Full PreFrontal

Ep. 181: Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth - Brave Spaces, Not Just Safe Spaces

March 26, 2022 Sucheta Kamath Season 1 Episode 181
Full PreFrontal
Ep. 181: Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth - Brave Spaces, Not Just Safe Spaces
Show Notes Transcript

As the United States becomes a land of the diverse, conversations are shifting from "how do we excel in spite of our differences" to "how we come together and thrive because of our differences." The K to 12 educational spaces are also shifting the focus from helping develop skills in academic areas to the best ways to help children develop their sense of agency and sense of identity. In order to propel such cultural transformations, we have to address the relentless and commonplace occurrences of unfavorable, negative, or even traumatic experiences associated with the insidious racial tension and racialized marginalization experienced by minorities.

On this episode, author, professor at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky and, Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth, discusses the idea of cultivating cultural humility against the backdrop of systemic and structural racism and the work that must be put in by the dominant group to create racially harmonized experiences for all. As we think about raising and educating children to master their Executive Function and demonstrate self-sufficiency, we need to prioritize thinking about racial inequalities and perspective shifts so that empathic support is extended to the marginalized individuals whose experiences of injustices may be hidden.

About Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth
Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth earned her bachelor’s degree from Earlham College, master’s degree from Ball State University, and doctorate degree in clinical psychology from Spalding University. DeDe is a full professor at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. She is also a clinical psychologist in Indiana and Kentucky who specializes in treating children and families who are affected by intergenerational poverty, abuse and neglect, and trauma.

Her focus on cultural humility (Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998) intensified over the last decade as she saw the many ways racism, sexism, and heterosexism were traumatizing people.  She has since published several articles on diversity, trauma, and cultural humility, and presents regularly on the topic. Despite all this, DeDe knows she makes mistakes every day on her own diversity journey and tries to learn from them.


About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.

Support the show

Sucheta Kamath: Welcome back again to Full PreFrontal exposing the mysteries of executive function, where we try and talk about complex topics. And deep take a deep dive into subjects that help us kind of unfold the mysteries of living successful, meaningful lives. Also, we really try to find ways to become independent, self-sufficient, and have some sort of agency over our lives. So, you know, I have said this before, but what is the mission of this podcast, the main mission is to explain what executive function is, and why it is so critical for us to talk about executive function. And those who are not in the field or not really concerned with, you know, psychology, you know, education, or cognitive neuroscience executive function term tends to feel very odd and different. But mainly, it refers to the executive nature of the prefrontal cortex, which acts more like a CEO, which is in charge of the running or running of the whole company. So, which means managing the managers managing systems develop devising a plan, having a foresight to look beyond the current moment, and we need some tools and strategies to understand how to connect to that future self, those who are in charge of children, and raising or educating we know that children, the prefrontal cortex is yet to develop. And those who are trying to lead successful lives running companies or, or leading teams, executive function is very critical, because lifelong success is very integrated with strong executive function. Take example of managing teams, what does that mean, you know, having good understanding of interpersonal relationship, reading between the lines taking perspective, showing empathy, but also moving the team along are moving the collective goals forward? So, as we think about all these issues, one thing that I've been thinking about, particularly, as I welcome you, introduce our current guests, that our 21st century life, it has gotten complicated, for a good reason. Because we as a culture and society are beginning to acknowledge the individual differences and collective differences and similarities. And particularly the gap between the two needs to be reconciled. And this can be called, as you know, conversations about race, Equity, Diversity Inclusion, but mostly it requires having us to show some sort of bravery, courage, and emotional agility to get in those spaces. And with that in mind, today's guest is going to really help us give those tools and insights so that we can get into those brave spaces with her. And we're also going to figure out why these conversations really matter. So, with great pleasure, I would like to introduce you to Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth. She earned her bachelor's degree from Earlham College, a master's degree from Ball State University and doctorate degree in clinical psychology from Spalding University where she is currently a full-time professor which is in Louisville, Kentucky. She's also a clinical psychologist in Indiana and Kentucky takes me back because I did my first clinical fellowship was in the tri state area. Ohio is the only place that is excluded from her daily experience of practice. And she specializes in treating children and families who are affected by intergenerational poverty, abuse, neglect and trauma. She has her focus of her work, and her mission is on cultural humility. And that has intensified over the last decade as she describes it that she saw the many ways racism sexism heterosexism were traumatizing for people. She has since published several articles on diversity, trauma, and cultural humility and she presents regularly on the topic. I don't know if she's going to talk about this, but she has a YouTube channel, which is absolutely darling. And I'm encouraging her to get back on it. Because it is a very intelligent ramblings as well as a clever ways of roping students into thinking reflecting and also connecting at a human level. So welcome, DeDe. How are you today?

