Questions for Reflection
Each episode we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. You might pause the podcast and answer them right then and there, but if you keep a journal (Steph and Beth both do), you might find one of these PDFs useful. Choose the orientation that fits best in your journal.
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:06):
Where we have honest conversations about things that make us different.
Beth Demme (00:09):
Our mission is to talk about things you might relate to, but that you don't hear being discussed in other places.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:14):
Our hope is that you're encouraged to have honest conversations with people in your own life. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:18):
And I'm Beth. On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled "What We Have Learned by Listening to #BlackLivesMatter."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:26):
Then we will invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life with questions for reflection.
Beth Demme (00:31):
And the show will closed with Slice of Life. If you wonder what that is, stay tuned 'til the end.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:35):
I do actually want to mention today's date. Today's date is June 19th, which is also known as Juneteenth.
Beth Demme (00:43):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:44):
Which is a holiday that I had not heard of before, but I am so excited I now know what it is, I'm going to be celebrating it every year. Beth, can you tell us what it is?
Beth Demme (00:54):
Juneteenth is a celebration of the emancipation of enslaved persons in the United States. It came about because after the Emancipation Proclamation, two and a half or three years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln, that a Union soldier came into Texas, rode into Texas, and delivered the Proclamation there. It has been celebrated as the last announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. It had finally reached everyone. Obviously the news spread then throughout Texas on different days, but it started in Texas that people agreed they would celebrate on Juneteenth, or on June 19th, which then became shortened to Juneteenth. It has spread from there to be an independence day celebration for real independence.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:49):
It is celebrated in I think 40-something states, not all 50 states. But I'm really hoping it becomes a full-fledged national holiday that we all celebrate. Because this is not a black community thing, this is an all community thing. American history is all of our history. When I read about it, I was like, "This is bigger than July 4th. This was freedom for all." This was not just freedom for the white guy on July 4th. I'm really glad I'm aware of it now. I'm going to try each year to celebrate it. I think one of the ways we're celebrating is we're recording this episode.
Beth Demme (02:29):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:30):
We're talking about things we've learned since we've been listening to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the protesting, and all that's been happening recently. That is one of those things that I think I would not have known about before. I'm really glad that's been brought to my attention. But there's a lot of things we want to talk about today. A couple weeks ago, we had a great conversation with Ashley, who is a DIY friend of mine.
Beth Demme (02:58):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:58):
Smashing DIY is her Instagram handle. But since we had that conversations, we've been continuing to listen. We haven't just one and done kind of thing. We have been listening. We've been really debating on the podcast on how to handle all this. You've noticed we've had some other episodes. Because we've had a couple episodes recorded and ready to go, and we've moved stuff around. We're trying to make it make sense. But we also want to continue having these conversations. We'll continue to have more of these kind of conversations as we learn more and as it makes sense. Let's just get into it, Beth. One of the big things that, I have heard the term before but I never really learned what it meant and what it was, and I just hear it thrown around, was systemic racism.
Beth Demme (03:43):
That's a big one.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:43):
I feel like I finally have an understanding of it. We can put a link in the show notes, but there's this really good stick figure video of what systemic racism is that I watched, and it really hit home to me. But can you explain your understanding of it?
Beth Demme (03:59):
I will say, this has definitely been a growing area for me, a growing edge. Juneteenth actually ties into this for me, for my own understanding. Because I have only ever thought of the emancipation of humans as a good thing. I still think it's a good thing. But I've never thought before about what happened after emancipation. As I've been learning about Juneteenth, and also there's this great Netflix documentary called 13th, which is about the 13th Amendment, which abolishes slavery but says you can't enslave a person, and then there's this exception, except for as penalty for a crime. Part of the systemic racism is that we went from having enslaved persons to creating a criminal class so that we could then exploit their labor in many of the same ways that their labor was exploited when they were enslaved.
Beth Demme (04:55):
Also related to that, and I'm just really starting to understand how all of this ties together, is to say to someone, "You're no longer enslaved. But we're not going to make any provision for you to have any economic benefits. We're not going to provide you with food, or housing, or a job," and to say to landowners who were enslaving people, to say to them, "We now expect you to pay a living wage to these persons who you have enslaved," I think that was naïve at best, and probably something more sinister at worst. Because I just don't know how the economics of that were ever going to work out such that the people who had been enslaved were going to be able to recover from that. All of that feeds into systemic racism. We see it playing out today in mass incarceration, and even in police brutality, which is what the Black Lives Matter movement is really speaking out against, is the brutalization of people of color by police officers.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:05):
I also want to mention, with systemic racism, it also comes to the housing situations.
