Artwork for podcast GREEN Organic Garden Podcast
328. White Homework Podcaster Tori Douglas Williams Bonus Episode
31st July 2020 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 00:52:54

Share Episode



Books Tori Recommends:

When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America by Ira Katznelson


Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland

by Jonathan Metzl


Links we mention:

I'm Tori Williams, Douglas and I am a writer and anti racism educator. I actually grew up in, was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. That's where I live now. I've lived in the Pacific Northwest, my entire life, mainly in Portland and Seattle. And yeah, I didn't really, I kind of came to this work. I sort of fell into it.

A lot of, a lot of different things sort of brought me to this place. But I mean initially like, gosh, there's so many, there's so many places I could go.

Did you go to Portland State University to their conflict resolution program. Like, do you know that they have a program there? I applied to go there and then I could never come up with the funding. And it's really hard to find a job in Portland.

Yeah. Oh my gosh. It is so hard to find a job here. I hear that for sure.

You can't even be a substitute teacher without a master's degree or at least that's what they told me. I don't know

That, that, that sounds right. No, I did not. I have not attended that program. I've heard about it. And I think that like, conceptually, it seems really good. I have a lot of friends, obviously you've gotten to Portland State, so yeah.

How did you get into this work?

I might end up there. I've been talking to the Dean of the School of Public Health about like going into that program.

So yeah, it was, it was journey. So I think that the thing that really kind of kicked it off for me was when I got pregnant with my oldest child, I started doing all this research around birth outcomes for black mothers and they were abysmal. So essentially finding out black mothers are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy related complications than white moms.

And black infants are like twice as likely as white infants today. And like the first 30 days of life. And that really kind caught my attention, made me really nervous for obvious reasons. And then when I was pregnant with my second, that is when the Ferguson uprising happened as a response to Michael Brown being murdered.

And that was kind of when I was like, okay, this seems important. Like I need to start speaking out about this issue and then fast forward another two years or so two, three years. I'm trying to remember, I guess it was probably two years. I ended up getting a job at a, in a neuroscience lab at OHSU here in Portland and it's a super diverse lab and the PI is black and a lot of the post-docs were, were people of color.

And a lot of the work that was being done there was around racism and implicit bias.

And it was just a really incredible learning experience even though I was working and not like in the, in the actual med school program. But that gave me a lot of, a lot more information and sort of, kind of, it started to like back up what I had been learning sort of on my own. And yeah, so I just sort of, I just sort of like fell into this.

I had been very vocal on Twitter and like after Michael Brown was murdered.

and I ended up losing like probably 60% or so of my Twitter followers. Cause people did not like what I had to say. So, but yeah, eventually over time people started paying attention to like what I was putting out into the world and yeah, I've actually been able to transition and do this full time now.

White Homework Podcast 

So I do, like, as you said, I did the White Homework Podcast which is a lot of fun and that was kind of the point, right. Was to be able to make anti racism, education, not something other than this kind of like a dull, boring shame or guilt inducing conversation.

I wanted it to be a little bit more fun, a little bit more accessible because I think it's easier to learn that way. It's easier to learn when you think that the person who is teaching you actually likes you. Right? And go ahead and

I liked the way that like action steps. You actually have homework for people to do where they can learn and grow. Like I've learned so much trying to finish. I have listened to about mass incarceration and I have.

 You know, a little bit of background in that. And I took a trauma informed class and some of the websites I went to, I was like, I've been here before, but then a ton of other stuff, I'm like, wow, I had no idea. And I love that. You're all about restorative justice, which made me want to talk about and explain what it is.

Like, I just love the way you have all these ideas. Like you have solutions, whereas so many of you were like, Oh, can we do? And this is what we've always done. And like, you know, the way that you talk about punishment, doesn't work! like that

We have solutions for our prison systems that we can, or maybe we don't have the solutions right now, but that there's a way to change it.

And that, I don't know. There's just so much.

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that was definitely and aspects that I wanted to bring to the conversation was like, again, I know it wasn't supposed to be hopeful necessarily, but it was supposed to,

I wanted intentionally to create an environment where people felt like the work could be done.

Where people weren't going, Oh my God, this is way too big for anyone to ever solve.And they just throw it on the towel and walk away.

I wanted it to be. And like I said, people tend to, when it comes to racism, I think white people tend to go either like the shame guilt side, like ditch, or they go to the like kind of reactionary dismissive. That's not real ditch.

