Nov 16, 2020
So the disruptive part for me is the white supremacy, the white supremacy, and the microaggression is the microaggression of outright racism, to be quite honest with you, that I've had to deal with and I think that's what people don't realize is what we're bringing to the workplace before we even hit the door, before we even have to deal with some of the I want to say normal disruptive events that we all have.
This is the first in a two-part series about the challenge of working in a world where whiteness is supreme. And if you don’t know what that means, if that previous sentence put your teeth on edge, then this episode is probably one that you especially need to hear.
My guests are Dr. Cedrick Smith and Tosca Davis, two Black activists, professionals, and, most recently, filmmakers. Their film, To Be Us, is making the film festival circuit, receiving accolades for telling the stories of Black professionals whose primary disruptive life event is living and working in a world that does not value divergence from the norm of whiteness. The question that they ask all of their interviewees is, “What is your working while black story.”
I am giving it two episodes not because it is easy listening, but because it is essential listening. I’ve seen the film; it is both powerful and necessary and I am eager to be a part of exploring the themes in our next two episodes.
We began our interview during election week in November of 2020. The whole nation was tense, but I was especially struck by the physical uncertainty for Cedric and Tosca in Texas.
Friends walked into the apartment building and this white guy said, what are you doing here inward? And, you know, I was like, OK, it's already starting. So regardless of who wins as a black body, there's going to be terrorism stuff. We're going to feel it. So it doesn't have to be physical. I'm always going to be very protective of my body and I'm already conscious of where I am as a black person. I've already been socialized to be conscious of my body at all times, regardless of where I am.
This is Tosca Davis, an activist, mystic, a storyteller, and the co-CEO of To Be Us Productions. We will hear more from her soon.
But as far as feeling safe, I wouldn't say you would find too many black people who are going to feel safe in either.
In fact, back then to that, we already won and family members are still like that, we have text groups that are like, hey, look, if you are by yourself, be very aware where you are. Be very aware of your surroundings. You know, go with somebody, gas your car up in the daytime. These are literal things that we're texting to one another during this time. So, yeah, like Tosca, we don't never feel safe.
This is Dr. Cedrick Smith, he is an activist, an athlete, a writer, a comic book collector, and a physician. Very much a Renaissance man and a co-CEO of To Be Us Productions.
I just don't think that I was at my country club the other day hitting balls and we have a practice area and there was a guy's house and he's always trying to police. And I put that in quotes, police the practice area.
So every time I come out there, he's always like, hey, you replace the divets? Are you doing it? I'm playing golf since I was seven years old. I'm fifty. And so I'm like, yeah, I'm doing all of that. But he's he's like surveilling and policing. So he he comes out of his house when he's walking toward me. And I was like, OK, who wants to do walking toward me? So I just kind of moved away from it, first of all, because the would not want to be close to him, but he was going to get one of the golf carts.
And I said, I hope not coming out here, police me like you always try to do with people that have the driving race. And I'm not really trying to please you. So that's what you always kind of do when I'm out here just trying to get golf balls. And so we kind of got into it and it ended up this kind of a back and forth ended up with him at some point saying like, well, how to get my gun and shoot you.
It got that elevated, you know, and I mean, so you like, OK, this is you know, I'm just trying to tell you, I don't I don't need you to police me. Let me hit my golf balls and enjoy it. That's why I'm out of here and about. And you leave me alone.
Well, and I imagine that that there's no way that that feels like just an empty threat that is easily passed off, like, you know,
He knew what he was doing. He noticed that. I mean, you know, I don't think he was going to go get a gun and shoot me. I didn't. But again, you know, just the fact that you went there, you know. Right.
Well, and if you're a member of a community where actually that sort of violence is not even an aberration like that, deep in the psyche to be like, yeah, people make threats and that happens to black. Yes.
Well, that's it is it is a nationally happy moment, but I hear in both of your voices a level of concern for physical safety and well-being. That is not part of my experience. And, you know, it feels draining just to live my experience. I cannot imagine having all of those other levels of care on top of that, which is one of the things that we'll be discussing some in today's episode.
As you just heard, Cedric loves to golf. He plays many sports: football, basketball, tennis, ping-pong. He was the QB for the Dallas Carter Cowboys the year before the won the title. But it is golf that is his passion.
And the thing I love about golf is there's a there's a singularity to it. There's a. Not having to rely on, you know, other teammates, which I enjoy that part of team sports, but in golf it's really about you versus the course, you versus your feelings, your anxieties.
