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Interview with Author Aundrea DeMille.

Hearing a constant litany of news stories about racial injustices occurring can feel disparaging and hopeless. For author and entrepreneur Aundrea DeMille, it is her call to action. Aundrea serves her community through Project Gateway: Equity & Opportunity Commission for Utah. Through her book, Is It Racism, How to Heal the Human Divide and Bunny Seeds, she offers readers a mind model to assess and check their own biases. While Aundrea confirms that change needs to occur on a systemic level, it is our responsibility as individuals to start the change within ourselves to dismantle racism. Aundrea draws on powerful anecdotes in her book to bring awareness and foster empathy for another’s experience. What prompted you to write this book?

I have five boys. When George Floyd was murdered, it was the first time that I saw the racial injustice impact my kids. My 13-year-old, who was 12 at the time, cried almost every day for a week straight. So, I made a video and put it on social media about what it's like raising black and brown boys. It got the attention of our governor, Governor Cox of Utah. And so, Governor Cox and Lieutenant Governor Henderson and our first lady came to my home to just kind of talk and understand what the black experience is like. We had this beautiful time together, where I shared some of the stories that we've experienced, from some racial biases and sometimes racism. We cried together and laughed together and just became really good friends. I went on to later learn how my stories had impacted the governor and his administration. Eventually, they commissioned me to a team called Project gateway to help with equitable policy suggestions. But, when I learned how impactful my stories were on the governor and the state of Utah, I thought, well, if it can have that impact on such a state level, then what would the stories do for the world? I decided to write a collection of stories of racial biases that my family has experienced, and how to wake up to our own racial biases, and reprogram the subconscious mind to help heal the human divide and create a better world. Recently, I have seen a lot of people online bringing up the contrast between how Tamir Rice was treated and how Kyle Rittenhouse is being treated by the system and how this racial inequality still prevails. Can you speak a little bit about that?

It's very evident that our systems are still broken and there are racial biases that lead people to make decisions, even though they're sworn to look at the facts and determine whether someone is guilty or not. What I see is their own biases from the systems are impacting people's decisions to still treat people differently based on the color of their skin, as we see with the whole Rittenhouse situation. The more we can wake up to what's really happening, and use what I have in my book called The Mind Model to reprogram our mind and make a difference, these things will continue to persist. That's why I put this book together, because if we see folks for who they are and lead from a place of empathy, then we're more likely to come from a place of compassion. Right now, our biases are standing in the way. We have to be willing to remove those until things can be better.

Absolutely. I've heard the phrase, “I don't see color.” Why is not “seeing color” actually harmful?

Color blindness, first of all, is a privilege. It's so harmful because it allows us to not see people for who they truly are. We all bring something different to the table, and a part of our ethnic culture and our race is who we are. Being colorblind doesn't help, because it allows us to not be empathetic with other people. Until we can really see and understand how other people feel and what they physically have gone through, then we won't be able to change it. My 7-year-old son came home just a few months ago. And he said, ‘Mommy, because you are black, you don't deserve to own a house. You don't deserve to own property.’ And I said, ‘Well, why did you say that? And he said, ‘Well, because your black skin reminds people of darkness and evilness.’ And so, he's clearly not learning this at home, and he's mixed. I have five boys. The first two are black, the last three are half white, half black. And so, this was one of the half white, half black kids. That statement, his feelings, are a direct correlation to the detriment of being color blind. Clearly, he's learning out in the world, in school, in his video games, that black people don't deserve to own property, and our blackness is evil because people aren't addressing it. The more that we can talk about it and teach people—we teach folks to love each other through our differences and understand their struggles and let people stand in their truth—color blindness is just a hindrance. It doesn't help at all. We have to be willing to hear other people's stories of their pain based on how they've been treated, what they go through, because of their gender, because of their race, because of their sexual orientation, we all have our own lived experiences. Being colorblind allows us to not have empathy. That's also why I put this together. When we wake up and truly see other people for who they are, we listen to their stories, we come from a place of love, we empathize with them, feel their pain, then we can start to heal and be better. As a mom of five boys, do you constantly still feel like you have to have conversations with your boys about safety that are different than you feel like white parents have with their children?