And so I wanted to be able to keep people on the road, right by talking about restorative justice and how restorative justice is good for everyone. Right? It's, it's necessary for restoration to occur for people of color. And that work primarily falls on, on white Americans or any white people who live in it like a colonized country.

But restorative justice is also good for white people.

Like it's good for your humanity. It's good for your empathy. It's good for your body, right? Because it like lowers stress.

You know, there's a lot of talk around like police reform and abolition and, and it's like, you know, something that I keep trying to bring up is just like policing. Isn't good for police officers either. Like we have a system that really wears people down, it causes massive amounts of emotional and mental trauma.

There is a huge crisis of, of suicide among police officers. And like, it doesn't have to be this way as my friend, Andre Henry always says, so it was like trying to give people space to imagine what the world could be like, if we are just brave enough to leave what we've always known behind. So yeah.

War Is Obsolete

Exactly. Like imagine can be different. We can do this. Like I have this big poster on our driveway on our pump house that says war is obsolete because I believe we can get to a peaceful world. And like, I teach my kids over and over when I'm a teacher at school, like there's this book by Todd Parr called the Peace Book.

And it talks about peace is not just an absence of war. Peace is everybody having shoes, everybody having a home, like the kids always love when it's like everybody having pizza, but I'm always like, do you know how many kids in the world would give anything to have a pizza once a week?

Like they can't even fathom what a pizza looks like. Like when all our kids get to go to school, like everywhere, like I'm always, my mom's always like, well, that's their country's, you know, job to figure out.

I just don't feel that way. I'm like we're humans. There should not be kids on our planet that are hungry. That don't have access to clean water for cooking or surely for drinking, but also for cooking for cleaning themselves for, but this is 2020. And that's why I love millennials so much because I think you guys, you're not going to accept it.

And you're not like I see the actions you kids are taking every day. I call you kids because my husband is 14 years older than I am. So his daughters are both millennials, my stepkids. So I always call them kids, even though I'm just in my fifties.

But to me, I just think like, you're, you're gonna make this change. I feel like my generation I'm generation X and we, we might have, you know, protested and digital, a little bit of stuff, but you know, we've obviously become complacent.

Yeah. I mean, I think that you're absolutely right. I think that a lot of people, a lot of millennials and the younger generation that TBD zoomers or whatever, we're calling them right now. I'm not really sure. Yeah. They're, they're pretty impressive too. I think coming from them. Yes. And I think that it's, it's really, we have been told that the system works.

If you know how to work it, if you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, if you can, if you have grit and determination and don't let anything sidetrack you. Right. And we're like, okay, but we have the data now. It doesn't work. It works. It works for a few people really, really well. And it doesn't work for most people at all.

And yeah. Being able to say, okay, it's really, it's not okay to live in a country specifically where there are billionaires and there are kids who don't have enough money to have a lunch at school.

Like those two things cannot coexist in a moral country.

And so really kind of being willing to wrestle with these ideas of like, what does justice look like for the most marginalized people in society? What does it look like for everyone to have access to fresh, healthy food?

Right? And trying to imagine, and creatively come up with solutions for, to help people survive in a system as it is, and to create a new system that works for everyone, instead of just working for the people that was designed to work for, which is not everyone.

And, you know, I'm really, I'm really grateful for, you know, a lot of the people, you know, my age, who were, who were doing the work, I mean, I'm great, but I'm grateful for anyone who is willing to learn, right?

Who's willing to listen and learn and examine their own lives, motivations, behaviors, thought patterns, assumptions about the world and, and really kind of sit down with that and like apply a critical lens as opposed to going well, again, this is just, this is just how we've always done it. And it kind of works for me or, you know, aspiration.

Like I don't want to tax billionaires because maybe one day I'll be a billionaire. It's like, no, you won't come on.

Like, let's make this work for more people. You know, something that I keep telling people on social media mainly is like, okay, there's, there's five, there's 550 billionaires in the US and 550,000 people will go to sleep outside tonight. So you are basically a thousand times more likely to become homeless than to become a billionaire.

That's a great way to frame it. And now they're saying there were 615 billionaires when Corona started and now there's 630. So there's 15 new billionaires in the world since the coronavirus started.

But how many people have lost their jobs and their means? And I just don't feel like people are looking into the future and seeing the impact that like, if we don't get this country together, we don't have time to waste. Businesses are not going to be able to go backwards and survive through next year.

And I don't know, there's so much about the pandemic. I, I can't, and I'm married to a news junkie, so it's on over and over and over in different formats. And, and I understand the point of watching different formats and seeing it.

So you know what this person is saying and what this person's learning and that, but for me, it gets a little intense. I just am baffled by like I'm in rural Montana. So people don't believe it here. They're out. Like I'm almost scared to go out in public, certainly in the late afternoons, I would not go out with a mask on because I'm looked at as a radical liberal where I live. Like, I'm just, it's just kind of, I don't even know what to think.

Anyway, let's talk about solutions. I feel like you are, you know, that's like one of your greatest things is you have solutions for people, but I also feel like, like, so when George Floyd first happened, I am a lot of the podcasters that I was listening to were like, we'll read White fragility, White fragility, but I didn't feel like a lot of it came through to me until I started listening to your White Homework Podcast .

Like I realized how white of a lens I was looking through that violence, that what I consider violence is what white people consider violence. And it's, what's acceptable based on the society that we have right now, but that there are other, like other people might be like that.

And like, even I argue with my English teacher about reading the hunger games, I'm like the hunger games is so violent. Don't you feel that violent? And she just kind of looks at me and he's like, really? I mean, I guess like, she doesn't think it's any more violent than anything else, but to me, I am so appalled by all the violence in that book.

And just, I guess we all have different frames of mind. I don't, I'm getting off topic. Go ahead.

Yeah. I mean, there, there are, we do have lots of research. We have lots of data. We know how to, we know how to improve the system. And I, I mean, I think that's the thing that kind of ends up being the most frustrating, probably up until up until the end of May was it felt like we have all this information.

We, we know all of these things in terms of, you know, improving outcomes for people and, you know, crime reduction or whatever, whatever the thing is that you were concerned about.

It's like we have all of this data. We can improve, even if we don't, even if we don't destroy the whole system, right. Even if that's not what happens...

We can still improve outcomes for people by huge amounts.

And we have all this information, we know how to do it, but it's like, how are we going to get people's implement this? And I, you know, recently in the last, you know, since, since George Floyd was murdered, so you know about seven, has it been seven weeks now, six, seven weeks, somewhere in there.

I feel like people are taking these not new ideas because a lot of these ideas have been around forever. It's just, now we have the data to prove that they work.

So taking these ideas, these like abolitionist ideas and saying, "Hey, how can we implement this in our city?"

It's it's at this point, I don't think that there's been a lot of movement on like the state level for most places. I mean, especially when we talk about something like policing, you know, we can, we can pass all the laws. We can make all of the reforms, but there's no way to enforce them, which again is intentional.

That that option doesn't really work. I mean, last night, Seattle cut the, the Seattle city council cut the budget for Seattle PD by 50% voted to cut the budget for Seattle police department by 50% and

put those funds into mental health care and housing and social work. Because again, we know that these programs work.

But we spend, you know, most cities, most big cities spend 40% of their budget on a police department yesterday. I was listening to a podcast yesterday or sometime in the last week or so. And the host said like, it's, our cities are set up in terms of like, in terms of their budget, it's like a small army with a city around it. Right? Like we build, we build up the police department and that's like the thing that the city funds.

And again, it's like, we don't get good outcomes from the system. No one does.

I mean, when you talk about assault, like especially sexual assault, like how many rape kits are just sitting. We know like hundreds of thousands of rape kits are just sitting on shelves in police departments right now, because the system doesn't care about us, right?

The system doesn't care if we were assaulted, this system has no motivation to go and track down the people who are committing violence, you know, so frequently, you know.

Well, that's a really good point is that police officers, every time they go out there, they're putting their lives in danger. And so if we address these social issues, like if they're going to take that budget and put more money into mental health and, you know, housing!

We're having such a housing crisis, like you were talking about homelessness before there's 66,000 people in Los Angeles that either are living on a couch or on the streets or in a shelter or in their car.

And I was talking to somebody they're like, well, why don't they just get a job? And I'm like, you know what, if you're living in your car, you probably have a job. You have a car, you can get the car. You know, there's not 60,000, 66,000 probably unemployed people in Los Angeles, but you're counted as homeless.

If you don't have your own home, if you have to stay on your auntie's couch or, you know, here or there, people should be able to work. We have people working in this country working full time, husbands and wives working full time that still can't afford a home.

Older people are constantly like in our area, they keep talking about senior housing that we desperately need, you know? And just so if they're taking some of that money away, and that was another thing that you talked about, if somebody is raped, that the last thing they want is to police.

And you talked about, was it 27% of police are domestic abusers of themselves? I think. And then the last thing you want, if you've just been raped or sexually assaulted or something, or even just assaulted is for somebody like that to come