Anjali Rao 11:37:11
Namaskar Welcome to the accessible yoga podcast, where we explore the connections between the ancient teachings of yoga in the context of the times we live in.
This podcast is brought to you by the accessible yoga Association, a nonprofit organization focused on accessibility and equity in yoga,
Anjali Rao 11:37:30
and new co host Anjali Rao. My pronouns are she and her, and I serve as president of the accessible yoga Association Board of Directors.
And I'm your co host, Jivana Heyman. My pronouns are he and him. And I serve as a director of the accessible yoga Association.
Anjali Rao 11:37:48
Hello, everyone. Namaskar Welcome to the accessible yoga Podcast. I'm Anjali Rao. And I'm your host for today joined by Saira Rao, in conversation with cidara, who is the prolific author, published novelist, a former congressional candidate, a lawyer by training a daughter of Indian immigrants, and a co creator of the documentary deconstructing Karen. I'm a co author, along with Regina Jackson of white women and everything you already know about your own racism and how to do better. This book is flying off the bookshelves and I highly, highly recommend everyone in the United States and Canada, especially to go and get a copy and read it. It's deeply honest. And I'm so excited to have this conversation with you, Saira and welcome. Thank you. I want to dive right in. Because I know your time is really precious. And you're doing so much right now with this book and this documentary. In your book, you talk about radical honesty. So I think that is something that we need to delve right into that whole concept. What is radical honesty? In that you say internalization of niceness is one of the biggest impediments for honestly talking about white supremacy. Can you tell us more about that? And why is it so important?
Saira Rao 11:39:25
Well, I think a foundational principle of white womanhood is being nice. You know, like that's, that's what white women strive for is to be nice if she nice, be nice, be nice. White women learn this from the time they're born. And what that's code for us being silent in the face of oppression. That's it. So, you know, white women are taught from an early age they're at let's use Thanksgiving as an example. Right. First of all, Thanksgiving is a white supremacist holiday. This is we're, it's a fake holiday. Right? What happened is white colonizers came to this country, committed genocide of indigenous people. And that now that story, the violence of that story has been rewritten as pilgrims and Native Americans coming together and having a meal. So so what that would look like is say somebody at the Thanksgiving table says that, like, this is the truth about this country, it would be that would be seen as not nice. You know, that person I can guarantee you at many white Americans tape tables would be attacked by other people at the table, versus, you know, a white family member calling something ghetto or calling a brown person a terrorist, it would be not nice to call them out for being racist or xenophobic. So that's the it's silence. White nice is silence in the face of oppression. And all Regina and I our entire pedagogy is deconstructing that. Just tell the truth. Tell the truth. Be honest, you would think that we were like committing murder truly, in this pedagogy, which is just being truthful.
Anjali Rao 11:41:03
Yeah. And you face a lot of you have faced a lot of backlash, and you continue to face a lot of backlash, which you share on social media as well. And how has that shifted? Or has that shifted since your documentary has now? Sort of like you said, it's just sort of taking, you know, digging a hole life of its own right now as it should? has that shifted for you?
Saira Rao 11:41:27
Yep, some interesting things are happening. So our book came out on November 1. I don't know what day is today. Is it even December 26 2016. hasn't even been a month right? Yeah. In the first week, it hit the New York Times bestseller list. Documentary just came out on Thursday. And like already, I've been in contact with like famous actresses and professional sports player athletes who have seen it. I mean, and this is an iTunes Vimeo, this is not a big platform thing. It's just getting out there. A couple things are interesting. I and I posted about this last night and this morning, it takes a lot for a white person to shock me or for white people to shock me because I nothing shocks me about what White people do or say, I have been shocked by the sheer amount of white people who have read this book and seen this documentary and have not knee jerk rejected it. I have been pleasantly pleasantly surprised, number one, number two, however, what we're now starting to see, there's a lot of white women, prominent white women, some some of them famous white women reaching out to us saying, We want you to come on our IG live. We want to do a film screening here or there, and then we follow up. And then it's crickets. So we see a lot of that it's a lot like white women reaching out to us after it's performative, performative, right? Yeah. Look at me, look at me like me, and then not interested, fine. That's not surprising. I know, what is a little bit surprising, but it's also turning the tide this morning, I saw on Twitter, a lot of the white supremacist trolls are back. Usually, anytime before this book came out, I would tweet something there would be like literally a New York Post, like the New York Post is literally written articles about tweets of mine. It's just bizarre. I think they have like a full time intern, following me, since this book took off and got the institutional white institutional stamp of Penguin Random House. And the My God, the holy grail of The New York Times bestseller list. It's been a lot more quiet on on the right wing Nazi side, as if suddenly what we're doing actually has some legitimacy. Credibility. Yeah, yeah. And so that's been interesting. And it is it's being mainstreamed. This conversation is being mainstreamed. And as it should be. Totally, I just got off of Regina, I just did an hour long interview with the prominent white woman journalist in Denmark. So it's spreading around the world. And I think as that happens, hopefully, more and more people are gonna be like, Okay, this is not so weird. So many people been like, oh, we thought that this was going to be one thing. This is not a book about hate. It's a book about love. This is not a movie about hate. It's a movie about love.
