For over 30 years, Tema Okun has devoted her life to dismantling racism and oppression of all forms. In this episode, Tema discusses her own evolution as an anti-racist white person and some of the hard-earned lessons she’s learned along the way. As she mentions in the episode, racism is not something that can go away through a half day workshop, it is a long and winding road of facing into oneself and the systems and structures in the air that we breathe. Doing this work will inevitably activate guilt and shame, feelings we are all socialized to avoid. But the cost of not facing into these feelings is too great. She says, “The cost of racism to all of humanity is our ability to be fully in community with one another.” The most radical thing we can do is understand when we feel it; to DEEP DIVE into it and recognize below that there is love.

White dominant culture has such deep levels of denial and is behind disconnection from ourselves and other people. White dominant culture hinders authentic connection between people by placing a premium on being right, on pretending we are ok, on niceness, and reinforcing the good/bad binary. Doing the work of anti-racism requires a lot of practice in being in a state of not knowing and that can be uncomfortable for many of us. White dominant culture teaches that you if you make a mistake, you are a mistake but we don’t have to buy into that. We are ALL harmed by injustice, white people, too. Let’s create something new by focusing on what we want and not just fighting against something we don’t want. Join us for this important conversation!

Show Highlights:

  • How does my racial indoctrination get in the way of how I am in relationship to myself and others?
  • Why “allies” is no longer the right term.
  • Having the best of intentions but still hurting people.
  • The danger of self-righteousness, of believing “I’m not like that…”
  • How shame is keeping racism going
  • The gift of people telling you an uncomfortable truth vs. writing you off
  • The gift to ourselves of confronting our own racism
  • Who is benefiting from racism?
  • The difference between those who should know better and those who have no reason to know better
  • We are all in it together.
  • The problem with the good/bad binary
  • The role of the sense of belonging
  • How do we work through fear and instead show up in a way that is deeply loving
  • The problem with needing to be right
  • The inevitability of hurting one another but being in relationship means we also show up in constructive relationship and heal one another, too.
  • Revisions Tema is currently working on to her White Supremacy Culture article
  • Tema’s take on the most common white dominant culture norms that show up at the Skid Row School
  • Trying to fix it quickly only adds to the problem. Let us slow down to go faster.


Teaching for Equity Fellows Program