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: Sucheta that so kind, thank you very much. I'm doing so well, I appreciate it. And thank you all for listening.

Sucheta Kamath: Yes. And I forgot to mention you also are coauthor of Case Studies in Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, which just published a second edition, I think. So, with that said, let's dive into first general questions about your interest. I know, you know, when we talk about executive function, we know that trauma and poverty have significant impact on the development of the brain, and particularly the prefrontal system, causing all kinds of chaos, and leading to behaviors or delays that can present itself as academic delays, intellectual delays, and behavioral mismanagement. So, can you talk us talk to us a little bit about this role of intergenerational poverty and that plays on those we serve who come from those areas of America?

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: Absolutely. So, trauma's really, really common, and up to the data shows about 50-60% of people, just everyday people have experienced a significant trauma before they're 18. That's a lot of people. That's a lot of people that it's affecting. And the earlier that trauma or difficulty starts that the more the impact, right, and you know, this as a neuropsychologist right under it or neurologist, because the neurons that are, fire together, wire together, right, so the more that these pathways are laid down, the more that that affects us later on. So, we're talking about things that in this regard that people don't often talk about things like sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, parental death, or parent parental incarceration, parental divorce, apparent mental illness, poverty, racism, sexism, heterosexism, I'm no, I'm forgetting some of the horrible things that can happen to people. But when we experience those things, even at a young age, and not to get us too far in the weeds here, but at 30 months old, if you look at infant's two-and-a-half-year-old kid, okay, if a child has been abused, their brain is already functioning different than a kid who's not been abused. If you show, for example, that little, little two-and-a-half-year-old faces of someone who's happy or sad or afraid, the little kids who've been abused can't identify what's happy, and what's sad, and what's afraid, as easy as the kids who've not been abused. And the little kid even at two and a half years, they can't put the words to say that's a happy, that's a sad, they don't have the feeling vocabulary, that's got big implications later on, right? Because if we're lacking those fundamental skills in terms of our brain development, that can impact us as adolescents and as adults. And later on. That said, I'll shut up here that our history is not our destiny. I think that's a big point of your whole podcast, right? That just because we have been through horrible, terrible things, doesn't mean that our life has to be a horrible, terrible tragedy, right? At any time, we have the power to say, this is not how the story ends. And I'm going to be above how I was raised, or I'm going to, I'm going to do better than what I've been through.

Sucheta Kamath: Well, I think it's now when you break it down. Specifically, it is kind of heart wrenching to hear. But as you mentioned, this kind of trauma. I, to me, it's also scratching the surface. Trauma is always associated with shame. And you know, it's less often blame but more often shame, so there may be some underreporting there. And secondly, I think trauma can be culture, like the way you are raised could be a family culture, there was a great story of the vaudeville artist whose biography recently got published. And this was a story of a family who performed traveling performers, performing troupe and this was turn of the 20th century. And in that vaudeville act, the child would be picked up and thrown off the stage into the orchestra pit, or off the stage. That was their act. And so, this chart, you know, this man, young man became the first very important character and I'm forgetting his name, of course, but in in the silent movie era in America. And as this author wrote about his, his biography, it was so interesting to hear what was considered the normal phenomenon of everyday experience for him is now we will be shocked. And eventually, the performance act continued in his teens, so eventually the mom, he became so heavy to lift for the father. So, she sewed a handle in his shirt. So, the father could pick him up to throw him off the stage. And he would get broken. I mean, you know, broken bones and bruises. So anyways, can you comment a little bit about your thoughts about when we talk about this trauma, this the range of ways one can experience hurt and humiliation? What can that do in terms of the behaviors? And what does it show up? As these children show up in the classrooms or as these children show up on the playground? And then these adults show up or adolescents show up in the malls, you know, or these adults show up for job interviews? Can you comment that on that a little bit?

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: Yeah, so what we think of as trauma is we usually think of like a hurricane or a fire, or forest fires are terrible things like that. But what the more common kind of trauma is ongoing interpersonal trauma, it's much more common to have ongoing physical abuse, or sexual abuse, or those kinds of things. And I want to say a little bit if I could about a lot of people blame, like, oh, they'll say, oh, it's priests or Boy Scout leaders, or foster parents or whatever. Most priests are good people. Most Boy Scout leaders are good people, most foster parents are good people. Most abuse happens in the home, most abuse happens by biological parents, right? So, so sometimes we get off focus as a society, when we start thinking about, oh, we got to protect stranger danger, we got to protect there's a child perpetrator moving in from down the street, this is terrible. That's a wrong idea. Most of the abuse is happening in the home, right. And so, what happens, though, is if we know that most of the trauma is this ongoing abuse, it's really gets to that shame, you talk about right? If I'm in a car accident, and I tell you, I was in a car accident yesterday, you would say, oh, that's terrible what happened, and we could talk about it. And even if you hadn't been in a car accident, you would understand me, right? And you would say, oh, you lost all your belongings at a tornado. That's terrible. And we would talk about it, hmm. If I've been sexually abused or physically abused, I don't get a chance to talk to anybody about it. I don't get to organize it in my brain, I don't get to make a coherent narrative, I don't get to have a story that goes with it that can help me understand it, right. And that regards, it's a little bit like experiences, peoples of color experiences of racism, right? That you're like, this happened every day and every day, and I don't get to talk about it sometimes. And what happens is we don't get to form that coherent narrative that makes sense that story of what happened. And what also happens is we feel shame, and we feel alone, and we feel like, I'm the only one that this happened to. And then that's a hard place to be, because then that sense of shame prevents us from making sense of it, right. And so, we have the stigma of mental health, we have this feeling of shame, we have this difficulty putting together a coherent story of your life that all go in together that make it really tough.

Sucheta Kamath: You know, that is such an important thing. And I'm glad to see in the spaces, particularly in education, K to 12 education, I'm hearing this language of really shifting focus on from developing skills in academic area, but also developing the child's sense of agency and child's sense of identity. And for that, so much understanding has to go into that our children are coming from, as you mentioned, from those traumatic experiences, or experiences of violation of trust from people who are supposed to offer comfort and care or love. Can I explore this with you that a when you think about then trauma, and then there's to me in this country, we also are experiencing trauma related to the racial tension that we all are experiencing or enduring. So can we shift, you have done a lot of work in the area of cultural humility, humility, and this acknowledgement, understanding, and then embodying that in your presence within the spaces where diversity houses, but there's definitely structural racism has far greater impact on particular group or minorities much more than the dominant white groups. So maybe we can explore that a little bit more from your lens. 

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: I would love to talk about that. And I have to say, I'm a white person, so I'm privileged in this space, right? So, I always have to say like, I'm really likely to commit microaggressions as we talk about this, I'm really likely to make mistakes because white skin is advantaged in our society so I have to own that. And I have other privileges as well, right? I'm able bodied, right? So that that makes me more likely to commit microaggressions in that regard. So really have to understand how much privilege we have. What I like to think about it is I like to think about if you imagine society as a People say it's a level playing field, everybody has equal opportunity to get ahead. That's not the way it is right? Societies tip like this society is crazy tipped to be very diagonal, right? And the thing is, if you're playing soccer or imagine you're playing any sport, you can see how hard it is to kick the ball up field. Right? This is really hard to defend the goal down here if we're staying with that image. And so certain aspects of our demographics are privileged, and certain epics aspects are oppressed, right. And so, race is certainly one black, brown, indigenous biracial people, Asian American Pacific Islanders, certainly we have a lot of oppression. So, let's imagine a lot of people think that the site is a level playing field. And so, they say, Oh, everybody can work or get ahead if they work hard, but that's not true. Society is really tipped. And what it does is it favors some people, and it disfavors other people. So, some people are privileged, and some people are oppressed. There's no even there's no like neutrality, there's no like, oh, let's just be colorblind and keep things as they are, because how they are is not fair. How it is, is like this. And so, it's not, it's raised for certain black and brown, indigenous Asian American Pacific Islanders. I mean, we know that there's clear evidence that whether you're looking at legal oppression, or racial, educational or health, there's so many disparities, right? In addition to race, which is significant, there's gender disparities, there's privilege given to people who are cisgender instead of transgender, right, there's privileges given to people who are straight, instead of gay, or bi. There's able bodied privileges, a huge privilege that we don't talk about very often is anti-fat bias and white privilege, right? People who weigh an average of what's considered to be average weight, have far more privileges than people who are living in larger bodies. We don't even talk about that as a social justice issue. And the burden of having all multiple kinds of oppression every day is really challenging for folks, right? Because day in and day out. And of course, I'm not going to understand this as a white skinned person entirely. But day in and day out, managing and living in a world that has treats you as less than that's, that's really taxing to a person, right? And so, this is an example of that. If you look at college students, and you ask college students of color, so bipoc, color, college students, racial ethnic minorities, how often do you experience microaggressions in a classroom, right? What those students say 65% of them say, regularly, I regularly experienced microaggressions in my college classrooms, let me make it even worse than that. The microaggressions are perpetrated equally in undergraduate and graduate classrooms. So, it's not something like oh, we get better at that we grow out of it. And the microaggressions are perpetrated equally by students as faculty, we have work to do, right, like we have work to do. Because the things we say I put myself in that group I, I come in on microaggression, every single day, every day. And so, we always have to be working. That's where cultural humility comes in. That's where like cultural humility, not my idea, I stole it, right? It's somebody else's idea. So terrible, Anna Maria Garcia, but what cultural humility is, is a way for us to, to apologize, to listen to other people's lived experiences, to start to redress some of those imbalances in society. For us to not think that our own culture is superior, which is a human tendency to think our culture is the best, and to really lean into culture instead of leaning out because we've been taught our whole lives not to talk about cultural differences.

Sucheta Kamath: Okay, now, my brain is also trying to pull me in so many directions in response to this. So let me start with first thing that when, you know, as you quoted, some of these studies, one thing that strikes me is a lot of work is done, particularly awareness or lack thereof. Awareness work is done in college students are older. And I've heard you say this before, and I kind of have noticed as myself that we have no conversations about these things in K to 12. Education.

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: Oh, don't get me started. Okay. So let me...

Sucheta Kamath: So, when we talk about having racial humility, where are these conversations need to begin? You know, there's great research that is done in the area of development of white identity. And as every person of minority undergoes the development of minority identity, the white dominant culture does not have that process. There are no milestones to hit. And that to me is such a telling of a missed opportunity. Cultural opportunity, right. And I as a person, Indian person, growing up in India being dominant brown culture, Brown was not the issue. It within that there was a caste issue. So, not even caste but religion issue that I grew up in a majority dominant Hindu religion, not because I was not living in the dominant Muslim neighborhoods or Christian neighborhoods, India does have pretty large minority religions as well. But it was only after coming to us, which is dominant Christian culture. I was asked to explain Hinduism, which I will start began to fumble because I didn't have I don't, I don't know how to tell you what Hinduism means, because I live it. So, I feel that I genuinely feel for my white contemporaries, and their children are their parents that you never had to explain what white means. Now, certainly, every brown person and I get into so many spaces DeDe, where I'm asked to explain what white people should do in response to equity, diversity, inclusion and all the agenda that should talk about assimilation. So, it is really a disadvantages and unfair. And it's an incredible predicament where the dominant culture gets to say, I'm sorry, I don't know what do you want me to do?

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: And listen, if I can riff on that for a while, like forty hours, okay? So, if you look at research, again, most white parents, okay, so roughly about 70% use a colorblind approach when they're raising their kids. Okay? We don't see color, we all bleed red. everybody's the same inside, there's good people and bad people that are black and good people or bad people that are white, its color doesn't matter. Color doesn't matter, honey. And then if a child asks, Mommy, why is that man so black? When they see a man in the grocery store? The parent says, oh, we'll talk about it later. And then that conversation never happens, right? Never. So, what's the child learn? I'm not supposed to talk about that I'm not supposed to seek out even though color shows up in skin and eye color and hair texture and 1000 ways. We're not supposed to acknowledge that, right? So, most kids, white kids are raised with a colorblind approach. Right? Now, I'm not throwing parents under the bus, parents thought they were doing a good thing by raising kids with a colorblind approach. So, I understand where that's coming from. The other challenge is that due to redlining, due to historical segregation of neighborhoods, we are very segregated by race in the United States, and very segregated also by social economic status, right. So literally, you can live your whole life and be in these enclaves of whiteness, or Catholicness, or middle classes, or whatever it is, and, and not see how differently people are treated that or who are different than you, right. And so that also tends to contribute to like this whole idea of other rising, right, like thinking like, other people are different than me, I don't, I can't connect with other people. And so we are, as you know, we tend to put people in categories, we tend to think categorically. And so, we get these categories in our head of other equals bad. And that's really problematic, because if we don't know any other people to challenge that, if we don't know any, whatever it is, Muslim people, or Hindu people, or, you know, Buddhist people or whatever, then we think, well, all the only people I know are our Christian people, or middle class people, or whatever the thing is, and we don't get past that. So that those are really problematic ways that our society is structured, to keep us in our little enclaves, right. Meanwhile, if people of color daily have to interact and adjust and accommodate to the system is not designed for, for people to succeed, and that's really stressful and on its own accord.

Sucheta Kamath: And, you know, I always think about executive function lens here, because if you there the three hallmark signature features of executive function, or rather, proficiency is strong, you know, inhibition skills, ability to say no more than saying yes to everything in the world or to the input. Second is working memory that your capacity to hold on to multiple pieces of information, particularly disorganized ones, to create some order and structure and impose some rules in it. So, you can either follow instructions, process information, compare and contrast complex ideas, and then also hold on to dissonance. I'm feeling a little bit stressed out that I've been scrutinized as a person, you know, who's not thinking broadly or whatever it is. And lastly, is mental flexibility. And as you were mentioning this one particular thing, all the research and diversity talks about having some but who doesn't conform or is out of the realm of predictable or majority creates some sense of tension. And this tension requires reconciliation, and that reconciliation itself is mental flexibility. So, to me, the most homogenous group in America is the white, white group. It is the most isolated and is least exposure to diverse diversity. And the diverse people who are minorities are a lot more experienced with other minorities. Yes. And they recognize even the subtle minor differences amongst their group, and yet see the cohesion. So, I see the adaptive flexibility is more exercised in practice, and put to test in that way. Do you see that way?

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: Right. I totally see that. Because if you're white, you can choose to be in white spaces most of the time. Right? And that doesn't really push you to grow. Yes. So where does the growing happen that you're describing in your brain? Right? I think the other challenges, and I'm going to say some stereotypes that are really problematic, right? That people, but when you hear things over and over and over in our society, you come to put them together, even though it doesn't make sense, right? So, my analogy would be like, you put a with b, our brains always want to do A and B together. We don't want to our brains don't really want to think they don't they want all agree, they just agree. 

Sucheta Kamath: Thinking hurts, thinking and deep thinking hurts more thinking hurts more, don't you think?

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: It's the worst of all, like, we really don't want to deep think. So, when we hear things over and over. And here's the stereotype part, right? When we hear black man equals dangerous, or gay person equals flamboyant, or white person equals entitled, or Muslim equal terrorist, or Latin X person equals illegal, like we hear these horrible things over and over that aren't true. But our brains start putting them together and start putting them together. And then what people often do is they say, I don't have those biases. I'm a nice person, I'm progressive on this, I'm that I don't have any biases. But we have them and we're better off. Here's interesting, this is so interesting. People who say they're colorblind actually commit more microaggressions. And people who admit they have biases. So just for us to start to say, I've got biases, like, I'll give you an example of one of mine. I grew up thinking gender is a binary; I grew up thinking there's men and women. And now to think about assigned male at birth, assigned female at birth, gender, non-binary, transgender, gender fluidity, I have to grow in that regard. They as a pronoun, I have to grow in that regard, right? So, I'm fighting a bias of my 55 years of thinking as gender as a binary. So, I have to make myself grow in that area.

Sucheta Kamath: You know, I think, and again, you are fully embodiment of that cultural humility to say, I tend to make mistakes, I have examples of, of my own lack of discretion, and your openness to get in this space with me, knowing I'm a person of color and as I describe some of these experiences, from my perspective. And so, I'm also hearing one wonderful invitation to our whole society, is we need to kind of really demonstrate this bravery of soul. Can you talk a little bit about what that means? And before you get onto this topic, I also wanted to reflect one of the things about how every step of the way I have encountered experiences that have shaped and I'm glad that they did, and I feel life, well lived his life of challenge, you know, not life that comes easy, very early on in my career. When I came from India, and one of my specializations as a speech and language pathologist was in voice disorders, as you know, we call everything disorder, and stuttering. And so, when I came, I, my first job was in Boston. I was given our department head was about to retire and she ran transgender groups, particularly male to female transition, and one of the primary roles of a speech language pathologist is to help with the voice change, because voice is such an important aspect of your identity. And here I am, barely two years in this country had to face a roomful of 15 transgender women. Without any nobody ever even asked me. Have you ever met a transgender person before? I got no education about it.