Anjali Rao 11:44:04
That's beautiful. Because I think, you know, everyone kind of shiz away from the labels of racism, while actually we should embrace it in a way because we all have been bathed in white supremacy. So I think your work is so so relevant and needed, and especially now in the coming, you know, election cycle. Do you sense an urgency there to to get this message out? Look,
Saira Rao 11:44:31
this has always been the case. And so with white supremacy, there's concomitant anti blackness and a hierarchy. There has to be white supremacy and anti blackness. And you and I, as South Asians are on the receiving end of violent white supremacy and on the giving end of violent anti blackness, Islamophobia, caste ism colorism, all the things. Yeah, that's always been the case. I think what's happening now in this country, is that we are in a fast march towards fascism. We're in it, you know, Roe vs. Wade has been overturned, we're in it. We're in fascism right now. And there's, the window is closing. Arguably, it's closed in terms of we needing to stop it, you know, and I'm pretty amazed by being in this moment in time post Roe vs. Wade, being overturned. And watching people, white women in particular, plenty of our South Asian family and friends as well. Just not fazed, I'm going to be I'm going to focus on my Christmas cards. Yeah, I'm gonna focus on my upcoming holiday. Yeah. And it is we have we have flowery language for the first off like this, we could call this cognitive dissonance, actually is is a lie. It's denial. And what you realize is when people are like, Oh, my God, how did this happen in Germany? Well, what are you doing right now, if you if you thought you're going to be some Savior during chattel slavery in Nazi Germany, what you would have done then, is exactly what you're doing right now. And for most people, it's a whole lot of nothing.
Anjali Rao 11:46:03
Yeah. And people. Yeah, people don't want to see the parallels, because it's too it's too overwhelming. And, you know, so that that has always been the case when whether or not it's not
Saira Rao 11:46:17
so even this overwhelm even is overwhelmed. It's crazy. I'm crazy busy. I'm overwhelmed. It's too overwhelming. It's too complicated. No, it's not. It's very, very simple. White supremacy is very simple anti blackness is very simple. Your feelings, your feelings, in terms of what you have to do and give up to combat. It is complicated and overwhelming. But the underlying problem is very simple. It's how we feel about our role in it that feels more complicated and overwhelming.
Anjali Rao 11:46:46
I like that. I and I agree with that. I can go this podcast is for yoga, yoga practitioners and yoga studio yoga students, yoga teachers, and I think yoga studios, teachers wellness influencers, have been very instrumental in bypassing and glossing over racism. And they also represent a very powerful demographic. So that's that's the reach that, you know, we both your want to get to white supremacy tribes in these spaces. What are some actions that you recommend that we can take as practitioners and students to actively disrupt anti racism?