You're feeling the pressure and having to hit a particular shot at a certain time. I tell people all the time there's I happen to have played golf at a very high level. I played college, golf. I was an all-American two times. And I tell people all the time that there, for me, there was no feeling greater than winning a golf tournament.
I don't care if it was with 10 guys or with a tournament where I won out of, you know, 50 to 100 people winning a golf course. There's a there's a habit I get that I can't really explain.
When you look back at all the work that you did to improve, to get better, all the failures you had, where you were in contention and you got third place because you missed a shot here or you mismanaged the last three holes or you couldn't manage your emotions well or you didn't win. The shot was called for. You weren't able to pull it off.
And it's disappointing. And then getting up from that and learning from it and going back out and executing it and winning, there's no feeling like that.
Even the feeling of being in contention, you kind of know where other people are at that level.
And for me, there's just there's just no feeling like it. I cannot explain it. I can explain to people. I just. The joy that it is giving me, the pain is giving me the learning lessons it's given me is just an incredible sport, incredible sport. And I'm glad my dad was able to teach me the teach me the game.
Cedrick hasn’t had much time for golf recently. He works in preventative health and has been hit hard by COVID.
Early on, we were seeing patients were really, really sick and not knowing exactly what was wrong with them. And so. With that, as a medical director, you're trying to come up with protocols and real time for your staff, you're trying to balance family members who are not quite as aware you as you are with what's going on, telling friends, warning them of what what is to come.
It's been a lot more strenuous in that regard.
Cedrick has also been busy with his activism work and his film-making, which we will hear more about later on in the episode. But I also want to introduce you to Tosca Davis, Cedrick’s co-CEO at To Be Us Productions.
Tosca. What are some things that fill your time right now that give you joy?
Oh, thank you for asking that question. I really appreciate that what brings me Joy right now, several things. So first of all, I'm going to be honest, I love watching TV. I love watching movies. I you know, that's my escapism. My belief system is that most people have a drug and my drug of choice is storytelling. And so I like it in the form of, you know, visuals and 3-D. And so that's why I love streaming services and I can watch anything that I want to watch.
Sci fi fantasy, romance, rom com and fantasy are my two favorite genres. I was born in the 70s and I grew up on big gesture rom coms.
I've even tweeted Tom Hanks and let him know that he ruined my romantic life because I that my life would be that way because I grew up on great rom coms with great soundtracks. And so that is bringing me joy right now. It would bring me joy regardless if there were if there were a pandemic or not.
I just loved TV and film.
The other thing that brings me joy is, well, I already talked about that. I love storytelling. So within that I love mythology. So under the umbrella of mythology and storytelling and symbolism, I study astrology. I study tarot. I'm now taking classes to be an herbalist. So, you know, some people may call me strange and I rather love that. I love that moniker. I love to be called strange, but I kind of like to do things that are that are unique.
Tosca is imbued with deep curiosity and an omnivorous intellect.
I think I don't really have I don't think I had a problem being strange. I knew that I was strange early on as a child.
Even my family has called me strange, but I've never I've never was made to feel bad about that, really. And not that I didn't have. You know, it's not that I have didn't have a you know, I had an upbringing that was a little traumatic, but still, I was never that was never told that I was abnormal or strange.
But I knew I was because I knew I had different belief systems and different interests than other children.
So, for instance, I when I was when I was smaller as a I guess maybe around eight, nine years old, I want to be an architect. And so I wanted to I spent hours drawing floor plans and reading better homes and gardens and checking out drafting books and mechanical drawing books. No other child was doing it, but nobody told me that I couldn't do it. So I. I don't feel like I was made to feel bad.
And, you know, one of the things Tosca talks about with her being, quote, weird and strange and an open toast is very she the openness that she has is she has this talent of freeing people of of you know, she always talks about. People being given the permission to be who they are or having a belief system that may change, or you may have thought this one time, but hey, if that doesn't fit with your inventory now, when you do your yearly inventory, you can change it.
And that was one of the things with her that I must say with me was very freeing. I mean, there are there are a lot of similarities that we have to go into something that was healing, which is medicine. She did social work. So there are some commonalities there.
But also, I must say, I was inspired by her in regard to how free she was in navigating this world that was very harsh and harmful and very rigid at times.
But her saying that you can do this, you can be this.
If you feel like doing this, you can do it.
You know, so there's a there's a permission quality that she has that is very endearing and and much, much, much appreciated. She has definitely inspired me in so many different ways.
And I couldn't have thought of anyone more to to that I would have enjoyed more than working on this project of creating a film production company that's so out of the blue for both of us,
I know that. Thank you, Cedrick. I feel so honored. I appreciate all those words.
