Interview with NBC: Making Peace With Healing From Hundreds of Years of Oppression


Jessica: So how do you make peace with 400 years of oppression? At this critical juncture in history can we dismantle distrust and inequities that exist between the races? And are we courageous enough to have the conversation?


Joining me an educator, healer, focused on emotional intelligence, equity and inclusion. Thanks so much for being with us.


Let's start with the phrase emotional intelligence and why is it tied to racial healing?


Tovi: Emotional Intelligence is critical to racial healing because it works on our self-awareness and self-regulation as well as supporting those competencies within ourselves that cultivate empathy and connection. And in the work of racism and racial healing connection to others is paramount but before that connection even happens the self-awareness that is needed for us to examine our own biases and the difficult emotions and feelings that arise within us regarding racism have to be tapped into and managed and so it helps us to lean in.


Jessica: So we just heard Dr. Angela Davis talking about this issue of what you call white fragility, right? Like that when you have these conversations with white people they immediately get defensive and that doesn't allow us to have a dialogue so can you explain in detail what white fragility is and how we work on that?


Tovi: White fragility is a phrase coined by Robin Deangelo and it really unpacks the discomfort defensive behaviors that white people exhibit by simply having a conversation about race, anything that is racialized, generally white fragility behaviors will start to arise. This can look like defensiveness, being victimized, feeling blamed. And it really stems from white people's entitlement to comfort because of their white privilege.


Jessica: And also I know that from one of the things that you and I have talked about it also comes from this kind of segregation that most of us live with on a day-to-day basis that white people don't even know they're actually living with because maybe there is no black people in the neighborhood or maybe they don't go to school where there's a lot of black people. That fits into that whole sense of white fragility as well.


Tovi: Oh, absolutely. I refer to that as racial stamina. So, white people, because they don't engage in conversations about race they have very little racial stamina. So when an uncomfortable conversation needs to be had about race, to forward the movement, forward data conversations, to advance skillsets for kids, they can't stay in the conversation because they're so triggered because their racial stamina is so low. Thus when they connect it to their own emotional intelligence, if they worked on their own self-awareness and self-regulation they would be able to sustain in a race-based conversation and then engage in deepening connection and through deepening connection they feel the empathy that's needed to grow.


Jessica: That's what you say is at the core of racial healing that we have to have this empathy. A little bit what Angela Davis was saying that we all need to understand each other better and if we had more empathy correct? That is the basis of racial healing?


Tovi: Absolutely. Absolutely.


Jessica: So, you know, tell me a little bit about this term you call white supremacy. Most of us think of white supremacy as being the KKK or neo-nazis but you say it can actually have a more subtle meaning.


Tovi: It absolutely has a more subtle meaning. When I think about white supremacy it would bring up images of the KKK and it doesn't have to be that. White supremacy is really simply the belief that white people hold that they're superior to all other races, especially the black race. So it is a thought of being superior and therefore dominant.


Jessica: So in the last couple of months we have seen a lot of people moving on and joining the BLM movement, but at the same time we've seen an uptick in other racial crimes like against American Asians. Is there a connection? How can the black community help other communities understand what's happening in this space of discrimination?


Tovi: I think that the black community has been suffering from anti-blackness since being brought over as Africans into this country and we have a way of fighting back and cultivating our own racial resilience in this country that I think other cultures can benefit from witnessing, but so often those other cultures are taught to have anti-blackness as well. And so I think that the unification of the different cultural groups in our society would really benefit this upheaval that we're seeing from white fragility, like so much of the backlash that we're seeing with the increase in racialized violence is really white fragility at its peak manifesting as violence.


Jessica: Alright, thank you Tovi we really appreciate you. We know you're a visionary for racial healing. I hope that we all learn to see the world from the prism that you see it. Thank you.


Tovi: Thank you.


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