Beth Demme (06:11):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:12):
Also with bankers. Again, we'll put a link to this video. But there was certain areas that were red lined by bankers that they couldn't give loans to. It's a society thing. There's all these things set up for failure for the black community. That's what continues to happen within systemic racism. That's what--
Beth Demme (06:31):
Right. I think that were were many people along the way who have continued to be involved in this system who never made the connection between, "This is going to be bad for black people." They only thought about how it was going to be good for them. That has gone a long way in perpetuating the systems that oppress people. We see it in housing. We see it in default segregation, because there is economic segregation, and that that then impacts schools.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:05):
Beth Demme (07:07):
Then there's an education gap.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:09):
Well, basically, systemic racism is racism within the system. That's what it is, is everything that is part of a system, there's racism there that is created. That's what we're talking about breaking down that needs to break down and change so that we all have the same rights. Then one of the things we've been hearing about since the protests have been happening is defund the police. I have to tell you, the first time I heard it, I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. What does that mean? That sounds real bad. Don't we need police?" was my first thought.
Beth Demme (07:43):
We do. We need good police officers, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:46):
We need law and order, yes. We need that balance. But I can tell you, instead of just shutting down and saying, "Oh my gosh. That's too radical. There's no need to defund the police," I questioned, "What does that mean?" Once I dug into what that actually meant, my eyes were opened, and I thought, "Oh. Yeah. Okay. I see what they're talking about." My understanding of defund the police, and there's different understandings, and there's different levels of it as well, but right now, the police force has a ton of responsibility. All I can talk about, I can talk about my experience in how that really opened my eyes when I started hearing about defund the police.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:29):
In my book, it starts out where I had a mental health issue. I was dealing with non-suicidal self-injury. I had hurt myself, and a police officer came to my dorm room. He said, "Can I take you somewhere that will help?" My arm is bleeding, so I assumed that was the ER. But I didn't know what was going on. I had never interacted with the police before. I had never had an accident, never had anything. Never interacted with police. I wasn't scared that the police [officer] was there. But I also was uncomfortable, because it's the police. The police is someone that has a gun and can arrest you. I was definitely on my guard when he was there. He said, "Can I take you somewhere that will help?" I'm like, "You don't say no to the police. Okay." I get in his police car--
Beth Demme (09:16):
Well, and also, you wanted help.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:18):
Well, I knew something had happened. I didn't know what I needed, and I trusted the police officer. He took me to this place called Central Receiving Center, and that's a place set up in Orlando, I don't know if it's still around, actually, but set up for anyone that presents with mental issues is sent to this kind of holding cell, and then they decide what to do with you. Anyways, in my case, it wasn't the right choice. It wasn't the right move. I wasn't a danger to myself or others. I know it's complicated. On the surface, I don't know what it sounds like to you. But on the surface, it sounds bad. I definitely was having mental health issues, yes. I said that, I've dealt with it. But my psychologist was never called, my parents were never called, there was no conversation. There was just being locked up. Later on, I talked to that police officer, because he continued to stay in contact with me. I asked him, I said, "Why did you send me there?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:17):
He said, "You know? I had about a half hour class on what we're supposed to do when people present with these kind of issues. I really didn't know what the place was, or what they would do, but this is what I was told to do. I don't know if it's the right choice, but it's the only thing I could do." Right there, basically, my freedoms and rights were taken away for four days of my life when I was in that hospital. I was given no treatment, no anything. He put me there. But he had no idea. He didn't have the training. He didn't have the time to sit with me, to really understand what I needed. All that's to say is, what we're talking about is police have too much responsibility. There was no need for police to come to my dorm room.