Tosca began her studies pursuing architecture.
And then I took one psychology class and that changed everything. So everything became about human behavior. And that's when I made it a social work and psychology and became a social worker.
And then I'm not a social worker anymore because of what I've learned. As someone who's very intuitive and can be very empathic and sensitive, people like me tend to go into the helping field or the social work field where it will definitely it will wear us out because we feel everything. So because I felt everything, I decided to leave social work, but I still want to help people.
So I went into nonprofit and so I worked for the United Way. I work for Children's Aid Society. I work for Planned Parenthood, I work for some major nonprofits and I work for the Sickle Cell Association. And that's where I met Cedrick.
Cedrick was on the board and Tosca was an employee at the Sickle Cell Association. This was 15 years ago, in 2005.
What were your first impressions of one another?
I guess for me, I was a board member and I just remember Tosca had really big hair. And no, I mean, at that time, I think she had kind of like a reminder there was a movie kind of came from that movie by M. Night Shyamalan with Samuel Jackson as Mr. Glass.
Yeah, I care about my mother and broken or something like that. Yeah, unbreakable. Unbreakable.
And I just remember one day, seeing as I was a board member living across the sea. And the thing that struck me was this kind of like in the movie, Mr. Glass had this kind of like hair that was like their signature and our hair was big in that way. And then from there, I remember, I think at the time I was working on a book. And I didn't have a computer at home here.
Cedrick was co-writing a book with a friend, coming into the office to work.
And so one day, Tosca and I got into a conversation and she said, "Well, Cedrick, what where did you work on the book?"
And I said, I'm working on it at work, on the computer, at work. So why don't you work on another computer work? Because I don't have a computer at home.
And she started laughing and she's like, What do you mean? And what, you don't have a computer at home? And so I was like, no, I don't. I just work on it and, you know, it at the job. And so after hours.
And so she said, no, you should have a computer.
And I said, OK, all right. Well, look, look, you give me the money, I'll go back if you and set it up for you. And that's kind of where. You know, our friendship took off. Got to set it up in my house, and from there we just developed a very good friendship.
Five or six years ago, Cedrick began getting more involved in activism spaces, especially after the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Jordan Baker.
And so with that, I found myself going to various groups, sitting down, listening, being quiet. It doesn't matter that you, a doctor in those kinds of settings, sitting back in the back, being helpful and learning what it's like to advocate, learning what it's like to be organizing people and protesting and what is to come and what is to be expected. Learning from organizers locally of how to have specific asks and executing that and trying to get incremental change in this big system that you're trying to fight and get rectified and change.
But we would find ourselves going to a lot of these black spaces dealing with black issues that was in regard to uplift or liberation or what have you, dealing with police brutality, economic disenfranchisement, whatever the the the oppressive ism was at the time, we were dealing with these things at these meetings and what we came away with many times and not every time, but many times was that the culprit in the room was not addressed.
And so for us, there was this sense of, yes, you're doing the work, but we felt like you can't do the healing.
You can't get to the crux of the issue or to the solution until you have. Gotten to what is the cause and the cause in these situations was. White supremacy, and no one was saying that no one was talking about the actual system that is the culprit.
So with that fast forwarding, one day we're in a car which is driving.
And I just was I think I was going to pick up a trophy from a golf tournament that I just won like the week prior. And course, I wasn't able to play in this particular time because I was injured.
But we were talking I was like, you know, Tosca I'm just I'm just frustrated when I go because I just come back from another incident where it didn't go in on the culprit of the situation.
And I said, I'm just tired of coming away feeling as though we're not dealing with the culprit.
And as we talk back and forth, I said, look, why don't we just start a production company and we'll make films that we want to make to get the message out, that we want to get dealing with the issues that we want to deal with and we're going to go from there.
And that's kind of how it literally started. And so fast forward, we try to come up with a name. As you can imagine, Tosca has many names of trying to name a company and she had astrological names. I was more binary in my head, my approach to coming up with a name. And then I just lean back one day. And I said, you know what? I just want people to understand what it's like to be us.
And I say, just like that. And Tosca looks at me said, and that's it. That's that's the title of the company. And I was like, What do you like to be us? To be US productions?
And we were like, we talked about him a little bit. And it was like, that's it. And then I'm there. Now you're trying to figure out what you want to do with regard to making a film and. We decided to do a walking while black story with stories that are coming from from different storytellers, because we knew that one work is universal to talk, we'll probably get a little later.
