause living a life of violence and hate and leaning on authority instead of leaning on respect, it's not a way to live.

Neil Sattin: There's a lot more that's possible when we learn how to open our hearts to each other and be humble about the ways that we've messed up and apologize and make amends and move forward together. Okay, I'll see you next week for my vulnerable session with David Burns, on overwhelm. And in the meantime, take care, stay safe, and keep in touch.

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