Ep 19 – Race Relations With Max Rouzier

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Special episode today with that man, Max Rouzier on race relations – how to talk about someone’s identity (without offending them), why remaining silent is worst than saying something, and more…


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Race Relations with Max Rouzier

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  • Reply

    You said; “… why remaining silent is worst than saying something …”
    (Reposted from another thread, as requested.)

    My issue around this is that I am usually so totally stunned by the asinine behavior of prejudiced people that I literally do not know how to respond.

    If it is a situation where someone is being abused, I am fearful that I will fan the flames and make it worse for everyone.

    My INTENTION is to become part of a calming influence.

    The CHALLENGE is that prejudice is a form of insanity, and insane people are not so easy to reason with or bring to a calmer state of mind.

    Insane people are incapable of recognizing their own insanity.

    Case in point: One of my uncles was visiting Anni and me about 10 years ago, and the topic of something wonderful that Oprah Winfrey had done came up in the conversation.

    My uncle’s expression and posture changed, and he said “I don’t like ’em.”

    This response baffled Anni and me, We asked “Like what?”

    “Them! The coloreds!” he replied, obviously annoyed that we didn’t understand.

    Somewhat innocently, somewhat teasingly, Anni asked “What colors?”

    That truly upset him. He went off on a tirade about how his grandfather and father had been southern gentlemen and this and that, all of which apparently made perfect sense to him, but which was just incoherent babbling to us. Anni and I just stared open-mouthed until he ran down.

    I was in that state of shock that I spoke of earlier, still sitting with my mouth open when Anni responded with something along the line of “Well, in this house, there aren’t any us’s and them’s, there are just people! And people come in lots of colors. If you aren’t okay with that, then you should leave and not come back.”

    And, he did leave. He told us on the way out that we “just didn’t get it!” (He was absolutely correct. We didn’t.)

    And he didn’t come back. He passed on about a year later.

    Maybe a useful training for people like me would be “first response” training, like first aid training prepares people to respond to medical emergencies, except this would be to prepare people to respond to varying degrees of insanity.

    And, I guess that is kinda what you are doing here, Max! …

    … but, even though I have attended first aid training many times, I still don’t respond well to people who are severely injured …

    … and I don’t know if I will ever respond well to severe prejudicial insanity.

    • Reply

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts publicly here Bruce. I really appreciate it. I also love that you spell my name correctly with the exclaimation mark haha.

      A first response guide would be dope. In fact, companies should already have this. For example, the US Airforce has a flowchart guide that helps them visually understand how to response to disparaging comments about them in the media.

      I love this idea.

      Here’s a first towards that, which always helps me. I mention at the end of the episode that all these concerns (race gender etc.) stem from one fundamental mistake we all tend to make. We’re forgetting people have a right to their feelings. A right to their bodies.

      So we want to respect people’s bodies. Meaning, ALR— Ask, Listen, Repeat.

      So my aim isn’t to humiliate, but to express myself and ideas based in my experience. I dont’ talk to force my ideas, but to share them. Shifting that perspective makes topics like these a conversation NOT an argument.

      Something I also do is stop people who want to assert their limited view about how my life should be instead of listening to how it is. I’m totally uninterested in hearing someone tell me when I should be hurt or offended. Sounds like your Uncle fit this bill. I’d just tell him to stop, and keep it moving.

      Finally, my goal isn’t to change hearts and minds. Ony to plant the seed and encourage people to think differently.

      In marketing, my real goal is to connect with people one-to-one, even when I write to thousands. That’s to say I want to “gauge the room”, let them know I live in the same world as them, and even poke fun at it when I can. These are all various ways I can help my reader cope in an uncertain world. I find my readers know, like an trust me in a way others can’t understand until they try it.

      Ideally, we should all be doing this, regardless of the topic.

  • Tim Woo

    Hey Max, reposting my reply (and expanding more on it here) to “Are you saying there are concerns you have related to your Asian identity?”

    Not related to my Asian identity, but just feeling like “UGH I wish I could say something or do something, but I don’t know what.” And your podcast really helped me understand that there are some things I can do about it — which is to speak up with other people and try to understand what’s really happening behind the cop’s intentions or the black victims of police brutality.

    This whole time I actually started believing that silence was a better way to express my empathy for what’s happening. I didn’t think just talking about it objectively (like Kevin did) and reaching out to other people who are affected by it (like you mentioned) would help, but it’s more clear that it certainly does.

    Growing up in California, I’ve never faced a lot of injustice. Being around a bunch of Asians, no one “looks” at me funny or wonders why I speak 2 different languages. Frankly, sometimes I worry that if I go outside of California to the mid-west, people will start to look at me differently.

    At most, I probably get “oh you look so intimidating” because I wear a backwards hat sometimes.

    Seeing news about police brutality on my newsfeed is interesting… A lot of my friends will re-post up articles about police brutality and silently “SMH”. Some will resort to publicly denounce the police to friends.

    It just seemed like an “US VS. THEM” battle that I simply didn’t want to participate in. I didn’t want to side with either side because on the one hand, I get that police need to do their job. On the other hand, how the fuck is it fair to pull that kind of shit off because of your skin color?

    So I simply remained silent. What I didn’t realize is my silence hurt more than it helped.

    Now, I probably won’t post it up on my Facebook as Lauren suggested. I’m just a lurker. I feel much more comfortable talking in an environment where it matters and engaging in a mature conversation about it with people. Something I should have done earlier inside Copy Chief. (Better late than never, huh?)

    • Reply

      Thank you Tim for reposting this publicly. We can help a lot of people if we do this outside of CC for once.

      Yes, we can all do so much. The least we can do is nothing. Next option is just to ask a question and learn from the response. This applies to your individual experiences and checking in with your readers. “hey did you see the news last night” “Do you live in Houston, are you and yours safe today?”

      Just make sure they’re OK the way I did when I heard of all these events, and reached out to my friends and family.

      But you’re right, the rhetoric is US vs THEM. That’s a fight I only like when I read comics and watch fictional blockbusters. I’m not here to argue. Only to constructively help people. So talking like you said with people like this in a proactive space is more fruitful. We can listen, test, apply and see results for our efforts because we’re seeking understanding not righteousness.

      AND again, in our marketing it’s our fundamental duty to understand our best customer. Well that customer is watching the same news, voting in the same elections, and affected by the violent environment. So why is it we’ll help someone lose weight and deal with family relatives during the holiday’s, but we won’t help them endure their day at the office with other social stigmas?

  • Reply

    Saw this today and though of this conversation…


    Thanks again for having this discussion, Max.

    • Reply

      Oy, yes I totally hear this.

      My Mom didn’t raise me like this, we were vigilant with our identities, hence who and how I am today.

      But this is very real, “respectability politics” as it’s called. It’s all the things you can do to be seen as respectable and thus non-threatening so no one will criminalize you with extreme discrimination.

      – Wear a suit with a belt.
      – Don’t wear a hoodie
      – Don’t play music loud
      – Don’t laugh too loud
      – Don’t hang out after dark
      – Smile often
      – Announce yourself in a space
      – Make room for others when passing on the sidewalk
      – Don’t follow too closely near women
      – Don’t walk too fast
      – Never paly with any gun-like toy or objects
      – become super smart and don’t associate with anyone who does any of the above

      Malcolm X was part of the Nation of Islam, which is essentially the greatest movement of respectability politics. Didn’t make a difference then or now.

      See the pattern? It all says respect white bodies, but not your own. We do this culturally on the gender dynamic, age dynamic, sexuality, etc. I’m thankful I wasn’t raised into that limited mindset.

      I say respect all bodies and let’s celebrate them.

  • Reply

    Very interesting MAX!…

    I was raised with all of those guidelines except for the “play with guns” one. Guns and knives were an important part of our culture in 1940’s and 1950’s rural Idaho. I would sometimes carry a .32 automatic pistol to grade school. The teacher would sometimes make certain that there was not a round in the chamber, then return it to me.

    Times certainly change …

    Everything else on the list was taught to me as “common courtesy.”

    Of course, the repercussions were different for me not following them–the worst that happened to me was that my mother scolded me, or the town’s little old lady contingent tagged me as a “bad boy.”

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