She had a personal experience. You had a disruptive experience in our own life in regard to working on Black Story.
And three, we knew that we would be able to find content. The only challenge was what would would we be able to get the people to tell their stories on film?
You will be amazed or maybe not. How many people have never been asked to do something? I've never been asked to participate or engage in a project outside of their family or their business or work. But I do believe that when you ask people something, they think about it and they say, well, OK, then no one's ever asked me that before, but Cedrick did a lot of good research and one on one face to face with people.
And I would like for him go into how he did that.
I would go to restaurants where I knew that black people frequented. I would go to other black spaces, lounges and hangouts and, you know, odd spaces where black people were with this little literally black book that I had with a pen and sit down and kind of intrude a little bit as much as I could and ask them, hey, you know, I'm doing this research project.
Would you mind if I could talk to you for about five or ten minutes? Many people were receptive, and they would tell their stories. And I would say, you know what, driving while black means, right? And I was like, yeah, oh, yeah, you know, that is that's where you deal with the police brutality and stop by the cops and so forth. One black person doesn't know that. And then I would say, well, what about working while black?
And to a person, you know, if I was talking to a group of four people, three people would immediately say, yes, I do have a story. I know exactly what you're talking about. I do have an experience at work where this happened or that happened.
But invariably, what would also happen, that fourth person who said they didn't have a story, they would say, you know what, after hearing their stories, I do have one. I knew then we were on to something.
I probably have 40 stories literally in this black book that I have where, you know, some of the people are actually in the film. Most of them aren't.
But, you know, from the film and the story us that we got, we were quite pleased and shocked and surprised and amazed by how well they told their stories and just we were humbled and humbled by their stories.
So that's, that's kind of how we got. The people to come in was just basic guerrilla interviewing tactics and going to churches and so forth and just asking people, hey, we're doing this, could you come and tell this on film?
Yeah, and you know, someone who has seen the film, they do tell their stories with. With vulnerability and openness and, and they're you know, they are divergent to an extent, you know, it's they're different manifestations, as you said, of the same theme of feeling silenced and marginalized.
And you are you are both obviously care and tell the story as well. But especially for this, I guess I'd like to ask you both the question that you ask in your film Tosca. What is your working while black story?
Well, as as someone said in the film, I have several working well black stories, but the one that stands out the most would be the most recent one, which was a catalyst for the film
I need to interject here as a podcaster. It is very important to Tosca, to Cedrick, to the very ethos of To Be Us Productions to hold individuals and organizations to account. Part of this truth-telling is directly naming names.
I believe this is incredibly important…but it also puts me in a potentially legal space as a podcaster. So, here I am, caught between my resonance and my potential liability. As a sort of half-measure, I am editing out the names that Tosca said, but I am linking a Facebook post by To Be Us that specifically names both the organization and the individual that are players in Tosca’s working while black story.
Tosca was working for a very well-known, national non-profit that specializes in women’s health (more specificity is available in the link in the show notes). It was 2014, her last year working there,
And I was called into the office of my manager, who happens to be the vice president of Human Resources, and she asks me and she shows me screenshots from my Facebook page, my personal Facebook page.
And she said, Tosca, just want to make you aware of this. And I want to ask if you you know, if you were OK with taking these down. Somebody reported that they feel if they feel offended by these posts and the post was they the post was about white supremacy and racism, oppression, whiteness.
Tosca was surprised, shocked, especially since the national wing of the organization had just sent her to a training on bias, racism, and white supremacy. Tosca wondered, was it a volunteer that had reported her? No, it was a co-worker. You can find her name and role in the link in the show notes. This co-worker had taken a screen shot of the post and turned it into the VP of Human Resources. The co-worker felt offended that Tosca would feel a particular way towards white people.
And I immediately told my manager that I was not going to take it down and they were going to deal with it.
The VP of HR wanted to set up a meeting to discuss the incident, which Tosca thought was absurd.
When it was time to have the conversation. She was treated as though she was the victim and I was the aggressor, as she just really felt offended and she felt like I was being racist and she knows I was being racist.
And if we need to be brought up, that they need to have some type of training. And if she is, she knew people who could train us in all kinds of whiteness, all kind of white madness. This is what I call it. And so I quit that day or the next day, I can't remember. But I definitely was not going to stay in an organization that claims to help women, just not black women, especially if you look at the the C Suite, you know, it is all white people except for one black person, one that's not even the stakeholders.
That's not the community that they're serving. And none of them were child bearing age. So, again, you're talking about white women who should give up their positions to people who actually like the community. So all of that live to.
Do you use that?
Let me just jump in unison and evocative term white madness. I tell me a little bit more about that because I feel like it it bears unpacking. I feel like there's probably more there.
OK, a white madness to me is the is kind of the audacity of white people to feel offended and the performance of it all, because that's what that's what I was getting. I was giving a giving a performance, especially from someone who claimed to be a white feminist. It was is the performance of being outraged and having the audacity to even challenge the whiteness or challenge someone who assumes that they are better than I am, are so that I am not not as knowledgeable as they are.
So that they are the norm and I am the person on the outside, so that's how I describe madness, is that it's a performance that I've seen white people do and honestly, more specifically, white women. And I can go into more detail about what I think is white women, because they are trying to move, you know, in a parallel position of white men, white men. Typically, they already have that position. So they don't really do a lot of performing.
A lot of their violence comes in in a very silent undercover way. The white women, they tend to be very performative when it comes to their violence towards women, especially toward black folks, especially in the workplace. That makes sense.
Yeah, thank you for taking the time
so that so that was my working while black story and I'm especially offended and I wanted to to say for two reasons, again, because this is a nonprofit and non-profits typically get away with this type of violence and trauma toward their black employees.
It's I've heard it is been discussed so many times in circles about, about this type of treatment. And personally, I can tell you that I did dabble in for profit and corporate before I worked in oil and gas. I never had any incidents of sexism or racism in that. And this is the Fortune 500 company.
Now, I'm not saying that it didn't happen, is just I didn't experience it. I think the Non-profit is very relaxed. And because they help people, quote unquote, like I said, they get that they can get away with doing these types of things.
So that's my working while black story. I still remember it again is one of the reasons why we made the film, because I just didn't want anyone to get away with that anymore.
The stakes felt especially high for Tosca. From her perspective, this co-worker was out to get her fired.
And if you're going to get me fired, that means I'm not going to be to pay my mortgage. I'm not going to be able to eat.
I'm not going to pay my car. Note that is a that is a violence and a trauma that black people feel. You are putting my livelihood at risk because you are fragile. So that's why I keep using the words violent and traumatic and terrorism. I'm not trying to be hyperbolic at all. That is exactly how black people feel. We feel terrorized. We feel traumatized. We feel abused when white people feel like they have been offended by something.
So that, again, that's the most interesting part is that I literally have left a conference on all of these topics and and dare to post anything on my Facebook page about it. And so that's the white man is right.
And yeah, we I think especially white America, wouldn't we love to think that it could all just be taken care of in a three day conference and then we would never have to talk about it again? Because what you said of the feeling of. It's it's a powerful and can be a powerfully oppressive thing, white discomfort, and I feel like, you know, I I as I continue to grow and avail myself to different stories, I just realized that the unwinding from me will be a lifelong task that I can, you know, either keep pushing to the side or be able to embrace, even as it makes me uncomfortable, because frankly, I mean, it's my discomfort is not on the same level as, you know, someone's livelihood or the safety of their bodies.
And I think that there is especially for for for me as a white viewer of your film, you know, there were places where I was like, I have done something like that. I have been on the other side of perpetrating you know, there is one one guest talked about a dismissiveness towards Black History Month, you know, as far as people were talking. And I thought, oh, like I know as a kid, you know, for whatever mix I was a part of, I talked about like Kwanzaa and why did we have to talk, you know, and like it was Christmas.
And I thought, like, I could see myself in those stories. And and there there is something to seeing the pain that is inflicted. Like it's it can't we cannot continue to imagine that they're just passing comments and feel like I'm just I'm just talking.
And so, yeah, that I think there is there's a powerful thing that white viewers need to see with the spirit of inquiry of where am I in these stories, because there are enough that we will find ourselves there. And it's important.
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Cedrick, what is your working while black story?
Oh, man. I mean, where do even begin? I mean I mean, yeah, I'm a practicing physician. You know, I've gotten anything from one in particular I talked to said, you know, how many stories are out there? I mean, I could go ad nauseam with that one in particular.
So one day when I'm on medical assistant is crying in the break room and I went over and asked, or it's not something that we're going to sit and just kind of play like it doesn't exist. I'm going to sit down as the medical director and say, hey, look at you, OK, what's going on?
She said, Dr. Smith, I'm tired of this. I'm like, well, what's what's happening is I'm tired of when patients come in and they ask, is it Dr.
White or black? I'm like, OK. And I'm like, well, what what do you like? Well, he's black and then the patient will go, Well, is there a white doctor I can see? Was there another doctor I can see? And so I'm like, OK.
I said, look, I mean, yeah, you're going to get that is excuse me is not the first time that I've experienced racism in the setting of being a doctor who happens to be black, you know, being a black doctor, but seeing the pain on her face, knowing how hard we worked to have the types of ratings that our clinic gets, like, you know, you probably Google Review us were like four point seven out of five.
And we really take very much pride in that. And they know that it comes from all of us working very diligently and hard and making sure that the patient is treated well.
And she, she also mentioned how she notices how when the patients come out from the visit with me, how happy they are, how they end up saying, like, wow, you know, he was really into my diagnosis. He really showed a lot of empathy and care, you know, and even gave me his card and said, like, you can call me 24 hours a day, you have a problem. These are types of things. It's just natural what we do and how we execute our patient care.
And so she see, so this doesn't happen to be a woman.
She happened to see this kind of dichotomy between how they are when they first come in, when they're prejudging to having the actual visit to leaving and seeing this kind of duality of the racism on the front end and then having this wonderful experience with the doctor that they didn't want to see in the first place.
And the only reason that they didn't want to see him was because, well, not knowing that the doctor was he or she knowing that this doctor was black. And so that that and I remember that date. I remember going into the restroom after I talked to her and I remember I cried. I just remember I was like because I didn't realize the kind of the micro trauma that even my staff was going through as they were trying to, quote, protect me or, you know, having to deal with this.
And it just happened to the point for this particular person where, you know, it broke them. They were tired of seeing because they know what they mean to me.
They know how hard we all work and how hard I work to to practice my craft. And so that's one. I mean, I remember being in a room one time, you know, I have my white coat on. Is this, you know, medical director, all the big name, everything. I'm talking to this guy and he I mean, literally for like five minutes, ask him questions about his.
No problem. You know, what medications are you taking? Blah, blah, blah, going through the whole rigmarole. And he looks and says, wait, when is the doctor coming in? And I'm like, Mom, he wasn't blind yet.
Twenty twenty vision. I'm like, I'm the doctor. And he just had this look on his face like, oh, and so I mean, I had one time where this one, this really hurt this, this was all of them hurt.
But this is really painful because it was a child I was seeing a kid came in. The kid must have been three, four maybe, and was with the mother and nothing to get out like a sore throat.
I was reading a chart kid, a little sore throat. So I walk in any time I know children are going to be in the room. I kind of want to come out a little more animation. You know, I'm kind of like big kid at heart. I love seeing children when they come in. I rarely see them in our urgent care setting. They typically take them now to urgent care pediatric locations, not ours. But occasionally I gets on well, anyway, this walk into the room and the little child goes, Mom, there goes a nigga like that.
And and I and it the shock of my face.
As I looked at the mom, I remember I kind of turned to when I said where, you know, trying to be funny, trying to diffuse it, trying to deal with it at the same time. And then the mom just looks at me like I don't know where she got that from.
And so I went through the visit professionally. I saw the patient obviously treated her for her strep throat or otitis or earache.
I'm sorry not to use medical terms or earache and treated, but I just remember going home that day and I just I just cried like a baby. In her I mean, now that was piercing that a three year old or four year old child that was, you know, you know, saying that I've worked all this way hard to get to where I am.
And at the end of the day, this is what I was reduced to from a three year old so that I
Don't forget about the symbols.
I want to make sure you talk about, you know, when people, you know, undress and you see certain symbols on your body. Oh, yeah.
No, I mean, I've had to see people who come in and have swastikas, you know, on it, just because you know what? I have to do a physical exam. I believe in doing a very thorough physical exam.
We do it a little differently now because of COVID, because the touching and I may see 30 patients a day. We're little more different. If if it really doesn't want me doing a hard exam on this patient. I don't do it now just because we've got to use your stethoscope so many times and clean it off and you can miss something in, you know, transfer corona to somebody else.
I'm not going to do that.
But in the normal setting, you know, I'm very thorough about doing examinations and people I've seen that. I remember one guy came in and he had a swastika around his chest. And I remember when he opened his shirt or opened his his gown for me to look at it. And it was like this moment of like he knew I saw it.
You know, he knew you know, he knew that I knew exactly what it was, and it was just that moment of pause where I still had to stay professional.
But, you know, a little bit of me was like, you know, you know, this this joking.
You know, he I mean, I don't want to curse on the show, but, you know, every every bit of me had to be like, I can just put a rating on it or not not work.
He didn't want me to, you know, look at him and take him out behind the building.
Well, and and you one of one of the interviewees was I think at that point he was a doctor, but he was reflecting on his residency and talking about just even the denial of the, the title, like the purposeful way that that was withheld from him. You know, like there they call me by my first name or they'll call me mister. And these these things that, you know, like they're, they're signaling they're signaling something that is profound. And this is this is something I'm asking out of not out of my experience, but out of my intuition.
I feel like the workplace is like it's generally a complex place to display sadness or grief.
Anger oftentimes by white men is acceptable in, you know, even like you're saying, with a cursing, like it's acceptable in certain circumstances. But to be emotionally flooded in a way of anger, sadness, I'm I'm struck that it's it's hard in general. I feel like there are particular unspoken rules as to how black men and women are, quote unquote, allowed to feel angry or sad, like there are some pretty swift penalties or judgments that are placed on them.
I’d love you to speak on that. If that has been your experience and if it has been to expand upon it or feel free to tell me I'm crazy if that hasn't been.
Well, yeah, I mean, I think that atrocities like. I was just going to say that, I mean, I know you asked and I know your podcast is specifically about the workplace, but, you know, we've been we've been taught that since birth. I have been very aware that I can't have certain behaviors.
I can't express certain feelings. I can't do things that, you know, the dominant white culture is allowed to do out in the open and free. I am in a place where I'm learning all of that. You're learning things because I'm learning things. Black people. You know, I my my plan is to to have full liberation. And so I am unlearning the oppression I'm learning. So I am when I'm loud, I'm loud. You know, as a child, you were told not to be loud or don't act like that in front of the white.
Folks don't do that in front of white folk. You know how white people look at you if you do that.
And so, you know, can you tell me a little bit more about that? Just to flesh that out? Like what what were you hearing as a kid? Like, you know, that will get you in trouble?
Well, I won't. I'll say from my personal experience, I wouldn't get in trouble. And I and I want to be specific that that was my personal experience. I do know that there were certain families that you did have to act a certain way and you did get in trouble. But it was it was it was always I was always taught to kind of make yourself small.
That's what black people do. We make ourselves small so we won't be seen. So we won't be in the way. And then if you're a black woman, is the the, the teaching is supposed to be invisible. Don't be seen. Don't be heard. Make sure your hair is not wow. Which again, I go against everything which said I already told you when he first met me, my hair was big. I work in corporate America as someone with my natural hair.
I was one of the very few black women who who actually had the hair grow out of my scalp as the hair that I presented. And that is one of the things that when I was younger, we were taught to relax our hair to make sure that it was not big or not high. So everything all of that we're unlearning as adults. But but getting back to your point that definitely, you know, will bleed into the workplace. I remember reading about this lawyer who was he was he was a lawyer.
He was he was a big black bald guy. And just his body alone was intimidating. So he had to make sure that he was not loud, that he did speak. And this is an attorney where you need to be loud. You need to get into people's faces. You need to be aggressive. You need to tell people the law. And he had to make sure that he did not intimidate the white people, make sure that he was a scary to the white people.
So my entire life is making sure that I am that seen, that I'm not heard. And so, as as I've gotten older, I have released that. And you're going to get me I'm not going to code switch. And code switching is using a vernacular are using grammar that is more palatable to white people. I typically don't use that either. I talk the way I talk with black people because I'm not good at all. Of this is exhausting.
So you may be able to imagine if I have to change my speech, I have to make sure that I'm small and to make sure my hair is straight. I have to make sure all of these things are presentable and palatable to white people. How exhausting that is. So I stopped doing it. I have no longer doing any of that. You're going to get black Tosca and you've got to deal with it.
That sounds exhausting on so many levels.
Yes. And no, yeah, just to piggy back on it, I mean, it's the same way growing up is kind of like you don't really you don't really know how to process it when you're 10 or seven or five.
You just know that it feels different that when we go over someone's house and have to be white folks, that mom was like overly or dad was like overly like, you know, when you get there, you can't do this, but you better sit still.
But it just so it was always this kind of couching being couched in this whiteness.
And in retrospect, you look at it as you're twenty five or thirty or whatever, you start and you start saying, like, man, that was so weird.
You know, I want to be who I was. I could even dream like I want to dream, you know, it was almost like there's only to a certain point. I mean, you talk a lot in your podcast and regard to disruptive events and we all go through them as humans. That loss of a spouse, illness, sickness, whatever the case may be, whatever that disruptive, even the loss of a child or a child with a disability, whatever the case may be.