Beth Demme (11:00):
Right. No crime had been committed.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:01):
No crime. I hurt myself, and I didn't hurt anyone. There was no one to arrest. If a mental health professional had come, I don't think I would have ended up where I did. My psychologist would have 100% been called, she would have told them I didn't need to be in an in-patient facility, she would have explained. But none of that happened, because the police officer that had half an hour of training was told with a pamphlet, "This is where you send people," is where he sent me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:28):
What we're talking about with defunding the police, the concept is reallocating funds, not taking away. We need police. We need them for what they're set up for. But they have too much responsibility. That's what we're talking about, is having other people in place for other situations, especially mental health issues. I can't even imagine if I had had interactions. If I was black and I had a police officer come to my dorm room, "Can I take you to a place?" I can't imagine how different that would have felt if I was black, if I had negative interactions with police in the past.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:08):
I have no idea how that would have ended. I know I didn't get the help I needed. I know if I was black, I definitely would not have gotten the help I needed. I feel like police officers bring a whole different set of feelings and emotions, especially for the black community who have had lots of negative interactions. Someone already going through anxiety and stress and all of these emotional things, having a police officer present right there next to you saying, "Can I take you to a place," is not helping the situation. I really think that would be great to bring in mental health professionals for those kind of things. For drug situations, they're also talking about having other trained people to come in when there's no crime that's been committed. Well, drugs, I mean, it's complicated.
Beth Demme (12:55):
Right, yeah. I think that the drug question is more complicated. But when we're talking about mental health, I think when a police officer shows up somewhere that they've been called, I think they sort of have three choices. One is to do nothing. One is to take someone to jail. The other is to take someone to a hospital. In your case, you needed to go maybe to--
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:17):
An ER, is where I needed to go.
Beth Demme (13:19):
An ER, yeah. But in that case, an EMT should have been called, not a police officer. That's a great example of police officers being expected to handle situations that are outside of their training. Because it doesn't have anything to do with the criminal code.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:34):
Beth Demme (13:35):
Wasn't there a man in the Central Receiving Center while you were there who, somehow you knew that he had had a lot of interactions with police?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:45):
Yeah. Actually, since all this has been happening, I was thinking, "Were there more people of color in the mental hospital?" I was trying to think. Actually, when I thought about it, I was like, "No, I think there was more white people than anything." But there was definitely Hispanic people, and there was one black man that I really remember. I actually wrote about him in my book. He came in the day before I left. When he came in, you could see he was struggling. There was voices around him, he was responding to people that weren't there. It was scary. He was very tall. I didn't know if he could be violent. Mental health issues, it was clear he had schizophrenia, at least, with the voices. I was definitely scared and apprehensive just for that fact alone. In the next day, I had to go to group session and he was there. He was talking about how the voices tell him to do bad things, and he doesn't want to do those things. He wants to be on the medication, but he can't afford the medication.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:51):
Every so often, the police officers pick him up off the street, take him to the facility for a couple days, give him the drugs [medication] he needs, and he gets better, and then he goes back on the street, and this vicious circle continues to happen. That was really disheartening to hear. Because what is the system doing? Nothing. When he was on his meds, he was the kindest, gentlest guy. Right before I left, I saw him again, he came up to me. I had 100% different feeling about him, because I could see him and only him. There was no voices talking to him. He was just pure him. He was a really sweet guy. He came up to me, and he saw me reading a Bible, and he said, "Hey, excuse me. Where did you get that?" I said, "Oh. One of the pastors here gave it to me. I bet he'll give you one if you ask." He said, "Oh, thank you so much."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:45):
As he walked away, I realized, "Why didn't I give him my Bible? I have Bibles at home. Why didn't I give it to him?" I was kicking myself. Then I saw him again, and I stopped him. I said, "Hey. This is yours," and I handed him the Bible. He just looked, his eyes went right into my eyes, and we just made this human connection, and he said, "God bless you." He just took that Bible, started reading. I was just like, "Wow." That was such a connection. There was other people in the hospital, and there was a couple interactions I had. But that's the most impactful thing. Also, it was such a human moment. But also, it was sad. Because I realized he's such a good person and he's not getting the help he needs, and the system is set up to fail him. That was just so frustrating to know.
Beth Demme (16:33):
The system is set up to fail the police in that situation as well.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:37):
Beth Demme (16:37):
Because what he needed was ongoing access to mental health care and mental health medication.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:45):
Beth Demme (16:47):
Instead, it was, "Okay, well, when the voices start to tell him to do bad things, then the police will be called." That's not fair to the police. It's not fair to him, it's not fair to the police, it's not fair to society. We need a better solution for those situations.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:04):
Beth Demme (17:05):
That, I think, is part of what the folks who are pushing to defund the police are saying, that there needs to be better interventions for mental health, and also in cases of drug abuse and social service interactions or social service interventions when there are domestic squabbles. Because we really ask the police to do a lot. Also homelessness, we ask the police to deal with homelessness and vagrancy.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:30):
Well, and I believe this gentleman was homeless. I think he was living on the streets. I think that was part of it, is he didn't have a home, so he didn't have money to buy the meds. The police knew he was a good guy. The police knew when he was on his meds, he was like a teddy bear. This was just the vicious circle that kept happening, because the system was broken. The police were put in a very bad situation to have to continue. I think that's part of it, too, is just, there are some really bad police officers. There is no explaining how those police officers, especially when they have things on their records time and time again, there's no excuse for how these people continue to be on the force. That has to--
Beth Demme (18:10):
Right. Like Derek Chauvin, who murdered George Floyd.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:13):
Yeah. That has to change. The biggest thing that I'm hearing is, these changes have to happen on a local level. The federal government can make some changes, but they can't reform the police. That's something that local governments have to do, and have to be a case by case basis. I don't know that it's a federal, all this can change. I don't think that is. They can make changes. Just recently, there was a executive order signed. Did you have a chance to look at that?
Beth Demme (18:49):
I printed it and then forgot to look at it 'til just now when you said that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:52):
That's awesome, Beth. Beth said, "It's reading, so I'll do it. I'll take that one." There was an executive order signed, and it has a lot to do with the police. Let me tell you, I think this is a step, I don't think this is a leap. I don't think this is one and done. I think this is a move that is hopefully the momentum we need. But one of the things I heard is, it's going to create a federal registry of bad police conduct. Police can't just move from one precinct to the other with bad things on their record. That was one thing that I heard. Whether that's true or not, I hope it is. Because that needs to happen. One of the things I believe it talks about is to discourage choke holds, which is where you cut off someone's oxygen, I believe, breathing capabilities. Which is what happened with George Floyd.
Beth Demme (19:56):
Yeah. There are more and more videos coming out, actually, where the choke hold has been used, and it has resulted in the death of the person being arrested.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:02):
Yeah. The executive order discourages that, and encourages places to have basically what we talked about, is to have mental health professionals go for mental health cases instead of police go for those cases. It encourages that. I believe it encourages that because local governments get federal funding. I think that's where that encouragement comes from, is through a financial aspect. But it still doesn't change anything on a state level.
Beth Demme (20:37):
Just in my quick review of it, it is charging the attorney general with setting up databases and review procedures and credentialing procedures. I think that that's a first step to being able to say that this could be, in some way, tied to federal funding. It does specifically speak to issues of mental health, homelessness, and addiction. It explains that if we're going to have officers doing this, they've got to be properly trained, that those are resources that have to be put in place, and that it calls for an increase in social workers working with law enforcement to try to address those issues.
Beth Demme (21:17):
I think part of the challenge is, we're hearing a lot more now about the Omnibus Crime Bill of the 1990s, which treated, for example, crack cocaine differently from powdered cocaine. You would have a very small amount of crack cocaine, and that would be a felony, and you would go to federal prison. Then there were mandatory minimums. Then there was a three strikes and you're out law. All that happened on the federal level.
Beth Demme (21:47):
Well, then state said, "This is a good idea. We're going to adopt these as state laws as well." You've had an incredible growth in the number of interactions between police officers and citizens. You've had an incredible growth in the number of police officers. That was a big thing in the '80s and '90s. You saw it in Republican presidential candidates, and you saw it in, for example, President Clinton. They all touted, "I'm a law and order president, and I'm going to increase the police presence, and we're going to decrease the amount of crime." They were saying that even as the amount of violent crime was decreasing. They were still calling for more and more police.
Beth Demme (22:33):
Again, this is just one example. But by treating crack cocaine differently than powdered cocaine, crack cocaine was something that was more likely to be present in a community where there are people of color. Cocaine was more likely to be present in a community of white people. You could have a lot of cocaine and get a very small penalty. You could have a little bit of crack, and you would go to prison. All of that works together to build this distrust of the system. That's a way systemic racism has really manifested itself. We were talking to Ashley on that episode a few weeks ago. She has a brother who is caught up in that system. The fact that there was an executive order doesn't fix everything.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:18):
Beth Demme (23:19):
But I do think it's important for the federal government to acknowledge that things need to change. Even if the federal government can't change local laws, they can be a leader in how local laws are crafted and how they change. Just like with the Omnibus Crime Bill, it was a bad trickle down in terms of how local laws were changed. Hopefully, we can see positive reforms if they start at the top. That doesn't mean that we can ignore what we do locally. We have to be active locally as well. I think that a great example of the power of local government is that Black Lives Matter mural on the street in D.C. Because that's a local government deciding that they were going to take a stand and make a very public statement.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:11):
Yeah. I thought that was a huge example of how much power local governments have. Because in fact, and I haven't looked up, I hope it still is this way, but they changed the street in front of the White House to be called Black Lives Matter Plaza. It was 16th Avenue, I think, before.
Beth Demme (24:31):
It was Pennsylvania Avenue, I think.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:33):
Yeah, yeah. They changed the name of it. I'm hoping it sticks, because I think that's amazing. White House, Black Lives Matter Plaza. I think that'd be a great address. But I think that's a huge thing to see, is the White House is calling for military action against protests. It's doing horrible things just for a photo op. They're in their own little bubble, but right outside, the local government has been able to make changes to the name of their street. I think that's just, "See? The power of local government." I think it is definitely something that we need to be paying attention to, and we need to be looking in our own communities for those changes, because they can be made. I heard about, I think it's somewhere in New Jersey, I really can't remember. But there was a local government that, a while back, they actually, to make changes to their police force, they fired everybody and they all had to be rehired. They had to go back through the interview process. They were able to weed out a lot of the bad people from that way.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:39):
I thought, "Oh. That makes so much sense. Just, let's start with a clean slate. Then we don't have to have the game of, 'We can't get rid of this person.' We're getting rid of everybody. Then we'll rehire you if you meet all these qualifications." I don't know what the answer is. I think that's the tough thing. I think it would be helpful to have some kind of example of, "This is what we need to adopt," instead of each local government trying to figure it out. I don't know what that looks like. But I am so happy that the conversation's happening. I'm glad that I looked into what defunding police meant and didn't just take it on the surface. Because we need law and order. That's not what defunding police is about.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:25):
Some people do want to completely disband the police and make it more community run. I think all conversations are helpful. With a conversation, nothing's changing. But you're coming up with ideas, and coming up with a better vision of what our future can be. I'm not against hearing anything, even if someone says, "We don't need anyone looking after us." I'm open to that conversation. I want to hear different perspectives. Because I hear a perspective, and I'm like, "Oh. That's great." Then I hear another one, and I'm like, "Oh. Well that's the opposite, but that makes sense." I don't think there's any harm in listening. It doesn't take anything away from me if someone has a different idea, and a better idea, and a different world view. That doesn't take anything away from me to hear that and to listen, and to try to understand. I think that's something I'm seeing a lot of. There's this new term, white fragility.
Beth Demme (27:21):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:22):
Yeah. White fragility.
Beth Demme (27:23):
I do want to talk about that. But before we talk about white fragility, I just want to say that part of what I'm learning in all of this, too, and I feel like it's something I should have learned a long time ago, that keeps happening to me, too. I'm like, "Oh, I should have already known this. I should have already considered this." But one of the things that I am learning is that when someone says, "Abolish the police," I need to stop and consider what their experiences have been with the police, instead of just saying, "That's wrong. We need police officers." That is my personal feeling. I think that we need police officers. I think we need law enforcement. I think they need to be well-resourced and well-trained, and they need to be well-respected. When someone says, "We need to abolish the police," I think that I need to pause and say, "What have your experiences with the police been? Because they must have been different than mine for us to have such different opinions on this."
Beth Demme (28:11):
As I am learning that other people have had only negative experiences with police officers, only disrespectful experiences, only oppressive experiences, then that points to a problem that I didn't know existed before, but now I know it exists. That's where what you're saying is so right, that to be engaged in conversation requires us to be listening, and to be learning, and to be willing to do that. White fragility makes that hard. White fragility makes it hard to listen and to be willing to learn. White fragility is that any time there's this tension over race, white people tend to get defensive.
Beth Demme (28:57):
They'll say things like, "But I'm not like that. I have a black friend," or will say, "Well, my family arrived after the Civil War. This doesn't have anything to do with me," or will say, "I'm not a racist." All of those things may be true, but they're irrelevant. What happens when we say those things is that we're trying to reorient the conversation to be about us, instead of being in that posture of listening and learning from folks who have had a different experience, from folks who have had the non-white experience in America.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:34):
I'm trying to listen to black voices. I think that's part of this whole time, is not just hear white people talk about this, but I think it's important that we have these conversations, but hearing black voices talk about these experiences. I watched a video the other day on YouTube of just a friend of a Disney YouTube creator, and they were interviewing his friend. He was talking about the racism he's experienced at Disney. Just very small subtle things. He says ultimately, though, Disney is one of the only places that he can truly feel comfortable. Because when he's inside those four walls of Magic Kingdom, there's no police.
Beth Demme (30:13):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:15):
I was like, "Whoa." He said he's not afraid of looking behind him, like, "Is the police going to come after me?" Kind of thing. I was like, "Wow."
Beth Demme (30:23):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:24):
Whew. He shared some really just interesting stories that I would have never thought about. I guess there used to be a Disney resort called Dixie Landing. It's now called Port Orleans. There's still a section called the Plantation. His family didn't want to stay at that hotel.
Beth Demme (30:42):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:42):
But it was the only one available. They were going to put them in the Plantation. His mom was like, "Hm, no. You're going to move that." The person was not even helpful. She was like, "I need a manager. We need to change this." The fact that that is not automatic that you know that that is wrong, that's a problem. Especially with Confederate soldiers, and with brands, Aunt Jemima, they're changing the brand finally, that we've just become complacent with those things. It's just white noise now. It was just white noise. Now we're waking up like, "Wait. No. This is not okay. We're all Americans, and this is not okay. Because our fellow Americans are being treated less than, and that's not okay."
Beth Demme (31:30):
What do you call the bedroom you sleep in at your house? Do you call it the master bedroom?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:34):
Beth Demme (31:35):
Yeah. I wonder where that comes from.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:38):
Beth Demme (31:39):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:39):
Beth Demme (31:39):
But we don't even realize it. We don't even realize how these words are used. Or to say majority, as if majority is better, and then minority, because minority is less than. Words have a lot of power. I've been tuned into that as a woman to understand how words are used to minimize the value and the role of women. But now I'm really beginning to see that I missed out on a whole lot of things I should have been understanding for a long time.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:11):
Well, another thing I just finished watching is, there's a show on Netflix called #BlackAF. If you don't know what AF stands for, you just look that up. But I will tell you, I saw it, and it's a mockumentary. I'll tell you, I really enjoyed it. Because I just need light things these days. It's light, and yet heavy. But it was great. I will tell you, though, before all of these things, I don't think I would have watched it. Number one, I don't like what AF stands for, so I would have been like, "Eh." But I'm so glad I watched it. Because I was able to see into the family of a black wealthy family, and how they're navigating that world of being black and wealthy, and keeping their culture, but what that looks like. I thought it was really well done. I hope they do another season of it. Netflix now has a black creator section.
Beth Demme (33:06):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:07):
You can see more shows that you wouldn't have been targeted at before, they wouldn't have shown you. It's tough, because I don't want to watch anything too heavy. But then I know I need to watch some of those things. It's a tough thing. That's why I was like, "Let me try this one." This has been a good, understanding someone's life, but not being too heavy.
Beth Demme (33:27):
Yeah. There are tons of good resources out there right now. I'll put a link in the show notes, too. Actually, a United Methodist resource. We have a United Methodist commission on race relations. They have worked with Dr. [Robin Deangelo 00:33:43], who is the author of White Fragility. She is white. She wrote this book about White Fragility. She has studied this phenomenon. They have a really great video of her. It's, I think, about 20 minutes long, totally worth the watch. Well, about a year ago, I started to read How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram Kendi. First of all, it's awesome, because he's a Florida A&M grad, which means he lived here in Tallahassee for a time, and so I was super-stoked about that. Then it just was too heavy for me, and I made the wrong choice. I decided that I didn't need to read it. Now I'm realizing what a mistake that was. But luckily, he has created a young adult version of his book, and it's called Stamped. Actually, Jason Reynolds sort of takes the highlights of Dr. Kendi's book, Stamped, and re-formats it as this book for young adults. I'm doing that.
Beth Demme (34:40):
I'm leading a book study for teenagers on that. I'm learning tons hearing about their experiences with racism, and also then reading the book. When I'm finished with that, I'm going to try again to read How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Kendi, and just commit to not putting it down when it gets hard. I'm also reading White Supremacy and Me by Layla Saad. She is a person of color. Then the other thing is that this past Sunday, instead of having our regular church service at my church, we said, "Listen, we're online anyway. Let's all together watch a black church service instead of watching ours. Let's try to desegregate for just this one hour at least." We have someone who has preached at our church many times, who now is pastor of another local congregation. We all joined together and piped into her service.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:35):
Beth Demme (35:35):
Which was a very small way to amplify a black voice.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:42):
Yeah. I want to circle back to the book, Antiracist. That's another thing I've been hearing. It's not good enough to be not racist. You have to be actively antiracist.
Beth Demme (35:53):
If you're not antiracist, you're racist, is how Dr. Kendi would say it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:58):
What does that mean, antiracist?
Beth Demme (36:00):
There are really three categories, you might say, or three words that he really works with in his work. There are assimilationists, who say we should all just be the same. That tends me mean, "We should all be white, or live like we're white, or have a white experience." It's really the melting pot idea where we discount the value of culture and varied experiences. That would be assimilationist. Then there are folks who are segregationists, who say it's really better if we just stay with "our own." White folks stay with white folks, Latinx people stay with Latinx people, black Americans stay with black Americans. You see this in all of those groups, there are people who have that opinion, who want segregation, who want to not be together in society. Then antiracists, they say that racism is the problem that needs to change. It's not people that need to change. It's not that black people need to be more like white people, or that white people need to be different. It's that racism needs to change.
Beth Demme (37:13):
Actually, I'll just read this to you. This is from Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, a remix of the book by Dr. Kendi. "Antiracists say there is nothing wrong or right about black people, and everything wrong with racism. The antiracists say racism is the problem in need of changing, not black people. The antiracists try to transform racism. The assimilationists try to transform black people. The segregationists try to get away from black people." Antiracists want to end those ideas that would say that a person of color is less than a person who is white, or that black culture is less than white culture. Those are racist ideas that don't serve us well in our society.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:01):
It's allowing everyone to embrace their own culture, and not looking down on other cultures. Is that--
Beth Demme (38:08):
That's right, yeah. It's that a culture can be different from mine, and it can be equally as valuable as mine.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:14):
Yes, yes. Okay.
Beth Demme (38:15):
I have something to learn from that culture.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:17):
Beth Demme (38:18):
That culture has something to offer me, and I have something to offer that culture. But there's no sense of--
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:23):
Mine's the better culture.
Beth Demme (38:24):
Greater than or less than. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:26):
Beth Demme (38:26):
Those two ideas come together, antiracism and white fragility come together for me in understanding that racism is something that I need to work on in myself, and in my family, and in my community, rather than saying, "This is something that black people need to change, this is something that black people need to fix, or that this is somehow the fault of black people." To say that racism is something that black people need to change, that is white fragility in its ultimate form. I actually had someone say to me one time, a white person say to me, "I really thought that President Obama was going to fix all this racism while he was president." It's like, I don't think you understand how racism works. I don't think you understand who has the power here to make a change. I have to change what I can, including myself.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:19):
Yeah. We just hold up a mirror. That's how we change it.
Beth Demme (39:24):
That's how we change it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:28):
We'd like to invite you to reflect on this conversation for yourself. Beth is going to read a couple questions and leave a pause between each. You can pause the podcast and answer them to yourself, or you can find a PDF on our website.
Beth Demme (39:40):
Number one, what have you learned from the recent Black Lives Matter protests? Number two, how do you understand racism now as compared to before the protests? Number three, what is your understanding of defunding the police? Does that make you nervous? Number four, have you ever used some or all of the white fragility diversions? Has this conversation changed how you feel about that?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:12):
Slice of life.
Beth Demme (40:14):
Yeah, let's have a slice of life. Let's end on a little bit lighter note, hopefully.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:19):
Yes. Well, I wanted to mention something that I can't remember if I mentioned on the last episode. But a couple weeks ago, I donated blood in Tallahassee, and they are now doing an antibody test for COVID-19 when you donate blood. I actually went, and it was really well done. You all have to wear a mask, and there was very few people in the bus, and it felt really comfortable. But I got my results.
Beth Demme (40:45):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:45):
Do you want to know, Beth?
Beth Demme (40:46):
I do want to know.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:47):
Did I text you? I can't remember.
Beth Demme (40:48):
No, you didn't.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:49):
Oh, I didn't?
Beth Demme (40:50):
No. I had to wait until we're recording the podcast to find out.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:53):
Oh, Beth is going to find out. Oh, should I show her? I have the thing. Okay, I'll tell you. I am negative.
Beth Demme (40:58):
You don't have the antibodies?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:59):
I never had COVID. That means the antibody test just basically says if you ever had the antibodies in your body that fought off the virus, that's how you know you had it, and if you might have been asymptomatic. My body had not fought anything, so I did not have it. That doesn't mean I--
Beth Demme (41:17):
Is that what you expected?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:18):
Yes. I really did it because I wanted to donate blood, because I do it every so often. It just pushed me over the edge to donate. Just wanted to let you know I didn't have it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:32):
One more thing I want to mention, because I'm keeping you so up to date, is I have two greyhounds now.
Beth Demme (41:38):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:39):
I have two greyhounds now.
Beth Demme (41:40):
Well, today you have two greyhounds. Is that going to be a permanent thing?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:43):
No. This week, I've been watching my friend Daniel's greyhound. It's been amazing. His name is Max with an X. As you probably have heard, my dog is named Mac with a C. That's not confusing at all. But they have been getting along so well, like really good brother and sister. It's been amazing. He's actually in the room with us, which is shocking, because he usually doesn't go from room to room with the humans. But Mac has rubbed off and taught him, "Go where the humans are."
Beth Demme (42:13):
I think he just really is excited that I'm here.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:16):
He does like you. Which is surprising, because--
Beth Demme (42:18):
Why is it surprising? I'm a very likable human.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:20):
I know, but he gets skittish around other people. I think he's come out of his shell. It's amazing.
Beth Demme (42:26):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:27):
It's the coolest thing. I feel like a proud parent, like, "Aw, he's growing up. It's so amazing. He's getting along." We just put both dogs in my Mini Cooper, which is tiny. I have a tiny car. They both fit in there, and I did not think that would work at all. I have a Mini Cooper Clubman, so it's a little bit bigger than the regular hardtop.
Beth Demme (42:45):
But it was full, wasn't it?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:46):
It was full.
Beth Demme (42:46):
With two humans and two greyhounds, it was full.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:49):
Yeah, it was full. Because my mom was there, too. I do want to mention that when we had our episode with Ashley a couple weeks ago, we actually had a comment on our website. If you didn't know, you can actually leave comments on our website. Our website is dospod.us. There's always a link in the description of the podcast to our website. If you want to leave any written comments, you can do that there. But Beth, I would love for you to read that, because I thought it was a really, really good comment.
Beth Demme (43:17):
Sky left this comment. She said, "Steph and Beth, what a fantastic interview. I felt like I was part of a natural yet deeply real conversation between trusted friends." Yay, that's what we're going for.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:27):
Beth Demme (43:27):
That's so exciting. "I learned so much about the Black Lives Matter movement, and feel totally inspired and more educated to share this information with my non-black friends. Thank you, Ashley, for being so forthcoming, kind, and powerful, sharing your experience living in this country as a black woman. I especially appreciated the talking point about the priorities of so many Americans whose voices of concern weigh heavier on the burning buildings more than the murdered black men and women and other people of color, and the individuals who go unjustly punished. I see you, Ashley, and I will continue to educate myself and self-reflect on how I can further the cause of human kindness, justice, and the ability for everyone to live in a world of love and compassion that celebrates our differences." Thank you, Sky. I feel like you really got it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:12):
Beth Demme (44:12):
That was amazing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:14):
That's so good to hear that it came across that way. I want to challenge you all that are listening. If you've made it this far, bravo, bravo. That is awesome. But I would love for you to think right now of at least one person that you could share this episode with, or any episode, especially the episode with Ashley we had a couple weeks ago. Just think about it, someone in your life that would benefit from hearing one of these episodes. If you are in the Apple Podcast app on your phone, all you have to do is go to our episode that you're listening to, and there's these three little white dots next to the name of the episode. You click on that, and you can hit share. Then you can share it through text message, or email, or whatever, and share it with them, and they'll get it right there on their phone and be able to open it up in the podcast app. Well, Beth, I think we should go celebrate Juneteenth. We've been researching ways to celebrate. One of the things was drinking a red beverage.
Beth Demme (45:20):
Red beverage, yep.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:21):
I think we should go have a red snow cone. What do you think?
Beth Demme (45:25):
Yes, if you'll make it for me. That sounds good.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:26):
Of course I will. I have a professional snow cone machine. There's no question it will be amazing.
Beth Demme (45:30):
Let's do that.