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: And I would guess that you listened. And you listen to people's lived experiences. And you learned and you learn that each person has their own story. And you learned what each person needs. And you adapted what you were doing to make sense for those people. And I would guess that when you look back on that point in your life, you'll think I learned and I grew so much in that, yes, it was uncomfortable, but I learned, and I grew so much. And if we can just lean into being uncomfortable, sometimes we have so many opportunities to grow. If we could just say, yes, this is uncomfortable, but don't leave, stay here in this all black space, if you're white, stay here in this all gay space, or stay here in this space, whatever. And don't just go away from it, because there's so much we can learn. And that's those spaces. 

Sucheta Kamath: Yeah. And, you know, to your point, I think, one I, the way I interpreted from my little 25-year-old’s perspective, this is what people do. So, I first accepted it thinking that I'm I must not having awareness of transgender individuals must be my lack of cultural exposure to America. So, one that was that second I come from India, we have ???, which is one, you know, we have so many beautiful ways that Gods manifestation can be captured. And one such cap captured imagination of humans about how to think of God is half man, half woman. And so, I grew up in that culture thinking that that's normal thing to have half qualities of man and woman. And third, as you said, once I got into those spaces and had the opportunity, one of the wonderful things that we do in our field is do case history, a detailed deep dive into life story of a person to understand what the need, what is their need, that they want to solve. And I cannot tell you DeDe close to 90% of people I interacted with in that first five years of my career in this particular aspect, which was only 10% of my entire patient population was they had attempted suicide. And that is a profound life altering decision. Or rather decision I have to be a woman otherwise my life doesn't mean what it needs to mean was a profound telling to me that this is something not a choice, or this is not something done in a frivolous way. But I grew up grew so much. And one of transgender woman became a very close friend of mine and my children, we would go to their house and I've taken my babies, you know, so it just changed the way my, my family, little family, but I remember even my secretary would kind of, you know, to, like make fun of people, she had no exposure, other than seeing somebody in the waiting room, you know?

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: It's so easy to other eyes, people when we don't know but then when we get to know individual people that that's the whole key of breaking down the stereotypes, right? So, when you meet that, like, at first what people say is like, Well, Mr. Michael, our neighbor's gay, but he's not like other gay people. He's really nice. And then, but the more Mr. Michaels or Mr. Manuel's or whatever it is that you meet the more Latinx people or indigenous people or whatever it is, the more that your brain starts to open a little bit. And then you're like these things that you put categories of like, all people who are this are this way, we have to challenge that now. I'm going to challenge you a little bit here challenge white listeners right now. Because I think white listeners tend to be like, sometimes, oh, I'm progressive. Oh, I'm liberal. And we're the biases show up the most is like, oh, but you voted for Donald Trump, oh, I have a million biases and stereotypes about you. I have nothing to say to you anymore. If you have a MAGA hat on. That's not helpful. Not helpful, right? So, we always have to be challenging. All of us have stereotypes, right? And we always have to be pushing ourselves to grow past those. I think part of the problem too, is that we always want to appear culturally competent, we always want to appear like, oh, I've got this managed, I know I can deal with any person in a situation. I can deal with a person from India, a person from a Hindu person at this Buddhist I can do this and this and this. And it's like well, so we tend to like give a superficial veneer of understanding, instead of listening and instead of knowing that we have some space to grow, and that's not helpful either, right? Because we want to come across as competent. The thing I always think like whenever you tell anybody there's a stage theory, you know what he kind of stage theory. Everybody always wants to be at the last stage. They're like, Oh, of course I'm at the apex, that's really lonely. It's lonely up here at the top. But you know, I went through all those other stages. And I'm so amazing. That's really not helpful, right? That doesn't change society's power structure like this, that doesn't give us a way to interact that's listening and like being like a child and learning and growing from each other. We don't do those things. Well, we tend to want to be the expert in the room. And that's not helpful.

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: So where did you get such a you know, to me, based on all the reading I have done about you, and even watching those fabulous videos of yours, you sound to me at heart, an incredibly curious person, incredibly open person. And, and I would say, knowing very little about you very courageous, you're, you're bold, to face bad news. If, based on if you ran into a faux pas, I can see you saying Yep, my bad. I'm ready to correct. So, I'm just very curious. Very curious, where did you inhabited those habits. And it goes to show at least to my point, what we know and you're a psychologist, we notice that people change with effort, you know, they have lots of temperamental gifts. But these are some of these skills, and they improve with practice. So maybe you can share a little bit about your own personal journey. How did you become this way?

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: First of all, I'm not perfect. And I make mistakes every day. And so, I appreciate the compliment. And I'm going to also say yes, but we all need to stay humble, right? Because I, again, I mess up every day. I think there's two things that are helpful. One, I grew up in a very racially heterogeneous area, I actually, this is, I grew up thinking that white people were the minority because our neighborhood was so black. Okay. And so, I remember his personal story here. But I remember when I was 12, I had a paper route. And I came home from my paper out. And I would always read the paper, the headlines and stuff when I brought home the newspaper. And I asked my mom, I said, Mom, why are the white people upset with Dayton public schools, and I grew up in Dayton. And she said, Dede, the white people are not mad at the schools, the black people are upset with the schools. And I, in my 12-year-old wisdom, I said, Mom, it says right here that the minority people are mad, the minority or the less than people, mom, there are less white people in the United States than our black people. And my mom was like, that's not true. You, you, you went to Nebraska, you visited your grandparents don't remember that a lot of the United States is white. But as a kid, I thought black people were the majority. Right? So, part of it, I bet I got lucky in that regard, from growing up in a not racially homogenous area, right. So, when I learned about privilege as an adult, when people start talking about white privilege, I'm like, Whoa, yeah, I can remember that from first grade. Because I knew I wasn't going to get hit or specters or some of the horrible things that my black classmates had, I can see white privilege for when I was tiny, like, you know, a young kid. Again, it doesn't mean that I know and understand fully my privilege, it just makes it easier. I think that I had that upbringing that it is, again, your brains wired from the very beginning to see those things. I think the other thing that helps is I fundamentally believe in whatever kind of spiritual, it doesn't matter to me what we label this thing, right. But I believe in the good in people, I really believe that people are trying to do right, no one's and I've worked with abusive parents my whole life, right? Nobody wakes up and says, let me ruin my child's life. Nope, no one is trying to be a racist. No one's trying to be an abusive parent. No one's trying to do these horrible things we do to one another. Right? So, if we can lean in to understand that people are trying to do things, the best they can. I think that gives us some space. And I guess I would add, you know, again, I sometimes when we've had so much privilege for so long, there's this lovely term called anticipatory anxiety, or we don't want to give up all the privileges we've had in our society. And I would challenge people who've had a lot of privileges by being male by being straight by being white by being middle class by being educated by being able bodied by being sent whatever the privileges citizenship privilege, that that sometimes if you think of well, why would I want to fight for social justice, right? Why would I want to change? Look, society's uneven playing field benefits me, right? Why do I Why don't want to change that? And let me tell you where the rubber really hits the road on this if I could. So, we have four kids, right? And I've spent my whole life trying to make every opportunity for our four children. But what if the playing field was level and my kids didn't have white advantage? What if the playing field was level? What if? What if I had for Muslim children or for black children or for blind children or for LGBTQ children or for I was, I would sleep differently, right? And so, we have to think of it in terms of like, if I really am serious about changing society, I'm going to, I'm going to have to advantage my kids, the people who I love nieces, nephews, grandchildren, whatever it is, they're going to get a few less advantages if I really fight for an equal playing field. Right. And I think that's a space. We don't talk about enough right now. Because we don't talk about what's social justice sounds like such a good idea. On paper, we're like, yeah, for it, it's a great idea. But when it comes down to the question of would you privilege your the people you love a little less, people are really less on board with that. And in response to that, I would say, but she would gain back a little bit of your humanity, you would gain back a little bit of your integrity, especially why people have been living so long in this jujitsu world of pretending everything's fine. And it's like, well, wouldn't you like to buy back a little bit of not buy back, but get back a little integrity? Instead of all the privileges that you have? And that seems like a pretty, that seems like a pretty good trade off.

Sucheta Kamath: You know, I think again, the, to your point, you know, calling that what is that transcend, transcending our current condition is to really kind of like seek that inner calling, you know, as you're talking about this, really, following the True North is that integrity to recognize privilege, and really not living in the space of fear of the impending doom, if I give away my privilege, I just really like to kind of remind people that if you are on the 17th, rung, you just stop climbing, the person who is not on the ladder is just doing one step, you know, they're getting on the ladder. That's it, but you're not giving up anything, your advantage of 17 rung difference is not minimized. You know, and I think that even that requires a great abstract thinking. And also, zero sum game, you know, how do I kind of think about the greater good, you know, I really enjoyed reading that. The Sum of Us by Heather McGee, which talks about by we not really addressing our inner beliefs and our preconceived notions, we are creating a society, which will be progressively and slowly cause, you know, experiences of harm for all in a collective demise, including ourselves.

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: There's a tremendous cost to living in this way that says, I don't see race. I don't see heterosexism I don't see these things. There's a tremendous cost to our to ourselves to pretend that things don't exist that do. That's expensive way to live you, that takes a lot of brain power to live that way. Right.

Sucheta Kamath: Absolutely. And so, yeah, you You're, you're right, I think, more and more people, particularly more and more highly educated and, and doesn't matter educated or not, but I think one, we need to live in more diverse communities, too, we need to have more exposure to stories of all kinds. And three, we need to truly recognize that our not knowing is a costly affair, particularly the dominant group not knowing is costing a lot to those who are minorities. So, I really appreciate your perspective. And you openly talking, there is something about a white person talking about these issues through one's own inner work. Because that can provide not only a framework, but also an invitation that everybody else can try it. So, I appreciate you being in that space.

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: I should say, we should say try this at home, like try this at home. Yeah, try, try. And I think the thing too, if I could add, when it's uncomfortable is your chance to lean in, you know, lean, lean into it right instead. Yeah. And so, so often, we're just taught, don't talk about culture, don't talk about differences. But let's find a way to talk about culture and to talk about differences. You know, and we can do that in a way that's that bring the connects people that doesn't have to be divisive, that doesn't have to be filled with guilt and shame because you know, you know, guilt and shame don't move people. If we feel like crap anytime a conversation comes up about able bodied privilege or whatever, we're not going to participate in the next conversation. So, we really don't want to lean into guilt and shame. We want to call things what they are. But absolutely, how do we move forward? In a way? How do we move forward as a society, right? And that's really lovely to do, we can do better than what we're doing.

Sucheta Kamath: Well, brilliant. So, as we come to an end, I mean, you know, you and I can talk for hours, I can see, there are so many topics you can you can speak on, and maybe you will consider coming back here again. But as we come to an end, with this particular conversation, I always love to ask my guests, or what are you reading what's been? Or what has influenced your thinking that you can recommend to our listeners, maybe they can to find some amazing insights from those authors.

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: So, I love James Baldwin. I love Ibram X. Kendi. Ijeoma Oluo, any author who's a different ethnicity than you, Tory, Toni Morrison, anyone who has a different perspective than you I think helps us grow. The other thing I've really been into is indigenous people’s history, the United States, all that the black woman's history, the United States, queer history, the United States, like understanding that the way we were taught history. Oh, Isabel, Isabel Wilkerson Caste. I'm sure you've read that. Yes. Amazing. Yes, but just books that help us rethink how we have learned history. So, I'm in the middle right now in the other room is a Howard Zinn's A People's History The United States. Oh, yeah. Excellent. Because it's like, I hate to say this, but time and time again, it's like, I didn't know that. I didn't know that. Why didn't I? Why didn't I ever think about that. And just understanding the legacy in history of slavery, the taking of indigenous lands, the treating of immigrant people, we have to do a better job, understanding how the history plays into the context of today.

Sucheta Kamath: You know, it just reminded me of the founder of the project. 1619, she actually got inspired by that book. And so, I too, am reading that book. So fascinating. So, you're basically talking about engaging our new generation of children as well as adults with accurate aspects of history that can just give us a new lens to look at the historical places where we come from, and so many ways we can go to better places. 

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: If I can add, podcasts, magazines, any, anything that's different from how you think is good for us, right? So, think about the material we consume the TikTok who we follow who we do those people all look like you? What does it mean? If they do? So how can we think of who we follow and who we want to imitate and who we read?

Sucheta Kamath: Well, alright, that's all the time we have for today. Thank you once again, Dede for being my guest. And as listeners, as you can see, these are very important conversations we are having with highly knowledgeable, incredibly qualified and passionate experts, such as DeDe, and their unique perspective is really kind of, you know, elevating our game. So definitely consider recommending this podcast to your friends, your family, definitely leave us a review. That's the best way people find us. And as you know, we have been listened to in 110 countries. Our YouTube channel has been one of the ways people are able to look us up as well. And lastly, yeah, talk amongst yourselves about these important topics. Or maybe take a little inventory of your own cultural humility, more self-reflection, you do more ways. You look into your own blind spots, you know, the world is going to become better because of our personal commitment to self-improvement. So, with that, stay tuned. 

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: Well said. 

Sucheta Kamath: Thank you, DeDe. And stay tuned and see you again. 

Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth: Thank you so much.