Transcript: Racist Thoughts with Dina Cataldo
If you're listening to this, you're curious, you're curious about where thoughts come from, where racist thoughts come from. And maybe you are curious about what this has to do with each and every one of us. I wanted to wait to record this podcast. I wanted it to be just right, but of course it will never be perfect. We must grow. It's an imperative. It's how we create a conscious and deliberate life. So this podcast is not only about our thoughts, but it's also about how those thoughts will lead us to act more deliberately in our lives. Please go to Dina, cataldo.com forward slash one Oh nine, to get a list of resources where you can continue to educate yourself and to learn how you can make a difference in this world. I am not the expert in racism. I am a white woman. So I want you to know that there are many more resources, more educated resources in racism in America and generally in this world.
But I wanted to say something because we have to have the courage to change our minds so that we can be open to other people's perspectives and take action for the greater good. And when we begin to work on ourselves, which is what coaching is all about, which is what this podcast is all about. We must approach changing ourselves and our thoughts with humility and with compassion for ourselves. If you're white, it's easy to shut down and turn away from this work. It can be painful to do the work, but it doesn't have to be paralyzing. I called this episode racist thoughts because it places the finger on the issue. Our thoughts, our thoughts are informed by the world around us and our past. And unless we decide that we are going to intentionally direct our thoughts, then nothing changes. But the very first step is to create awareness.
I talk a lot about how our perceptions influence our world in this podcast, but I wanted to speak specifically to racist thoughts because over the last several weeks, I have perceived things in different ways than I have in the past. And chances are based on the current New York times book list, the top book list. Many, many other people have decided that they are beginning to change their mind and change their thoughts about their perceptions. As a white female lawyer. I understand that there is a privilege and me being able to speak about these issues, the way that I am, I'm not experiencing racial disparity. I am observing it. I choose to believe that by observing how I perceive the world around me and make new decisions about how to think and how to feel that, then I can take actions that will make a bigger difference in reducing that racial disparity.
Coaching is the most amazing way to do this kind of work because we can get another perspective on how we see the world. We see that there are numerous ways to interpret the world around us and we can decide what is true for us. If you are a business owner, and if you own your own practice and you want to learn how to, you know, bring these ideas into your practice, you can always hire a diversity coach. I am going to link in the show notes to some resources for you so you can learn how you can con contact people who are experienced at that. What I'm going to do today is walk through thoughts and talk about thoughts and how they're created. And I'm also going to talk about a few different thoughts that are very common, that I want to bring to your attention that I have had in the past.
I am by no means exhausting. This work, this podcast would be forever long. I don't want to do that to anyone. Also, this work is really personal, right? Because this is going to bring up emotions for a lot of people. I should start this again by saying, I identify as a white woman and I'm talking to white people generally with this topic, black people live this and see racist thoughts every single day. So this podcast is directed to those of us who are doing the work to become more aware of the issues facing black Americans. All of us can do this work. I think it's our duty to do this work. And I believe that it's our responsibility to become better informed about the issues we're going to talk about today. We're in a unique time for the United States because we've been faced with a lot of stressors.
And in times of stress, that is when we have the most opportunity for growth. We can choose to work through the pain, or we can choose to ignore it. It's easy to ignore the pain, right? We can work through it. We can eat through it. We can drink through it. We could watch the news like it's entertainment through it. We can push it down until it's just a low hum in the background and a low anxiety, the more difficult work and the work that you're choosing. If you listen to this podcast is to face the pain that we feel. When we look at how we walk through the world and how we've impacted those around us, with our thoughts, with our behaviors, it helps to understand how to process emotions, to get to these deeper issues. And I talked more about how to do that in episode one Oh seven.
In fact, you may want to listen to that first, if you're already getting all these fields right now, because if you feel shame, when you're listening to this episode, you'll shut down a bit. You're not going to be able to process what I'm talking about. You're going to need to process those feelings so that you can get to the deeper work. You can't ignore it. You have to feel it feeling is the very first step. And then the work is looking at the thoughts you have creating those emotions. And then you can make a conscious decision about how to move through the world, how to behave in the world. When our body feels shame, our brain wants to turn it off and ignore it. No one transforms their life through feeling shame. The transformation comes when we see the shame and decide that we can do better.