Saira Rao 11:47:33
Racism? So we have we very specifically deal with this, I think it's the penultimate, or the last chapter in our book is specifically about spiritual bypassing the wellness industry. There's somebody in the movie who very much comes into our dinner table, who is a member of this wellness, spirituality community. What does it look up? We're back. Look, Regina and I are not like experts, you know, our into all we are propagating is being honest, and holding a mirror up to yourself. And I would say the same as the wellness space, the yoga space as I went to educators, as I went to law firms, as I would to Starbucks employees, is put a mirror up to your community, and see where your toxic behavior lies, from what I can tell. And I just now I've basically have rejected a lot of yoga, because when I was in Denver, it was, it was just all white people, right, like, all the time, I found I've just moved back to my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and I found this beautiful yoga studio called the wealth collective. And it's owned by a Black woman. And it sits in Shockoe bottom, which is one of the oldest slave markets, chattel slave markets bought right next to one in New Orleans, it was like the second most active slave market. So she's like, basically reclaiming the space as as her own for Black and brown people. And it's beautiful. It's a life changing thing, going to a studio like this, and I tried to go every weekend. But what I would say to you know, white folks in the yoga space is really take a close look at your horrible behavior. And it is horrible. Think about like your spiritual gangster T shirts, and you're in a musty y'all, and you're slaughtering of Sanskrit while you're, you know, doing these things, think about your love, you know, love Trump's hate, and just focus on the good, and we're all humans, and we're all one, all of that stuff is a way for you to get around addressing your white supremacy. So think about that. And when you know, South Asians and Black folks and Latino folks tell you to stop appropriating language and culture and hairstyles dreadlocks. Stop, just fucking stop. Like, you don't need to like examine that when we tell you something is racist or xenophobic, or offensive. That's it. That's the end. That's what I was just stop.
Anjali Rao 11:50:02
Yeah. Yeah, thank you. And one last question then. And we will share all your, you know, the documentary and book, the race to dinner invitations on our socials also. So just for the listeners, please keep an eye out for the information to access that. I want to leave with what you do Syrah to center, your own self worth and well being during these times, and I'm sure talking about this is also kind of activating for you. So how do you and for folks who are going to be doing this work listening to this, hopefully being informed and inspired by your call to radical honesty? What do you do to take care of yourself?
Saira Rao 11:50:48
Well, first of all, I want to say that none of this has been easy. You know, like I was a white woman trapped in a brown woman's body up until six years ago, and this unlearning on my own, I've lived through all of the things that are in the book, I've lived through the movie, I could have been one of those white women at the table six years ago. And I even describe this in the movie as I feel like I had to open my body up and take out all my organs and wash them off and put them back in. It has been the most painful experience of my life. And that is inclusive of losing my mom who I loved more than anything. This has been the most painful. What is it looked like for me, loss of my best friends, loss of immediate family members. Loss of business, loss of pecuniary loss, economic loss. My children have lost tons of friends have been ghosted have been not included. You know, my kids have been bullied at school like it's been horrible. What's on the other side, freedom, liberation, they were not my friends. Blood is not thicker than water. You don't have to you don't have to sit at dinner tables with parents or grandparents or siblings or mothers in law or brothers in law, who are unwilling to see you for who you are in are unwilling to do their own work and acknowledge their own anti Black racism, their own xenophobia, their own white supremacy, you don't need to. And frankly, we're at the moment now in time, where it's the, you know, the old saying from Nazi Germany if there's one Nazi at the table and there's 10 People sitting with him, there are 11 Nazis at the table. So you're, in fact complicit. If you're now continuing to be in relationship with people who are voting for Republican like period. If you're if you're friends or family members, with Republicans, you either need to convince them to stop or you need to get out of that relationship, because now you're one of the Nazis at the table. It has not been easy. But what do I have? I have real friends now I have real friends. I have real community. And I love myself. I'm no longer a hypochondriac. I'm no longer afraid of flying. I love spending time by myself. And that's what I do. I spend, I walk a lot. I spend a lot of time by myself. But it's, it's a it's a practice. This is a practice everyday. I'll tell you, I don't get invited to a lot of parties. Like I have lots of like, one on one dinner dates, but we don't get invited to any holiday parties or anything. Great. I hated those. Anyway. fucking waste of time.
Anjali Rao 11:53:17
I love that. All right. So I know you're very, very busy and so so appreciate you coming on the podcast. I look forward to continuing to uplift your work Syrah. It's it's your it's the it's the work of the times that we live in. And I'm so grateful for you. And Sunday. Look forward to having that one on one. Conversation dinner Chai with you.
Saira Rao 11:53:42
Absolutely. Thank you.
Anjali Rao 11:53:44
Thank you so much, Sarah. Bye. Take good care. Bye.
Thanks for joining us for the accessible yoga podcast. We're so grateful to be in community with you.
Anjali Rao 11:53:56
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Anjali Rao 11:54:19
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai