My guest today is Chalmer Willimas who joins us from Austin, TX. Chalmer is living his best life! He's a stay at home dad who encourages other dad's by sharing the challenges, joys, and lessons of parenting in his weekly podcast: Fatherhood Friday's. Our conversation dives into being sensitive about when and how to teach your kids about racism, I learn about code switching, police violence, and a fascinating discussion on gumbo vs salad. Chalmer also speaks to the reality of racism against the African American community with fervent and persuasive conviction. His insights oftentimes left me speechless. He taught me so much in such a short time. Chalmer's voice is one that we would be wise to take heed of.
Chalmer speaks to racism's cousin...classism. I appreciate his description of racism not being as direct when you grow up in an area that is economically depressed and you live among the marginalized. It's just not something you see. But classism is extremely pervasive as well as a slowly boiling frustration hidden just below the surface. Passive enough not to be talked about very often but noticed by all.
It fascinated me how Chalmer explained his education on racism (or lack thereof) in his childhood home. It seemed that his parents were happy to let movies and tv shows explain the experience of racism in the lives of African Americans (without calling it by name). He saw numerous positive images on tv of Black representation during the late 80s/90s. But he also witnessed how certain movies fueled his dad with anger from the images on screen that reminded him of things he endured growing up and still couldn't verbalize. So he learned by watching (as most children do) positive as well as negative representations on screen along his dad's responses to these images. That type of learning leaves an indelible impression on a child.
I just loved how sensitive Chalmer is to his kids and understanding of their personalities to what and how much they can bear when. It was touching to hear of his son's deep care for mankind that he was moved to tears by the story of MLK, Jr. I was also intrigued by his admission that he and his wife had such ambivalent attitudes about Dr. King when they were younger. It just goes to show how we're all wired so differently and what effects one of us deeply might have no impact on another. There are a multitude of ways to learn the same lesson.
His explanation about Code Switching actually shocked me. I had never realized the depths and lengths that African Americans have to go through in order to be accepted by something as simple and seemingly unimportant and inconsequential as speech. Codeswitching is a survival skill. This was news to me and helped broaden my compassion to another area I was uneducated about. I had no idea that the need to code switch was a form of racism. I had no idea it was encouraging a loss of cultural identity. This was a sad eye opener for me.
I was struck speechless when Chalmer said, "It's not so much being sensitive and being aware, that's just the foundation but really opening up the door of privilege, access, and resources." Man! I needed that admonition. I see it as a call to action. We can best help by opening up the doors for the marginalized that have been open up for us since the beginning.
I'm a huge fan of visual imagery and Chalmer's analogy of broken vs clear glasses to help in describing racism was exactly what I needed to link concepts together. White people see racism through the lens of a broken pair of glasses, we lack clarity because we lack experience. Whereas, African Americans have the benefit of clarity through their clear lenses and 400+ years of oppressive experiences to draw from. It only makes sense to let those with clear vision lead the way. If you also want to co-exist with those around you who are different for one reason or another and want to live a life of inclusivity, may you consider seeing yourself as one part of many in the great salad-bowl of life, as Chalmer has.
Quote: "When writing the story of your life, don't let anyone else hold the pen." -personal friendChalmer's Podcast