But when you get the disruptive event in my life and I can speak for me is white supremacy, because when I look back at every stage of my life from being for you, from being in the fourth grade and and our teacher saying, hey, look, let's partner up.
And you're thinking you're going to partner with one of your friends and you just kind of see the guy and and, you know, everybody's kind of grabbing hands.
And then one kid leaves with white kids, says, you, I'm not part up with you. And you're like, wow, you know, we call it together. We do math problems together. And he looks at you and says, I'm not doing it because you're black. And you're sitting there in the fourth grade going what you like. How do you process that then in the seventh grade, you want to you're the best golfer in the junior golf in the area and you live a block away from the country club that you can join, that you can walk to every day and hone your game.
You look in the fence, you see people playing golf and you're happy.
You want to go do that. But you have friends who are members there. And you guys, hey, look, I like to come play the course and they just say, now you can't come play like we play basketball together.
We play football together. We hang out together, going to ride our bikes together. Why can I come over here?
And he looks and he said, what was my father's membership? And, you know, we can't have you there and you're in the seventh grade. You're 12, 13 years old. So again, it's this reboarding again.
And when I'm 18 and when I'm 20, going for this interview, for this job and when I'm this, I get told so it doesn't end. So the disruptive part for me.
Is the white supremacy, the white supremacy, and the microaggression is the microaggression of outright racism, to be quite honest with you, that I've had to deal with and I think that's what people don't realize is what we're bringing to the workplace before we even hit the door, before we even have to deal with some of the I want to say normal disruptive events that we all have.
I have to deal with how my blackness is is is viewed. I have to make myself smile.
I'm 6’4. I have to be a pretty good-looking guy, you know. But I do remember times where I had to make myself smile or my passion for a project or my passion for defending my workers and trying to get them raises or whatever the case may be, is seen not as being impassioned, but being angry.
And being written up for that, do you like wait a minute, I mean, I've written up because, you know, you all did this to this coworker of mine and I'm just kind of fighting for them to get what they just deserve, being a part of an elite center, being a part of a team that does excellent work.
So it's those types of instances I did a I did a presentation, I went to a conference, I saw the conference, I said, you know what? I'm sitting on the ice. And like, I can I can do a presentation here. If they're doing presentations like this, I know I can do one.
So the following year, I want to do a presentation that happened to be on bias and happened to be on how to connect better with patients kind of using some of the tools that I use to help the other doctors understand, hey, this is how you can make your bottom line better by, you know, being more sticky with your patients, if you will, making them want to come back and being your marketing tool for you as they go out and tell how you need to go see Dr.
Smith or go see Dr. Johnson, because they do this, this, this and this.
Well, they put me on at five o'clock, which is the last presentation. And I said, OK, that's fine. I'm still going to do a great presentation. I end up doing a great presentation. No one left typically. Do you know about these conferences? People, if you've got a presentation at five o'clock, people are trying to run out the door, do the presentation when all of the the ratings come out. My presentation was rated number one at the highest ratings of all the presentations.
So, after that, they had like a no excuse me. They after that they had a like a a gathering of all the doctors who presented and kind of like a social hour, happy hour type deal with drinks and so forth, little light bites. And when it the first thing when I walk in, one of the people were at the thing that was kind of over. It was kind of like, oh, here's the shining star, here's the Mister Presenter.
But it was done in a very reductive manner. It was done with the sarcasm. Not like you really did a great job. That was awesome what you did. It was this kind of backhanded.
You can't give me all the love that I know you would have given had Muskingum and white and I was blond hair and blue eyes and looked good. As I look. I know I wouldn't like all the star. No. And I was also told, hey, when you get back to your region, I want you to do that presentation in your region.
Do you think I ever did that presentation? Do you think the guy that was over me let me do the presentation? He never did.
He never did.
And those are the types of things. That's the exhaustion. That's where you just sit back and go, hey, man, you know, what do I have to do?
You know, how do I get rid of this this this being less than. And so it's a good thing, and that's what you see in the film
This is the part of the show where I offer three key takeaways from the conversation. And I’m still going to do that, but I want to remind you that this is just the first of a two-part series on working while black. In our net episode, Cedric and Tosca will go deeper into the stories of the film, pulling back the layers on the many levels of exclusion that Black Americans face daily in the workplace. You can find out more about their film, the production company, and the details of Tosca’s story in the show notes.
Here are three key takeaways from my conversation with Cedric and Tosca…
For more info on Tosca’s Working While Black Story: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?id=1052380424956777&story_fbid=1460604034134412
Learn more about To Be Us Productions: https://www.tobeusproductions.com/