I credit the tools I've learned as a coach for allowing me to see with more clarity, racial disparities. I think we all know based on the numbers that black people have fewer opportunities and are disproportionately represented in prisons and get well just about everything, right? I could go on and on and on. I could give you all the statistics and each of us have different thoughts as to why this is. But part of the privilege of being white is that we don't have to think about all the ways that things are unequal for black people and how we can take massive action to change things. It doesn't impact us. And that is a problem. Since this podcast is about understanding perspectives that are different from what is traditionally taught to us. I thought talking about racist thoughts was the perfect topic for this podcast.
Being a lawyer also affords us privileges that others do not have. We can speak out on issues with more authority and have the power to make the world around us. More inclusive of black people and other people of color, not just with our ability to bring injustices, to light in the courtroom, but with our ability to give our money and experience to organizations that make an impact on the world. I want to start off with an easily acceptable premise, which is that women are influenced by society to look a certain way to behave a certain way. And that has been influenced by generations of men and women who were influenced by the men of their age. We weren't allowed to vote until 1920. And then only after about a hundred years of seriously fighting for the vote. Anti suffragist argued a few things, which basically came down women weren't smart enough or, and were too fragile and too emotional to vote rationally.
And it took women protesting for their right to change this. But more importantly, it required having male allies help us achieve the vote. Women would not have acquired the vote without white male legislators who ratified the 19th amendment. Now, understanding our thoughts is important because it informs how we behave in the world and impact others. And this comes down to specifically being an ally for black people. Now I have had allies in my legal career that were at the same time influenced by their societal beliefs about women. They were allies, but they were imperfect allies. I want to talk about being a better ally. When I was a young attorney, I was in a judge's chambers about to discuss trial motions with the judge and the defense attorney, both the defense attorney and the judge were older white men. The judge engaged the defense attorney in conversation, and it was clear that they knew each other from way back and they could have gone on and on about what the judge wanted to talk about completely ignoring me.
But the defense attorney took the initiative to draw me into the conversation and make sure I was included. And I was really appreciative of that small gesture and not too long. After that experience with this defense attorney, I was in the jury waiting area because I had jury duty and this very same defense attorney approached me and said that he knew that I was sitting there even though he couldn't see my face because of my fabulous legs. Now, if you're a woman, you know that this is just ridiculous. And, and we brushed this off every single day, but it is a sexist comment. It is objectifying women. Men can be an ally to women and still have sexist thoughts, but wouldn't it be more helpful if all of us learned what our thoughts were, our implicit thoughts, right? Our end scene thoughts so that we wouldn't act on those thoughts so that we could be a better ally.
And as women, we've internalized a lot of the sexist thoughts that make the rounds in society, right? Things like I'm bad at math. I should want to have children. I should want to be married. I mean, I once had a male court attendant say to me that there was something wrong with me because I didn't want to have children. And I've also had women tell me, well, one day you will want children. And there are more sexist thoughts that come up all the time, including things like, well, if you're ambitious, then you're not a good mom. Or you should want to be at home with your children more. Or why did you have children? If you're spending so much time on your business, these thoughts come from a society that hasn't unlearned sexist thoughts and don't understand their impact on society at large, how it prevents people from moving freely in this world.
And we can be an ally to black people and still have racist thoughts, but we can be even better allies. If we scrub our brains and keep learning about how racial thoughts influence our actions, then we can see our thoughts and then we can decide how we want to act in the world. So why is it important to learn about how our thoughts influence how we behave in the world while I want you to think about the legal profession in particular, in many medium and large law firms, there are a lot of, not a lot of women, and there are even fewer people of color and think about how promotions are decided. The higher ups who are usually white men want to know the candidates. Well, how do they get to know them at gatherings outside the office or through working with them on assignments and how do they get the best assignments?