Absolutely, in fact, my book is dedicated to every parent who has to have that talk. By “the talk”, what I mean is, I do have to sit my kids down continually and explain to my boys that, listen, when you are followed in a store, this is how you behave. When you go into the store, take your hood off, keep your hands out of your pockets, because people are going to assume that you're going to steal something just because of how you look. I have to constantly teach them to be safe. I have two teenagers now, the 19-year-old just left home, but I have one that's in junior high, who started to go to the junior high parties. I have to explain to him every time that he goes to a party and hangs out with his friends, if the police show up at the party, do not run, I do not care what your white friends are doing. You have to stand still and be polite and be respectful and keep your hands where they can see them and do not make any sudden moves. Because he may not come back alive if he runs. He may not come back alive if his hands are in his pocket, and they think he has a weapon. These are conversations that I have with my boys all the time. You know, keeping your head a little high, looking people in the eye, just to keep them safe. We live in a predominantly white neighborhood. We're one of two black families in our neighborhood. We have some neighbors who would assume that my kids don't live there, and who may follow them because they assume that they don't live there. And so, when they walk around the neighborhood to play football around the corner, I have to revisit that conversation again to keep them safe. I tell them, if a neighbor approaches you, this is what you do. If the police show up at the park, this is what you do. The conversation is very real. I really hope that by sharing some of the racially biased stories in my book, people will start to understand their own biases and will be able to just pause a minute before jumping to conclusions when we see people of color and people who look different from us.

Yeah, I wonder if sometimes people hear the word racist or racism, and they picture a monster. They might not ever think they could ever identify themselves that way. With that said, how important is it to check yourself for any kind of implicit biases you could have?

So, the first thing that we can do to kind of check ourselves is to use the model that I've written in my book. My model is the universal laws of attraction mixed with science, and it helps us to wake up to our feelings. The first thing they want to do is check their feelings. If we see a person who looks different from us, and our bodies are responding with fear, we need to check our feelings. I have been guilty of this as well. I was at a diversity compact signing for the State of Utah. It was the last thing that Governor Herbert did on his way out. We're standing on the Capitol steps. It's a beautiful day in December in Utah, and it was just starting to snow. All of the politicians and the who's who, you know, affluent, powerful people in the state of Utah were here for this diversity signing of the compact. And I saw movement out of my right eye. Then I noticed that a gentleman was approaching the capitol steps. As he got closer, I could see that he was a Hispanic man, covered in tattoos. He had no shirt, and his pants were just below his belt line. My first feeling was fear. I thought, what is he doing? Is he here to start trouble?

So, our first thing is to check our feelings. Because just when I thought that, I told myself, Aundrea, stop it, this was my inner monolog. I said, Aundrea, stop and look at him. I made myself look him in the eye, and he was smiling. He was so excited to be there and to witness this. Instantly, I changed my feelings from fear to happiness, and inclusion, and joy. And we were just all in this beautiful mastermind of equality and inclusion. I share that story in my book, as well, because that's the first thing that we can do is, use the mind model to wake up to our own biases, by first checking our feelings. Secondly, take a moment to reprogram your subconscious mind, like I did that day, when I said, Aundrea, look at him. That's when I started to reprogram my subconscious mind. And then, making an actionable difference of changing my feelings from fear. I made a conscious effort to change my feeling at that moment from fear to inclusion. Then going and sharing these stories with other people, so that we can all come together. If we all use the mind model to pause for a moment and check our feelings, it's going to allow us to start to wake up to our own inherent biases, because then we can consciously make an effort to change our feelings from what we're experiencing. It may be subtle. I was flying back from Vancouver in September, and I was at the airport bar. There was a woman sitting to my right, and I needed to use the restroom. So, I leaned over, and I said, excuse me. When I said, excuse me, she grabbed her purse and turned away from me, insinuating as if I was going to seal something. And, I just said, would you mind watching my stuff while I go to the restroom? When I said that, she immediately relaxed, smiled, put her purse back down, and said, oh, yes, of course. So we have to check our feelings. At that moment, had she paused and said, “Wow, I'm so sorry,” if she checked her feelings, she could have reprogrammed her subconscious mind in that moment of wow, I reacted out of fear to this woman when really she just wanted me to watch her things while she goes to the restroom. If we do that at the moment, then we really can start to change and make a difference, because she clearly acted on autopilot, right? She didn't look at me and say, you're going to sell my stuff. Her subconscious racial biases made her feel like I was a threat like I was going to steal. When she realized I wasn't a threat, she relaxed. