Welcome to the season finale of Diversity & Inclusion: Revolution or Reform? Today’s episode is a very special conversation around dismantling White Supremacy culture with Tema Okun, author of the original and groundbreaking article “White Supremacy Culture” in 1999. Join us for this important conversation about White Supremacy Culture, its complexities, and the work needed to dismantle it. It was truly an honor to have Tema as a guest and we want to extend our gratitude to her for her lifelong commitment to this work.
Tema was born into an upper-middle-class family, her father the son of first-generation Jewish immigrants escaping the pogroms in Belarus and her mother the daughter of a postal clerk father and housewife mother, both with immigrant roots in Scotland or Ireland. She grew up in a very small town in Texas. Her father was a college professor in an elite Southern college town and her mother worked on and off in the public schools. Tema grew up during the last years of Jim Crow and the first years of school desegregation, both enactments of violent white supremacy and racism. Her parents were liberals in the best sense of the word and very active in the local Civil Rights Movement. Tema is cisgender, currently able-bodied, upper class, older, and sometimes an elder.
“I have lots of so-called credentials - degrees and a book and articles and poetry and art and curriculum and talks and speeches and teaching and consulting and mentoring and ... my hope is you would care more about my heart than anything. I am conditioned to be fearful while determined to be open-hearted and I live in that ongoing tension each day with as much grace and humor as I can muster. I am deeply puzzled by why and how we seem to value profit over people and why and how we base our belonging on who we can keep out rather than who we welcome in. And by we, I mean our culture, our white supremacy capitalist patriarchal ableist heteronormative fool of a culture. I am deeply moved by how so many of us do all in our power to refuse the invitation into such toxicity and I admire both up close and from afar all engaged in the solidarity effort to live into the world we all want and deserve. I am lucky beyond words to be well-loved by a community of people, which is why I have any kind of open heart at all. I aspire to remember every day that I love you as I love myself, and we all know, or most of us do, what a struggle it can be to love ourselves well. Learning to love well is my current project. Thank you, thank you for all you are and do.”
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