Well, they have to know somebody, right? And how do you get to know people better often it's by spending time with them outside of the office. So let's say there's a party at a lawyer's home. That lawyer is a white male and invites his lawyer, friends who are statistically, probably all white males. Each of those white male lawyers invites one friend and statistically, those people are probably also white male lawyers. And I'm totally general generalizing to make a point here. But there was recently a study that 75% of white people don't have black friends. So it is a realistic example. Here's the point. If we do not consciously think about how we are thinking about who we are inviting to the party, we can't create more opportunities for people of color or women or other, any other minority. Imagine that party differently. Imagine that the white male lawyer invites all white lawyer, friends over then some of those white male friends invite a black lawyer or two or three and a woman or two or three.
And then there's more representation. And there's more opportunity for people who aren't typically invited to the party. If we're oblivious to the thoughts that we have that have created the situation where we aren't inviting black people to the party, then we are a part of the problem, understanding how our thoughts impact our present and our future is part of the solution. If you're listening to this podcast, it means you're interested in how your brain works and how your thoughts come into existence. At least that's what I'm hoping. And once we start doing this work, it impacts not only us, but all of those around us. Where do thoughts come from? They come from stimulus in our environment. I like to think about it like a lightning bolt hitting the top of our head. Whenever we see, hear, smell, or sense anything in, in our, in our environment, it's a little jolt of electricity that gets our brain turning.
Most of us have zero control of our thoughts until we start intentionally doing thought work like we do in this podcast. And in coaching a thought is generated in our brain. Then that thought creates a feeling in our body and emotion. Then we react to that emotion and create a result in our lives. That is the whole thought cycle. Nothing changes here just because we're talking about racist thoughts. The important thing here is that thoughts just come. They don't mean anything about you. They don't make you good. They don't make you bad. They just are. And if you've ever been in a car driving during rush hour in LA and had a fleeting thought of homicide on the person in front of you, then you know, it doesn't mean anything about you. You just had a thought about someone who cut you off that created anger in your body, and then you moved on and maybe you went to your yoga class.
You're not a bad person. You just had a thought where do racist thoughts come from? Here's where it gets interesting as a society. We absorb thoughts that are out there in the world and told to us over and over again, an easy example when it comes to impacting women are magazines, right? They have images of impossibly perfect women. It's easy for us to understand how women psyches would be negatively impact by seeing these images over and over again, and being told the secrets to being thin or having the perfect skin years ago. I noticed a huge difference in my perception of myself, meaning it changed from more negative to more positive when I'm changed from negative to positive. When I stopped buying magazines like glamour and Cosmo, when a thought is repeated over and over again, it creates a belief. So instead of having a fleeting thought that we're not perfect, we're absorbing images and words over and over again, which impacts what we believe about ourselves and the outside world.
It's like really describing water to a fish, the Fisher in the water, and don't understand what you mean. They don't even see the water. They're just in it. We just assume that we're not good enough or pretty enough, because we don't measure up to these words and images in the media. We don't think anything of them. We just assume that's how the world is a really good description of this. In terms of racism. I heard in a podcast with Bernay Brown interviewing the author. Ebrum X can be I'll link to this in the show notes too. So the way he described a racist thoughts was like this. Imagine walking in the rain, the water's coming down on you, right? At all angles. These are all the racist images, the thoughts and perceptions of others, you know, pass down in our culture over the years in magazine, in popular culture and the media.
And if you're a white person, you're just walking through the water, not even knowing you're wet. Then one day someone hands you an umbrella. And you realize when you have it over your head, that it's raining. And that's why none of us should be ashamed of the thoughts that I'm going to talk about today. Bring up for you, right? Like none of us should be ashamed of things that you work on. When you start educating yourself about racism, maybe like me, you had a moment when you finally realized that it was raining. You remember that story? I told you about the defense attorney. He was an imperfect ally because he still felt like it was okay to comment on my physical appearance. Well, I can tell you more stories about male defense attorneys who crossed the line and how they spoke with me and also did not see anything wrong with it.
