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Fists raised in solidarity for George Floyd in Charlotte, N.C. (Unsplash/Clay Banks)

‘Don’t Call Me Resilient’: A new podcast from The Conversation

Listen on Apple Podcasts

I know there’s been a lot of talk about racism lately … but let’s face it, we haven’t talked about it enough. If you’ve struggled with how to understand what is going on around you when it comes to race and racism and how and why it matters, our new podcast, Don’t Call Me Resilient, can help with that.

Resilient. What a beautiful word and yet, as our podcast title says, don’t call me that. Why?

I’ve read and heard many hopeful stories over the past year about people being resilient in the face of adversity. With millions of tragic deaths due to COVID-19 worldwide, as well as job losses, illness and the psychological impact of a racial reckoning, many people are dealing with trauma in resilient ways.

I believe we should always celebrate resilience: the human ability to recover or adjust to difficult conditions. But for many marginalized people, including Black, Indigenous and racialized people, being labelled resilient — especially by policy-makers — has other implications. The focus on resilience and applauding people for being resilient makes it too easy for policy-makers to avoid looking for real solutions.

Our society is marked by deep systemic divides and many are recognizing that fact in new ways. Many people of colour have to deal with racism every day — be it microaggressions at work or the larger impacts of systemic racism that can create life and death situations. These issues are constant. And the only way to survive is to be resilient.

In response to President Barack Obama’s call to be resilient after the devastating impact of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, activist and lawyer Tracie Washington told Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines: “Stop calling me resilient…. Because every time you say, ‘Oh, they’re resilient,’ that means you can do something else to me. I am not resilient.”

Maria Kaika at the University of Manchester picked up the discussion:

“If we took Tracie Washington’s objection seriously, we would stop focusing on how to make citizens more resilient ‘no matter what stresses they encounter,’ as this would only mean that they can take more suffering, deprivation or environmental degradation in the future … focus instead on [trying] to change these factors.…”

Today, we are launching Don’t Call Me Resilient, a new podcast about race and racism in which we discuss solutions in the way Washington and Kaika are suggesting. We take listeners deep into conversations with scholars and activists who view the world through an anti-racist lens.

Over six episodes, we explore these critical issues — from dealing with the pain of racism, to inequity in our schools, to Indigenous land rights — in a way that is intimate, authentic and at times, uncomfortable. Instead of calling those who’ve survived the pain of systemic racism “resilient,” this podcast goes in search of solutions for those things no one should have to be resilient for.

A woman stands at a police barrier on the street. Two white police offers in the background.
Vinita Srivastava, host of ‘Don’t Call Me Resilient’ has been a journalist for over 20 years: here she is reporting from New York City, in the mid-‘90s. Author provided

The first episode of Don’t Call Me Resilient goes live on Feb. 3. You can listen or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts. We’d love to hear from you, including any ideas for future episodes. Join The Conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #DontCallMeResilient.

In our trailer, I refer to myself as Sister Killjoy: I first read this term in Ama Ata Aidoo’s novel, Our Sister Killjoy.

This podcast is produced by The Conversation with a grant from the Global Journalism Innovation Lab, made possible by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. It is hosted and produced by Vinita Srivastava. The producer is Nahid Buie. Production help from Ibrahim Daair, Anowa Quarcoo, Latifa Abdin, Vicky Mochama, Nehal El-Hadi. Sound engineer: Reza Dahya. Audience development: Lisa Varano. Theme music by Zaki Ibrahim. Logo by Zoe Jazz with help from Nicole Peña. Saniya Rashid is our research assistant supported by MITACS. Our CEO is Scott White. Thanks to Jennifer Moroz for her advice. Launch team: Imriel Morgan/Content is Queen.

This is a corrected version of story originally published on Jan. 27. 2021. The earlier story said Tracie Washington’s words came in response to a post-Katrina environment strategy for the city of New Orleans. Instead, they were said in response to President Obama’s call for resilience after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

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