They would actually describe themselves as feminists. The reason they didn't think there was anything wrong with objectifying women is because they've been impacted by the thoughts of those around them and the society that they have lived in. They have absorbed the culture around them. They absorbed years of men talking nonchalantly about a woman's appearance and expected women to put up with it because that's what they always did. And women often didn't say anything. I've been guilty of this too, because it's too much work to correct them. It can be draining when you just want to do your work. And it's easier sometimes to just move on or laugh it off. And it's easier for us than being labeled a bitch or difficult. And this is another reason why understanding our thoughts is so important, just because a black person isn't correcting you doesn't mean your words and actions don't have an impact.
It doesn't mean that your thoughts are not being impacted by the culture that we've been steeped in. It's like being steeped in a cup of tea, right? You just don't see it. How do we unlearn racist thoughts? The links I'm providing in the show notes can give you background on how thoughts have been instilled in us as a white woman. I am not the proper source for educating on all things, racism. And I want to share sources from black people who cover this topic so well. So remember to go to Dina, cataldo.com forward slash 109 to get those. But what if we just started? What if we simply started with the belief that we all have racist thoughts? If you're not with me yet, just humor me hair. Our country was founded on the backs of black people being enslaved. There were 4 million enslaved in the U S at the peak of slavery.
And despite black people receiving the vote in 1870, that really didn't take effect until 1965 with the voting rights act. And then we had like three steps back in 2013 in Shelby County, Alabama versus the U S attorney general five out of the nine Supreme court justices struck down key provisions of that voting rights act. Plus just this week, Quaker oats realized that aunt Jemima brand was offensive. And Mars just realize that uncle Ben's was just offensive. And I was reading something that the cream of wheat chef just now it's now offensive. Like nobody has noticed this because it's just been something we've had the privilege to ignore, and it can't go on, right? Like we have to become aware of her racist thoughts and, and look around us and understand how it is creating an impact on people in the world. And then we can decide, do we want to create that impact on people?
Do we want people to feel unwelcome? And like they are second class citizens in a country. I certainly don't want people to feel that way. And I can take actions by understanding how my thoughts impact how I behave in the world. So we'll talk about thoughts surrounding the word racist too. So don't worry. So we can unlearn racist thoughts in several ways. All right, we can unlearn them by bringing them to light. Meaning we educate ourselves. We take the time to go out and educate ourselves. We unlearn racist thoughts by recognizing when we feel defensive, anytime you feel defensive about something, it means there's this unseen truth. We haven't wanted to talk to ourselves about, like, we see a truth and we don't want to admit that it's true. And so we get defensive. So it's important to recognize that feeling and examine it.
Same thing with shame. Like we've got to examine these emotions and ask ourselves, well, why am I feeling this way? What are the thoughts that are creating this emotion in my body? We can unlearn racist thoughts by having the courage, to face our negative emotions and sit with them right, and have compassion for ourselves and really process them. That's what I was talking about in episode one Oh seven, we can unlearn racist thoughts by understanding that it's not our fault that we have them. And by doing the work on a constant basis, because we are in this culture that has been steeped in racist thoughts. We've got to do this work on ourselves, and then we can unlearn racist thoughts by not acting on those racist thoughts. Right. We can actually take a look at them. It is the work we're like the fish realizing that we're swimming in water and having to remind ourselves, Oh, I'm still in the water.
White people have the ability to look away when it's uncomfortable. But what if we decided to stay with the discomfort so that we can be better humans? I want you to understand. And we've talked about this a lot on the podcast, that thoughts are just sentences in our minds. They are made up of words and words, have power words, have the power to influence people. And they have the ability to confuse us. Right? If we don't take a step back to educate ourselves and think critically of what we are hearing, I believe it is important to think critically of anything we are being told, just because our friend says it or the media says it doesn't mean that it's true. We must be willing to take a look at the motives and biases of everyone who has an opinion. You are the only one who has the power to decide how you want to think.
I want to talk about a couple words here, because they are barriers to entry. They're barriers to entry, to the conversations that we need to have. And they can be barriers to entry, to bring people who are different than us in to our worlds. So let's talk about this, the word racist, right? It can have an emotional charge for many people. And if we're not willing to recognize that emotional charge, we can't unlearn racist thoughts. So the word racist used to be emotionally charged for me. I interpreted it. I had the thought that being racist meant that you hated black people or any other person of color and, or I treated people differently based on their color. Well, what if we interpreted being racist as simply not unlearning racist thoughts, thoughts that weren't your fault thoughts that were just part of our social conditioning. For example, my male and my imperfect male ally, who helped me in one arena is still sexist, right?
Even if white people are trying to be an ally, we still say unintentionally racist things, right? The point is, even if we're well-meaning, we can also have racist thoughts. So it's important to examine the words that we are using and understand the impact they have on other people. Another example of words, being a barrier to entry when we don't consciously observe our thoughts are our names. I was thinking about this because when I was a kid, my dad told me why he named me what, what he did and my middle name, my middle name's Lynn. He said that he purposely chose that as my middle name, because he didn't want my name to sound too ethnic. When I put it on resumes, when I got older and he believed that a white middle name signal to potential employers that I was white. So I would have more opportunities talk about a barrier to entry, right?
Just a name, a single name. Well, turns out his belief is right. So one study with researchers affiliated with Harvard and Stanford found 25% of black candidates received call backs from their whitened resumes. So what's that it's a resume that scrubbed of any ethnic or racial affiliations while only 10% got calls when they left ethnic details intact among Asians, 21% got calls. If they used whitened resumes, whereas only 11.5% heard back. If they send resumes with racial references, worse, yet employers claiming to be pro diversity, discriminated against resumes with racial references. Just as much as employers who didn't mention diversity at all in their job ads. In those cases, applicants felt more comfortable, revealing these details more openly, and they were still discriminated against why is it because of some vast conspiracy? No, it's because we have been swimming in the water of racist thoughts, and we must see the water in order to behave better to create the change that we want to see.
There are just a few thoughts I want to talk about. There are so many, and this is certainly not the end of this conversation. Like this is a conversation you've really got to have with yourself, but these are thoughts that are so prevalent that, you know, I thought that I would bring them to light based on some of the thoughts that I have had. So I'm going to share a few things that I have thought and, and bring them to you here. Okay. So racist thought, number one, I'm not privileged. I worked my behind off to get through law school. My parents were poor. Only one graduated from high school. Neither of them went to college. I don't have white privilege. That was my thought. When I first heard the term white privilege, my thought was basically, you don't know me. You don't know what you're talking about.
Yes, I worked hard, but there's another dimension that is unseen. What goes unseen are the invisible benefits that the color of my skin gave me along the way, remember being invited to the party. So how easy has my life been along the way, being invited to the party more often not being stopped disproportionately by the police is another example. And when I was stopped, I received the benefit of being a white woman and let go with a warning. That's just one example. And there's ton tons more. I'm not even aware of too. So do you know that I've never received a ticket in my life? I've never been searched. I have been stopped by the police or maybe yelled at, from a distance, maybe five times in my 40 years. I know that this is disproportionate to the number of times black people have been stopped by the police.
Do I believe that the police were acting with explicit bias? Not most of the time. I believe most officers are good officers. And if you don't know me, I am pro law enforcement. I'm a criminal prosecutor, but I do believe that there is a subtle racial cue that white women aren't really causing a lot of trouble in the world. I was listening to Nicole Walters, talk on her podcast. I'm going to link to it in the show notes. It was really powerful. She has a gorgeous, wealthy, sweet, and confident black woman who said she gets stopped about four times a year. She explained in tears how she moved through the world. When stopped by an officer, she described how she verbalized each of her movements to the officer because she didn't want to be shot. And at the end of one, stop, the officer thanked her for doing that because it made him feel safe.
I mean, isn't the officer's supposed to be making her feel safe. It was heartbreaking to hear this. One of the things that Ebrum X Kendi said in his book stamped from the beginning is when you truly believe that the racial groups are equal, then you also believe that racial disparities must be the result of racial discrimination, racist thought. Number two, I don't see color. How can black people call me a racist? Having racist thoughts does not mean you are a bad person. Often when we become defensive, we'll say something like I don't see color. The only reason white people don't see color is because we have the privilege of moving through the world without thinking about our skin color. That means that we have also benefit benefited from our skin color in some way that we just don't see the other day. I was thinking about how I don't have to think about how I move in the world.
I can pretty much do whatever I want. I can wear a hoodie, drive my fancy sports car around, play my music loud. And I don't have to think about my skin color or the repercussions of moving through the world. On the other hand, black people are constantly thinking about how they move in the world. Have you noticed as lawyers, maybe in your surroundings that a lot of black men in the legal profession dress nicer than anyone you've ever seen, they are thinking about how they are perceived constantly, but most white people we don't. And when I listened to the stories of black men and women who are teaching their children, that they have to move differently in the world because they will be treated differently than their white friends that highlights this issue. White people do not have to see color. And when we think the thought, I don't see color, it's a reflection of the unseen white privilege.
We have, we get to move through this world, not seeing color while black people have to think about the color of their skin. This is a thought that we can work on and we can begin understanding what is going on, what is happening in this world? And it's a continuing process of education for ourselves. The last thought that I want to talk to you about today is this. Basically it comes down to, well, I've had the same experience as a white person. So I don't understand why it's a race issue. Why is this thought racist while it's steeped in unseen privilege, when you're white, you don't have to think about those things. You don't have to think about how you move through the world as diligently as black people have over the years. And you know, I specifically thought of this thought I've had the same experience as a white person.
So I don't understand why it's a race issue because, you know, I hear stories about how black people have said that they're followed around shops and they don't see this in terms of white people. And so one of the thoughts I had was when I was a kid, my dad owned a store and I, you know, if he wasn't following everyone in the store around, I was sent to go follow everyone in the store around. It was not about what your skin was. It was about, Hey, we just got to make sure that nobody steals from us cause we've been stolen from before. And so it had nothing to do with race, but that was my past informing my present thought. So what I want you to see here is just because we have an experience doesn't mean that it invalidates another person's experience. We might have a thought based upon our past experiences, but we can't invalidate what someone else is seeing in their world.
So it's important to understand other people's perspectives. And when you hear them over and over again, you've got to believe that they are telling you the truth. Just like when we're talking about women who operate in this world and they're raped and we start looking for ways to blame them for being the victim, as if they haven't gone through enough, we start telling them, well, you should have dressed differently. You shouldn't have put yourself in that situation. You shouldn't have had any alcohol is like, Hey, why don't we just take a look at the bigger picture and look at what the other person is experiencing? And then we can start moving past this, but we've got to get really conscious about how we think about things and our past, because it influences how we think about things. We've got to be really aware of why we think what we think.
And like it's true in business just as it is when it comes to our thoughts about race, right? Like we believe we can't do something because we haven't done it before. It doesn't mean we can't do it, but we hold ourselves back from moving forward in our life, moving forward in our practice because we have all of these beliefs that we can't do it. Right. Same thing with the example about women and math, right? Like, just because you haven't been able to do math in the past. And really a lot of that has to do with some of the self-talk we have that's based on the society, putting those thoughts into our brain. It doesn't mean that we can't learn how to do math and that we won't be able to do it in the future, but it stops us in our tracks, from tracks, from doing any of the work on ourselves, to create different thoughts, to create different actions in this world, to understand another person's experience.
We have to put our past aside so we can hear what they are saying. If we can do that, we can create the connection that we want to create in this world, because we are so steeped in the past, we have to imagine a different future and act from that place to create what we want. Huh? Wow. Well, I have included resources in the show notes for you to continue learning from people who are far more knowledgeable about racial disparities and perceptions than I am. You can get those resources and all the resources I've mentioned in this [email protected] forward slash one Oh nine. I do want to hear from you. This is a very personal work that each of us needs to do and, and is doing right now. I mean, if you're listening this far in the podcast, obviously you're doing the work. I would love to hear your thoughts though.
So you can find me on Instagram at Dina dot Cataldo. Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for trusting me to listen to this all the way through, right? Because this is not an easy topic to listen to. This is not an easy thing to think about and understand our behaviors and how we can impact other people in the world. But it is it is an amazing work to be able to do. It is such a act of generosity to do this work and create what we want to create by examining our thoughts by looking at how we work in this world, how we behave in this world so that we can become more inclusive. So that's what I have to say this week. I will talk to you soon. Have a great day. Bye.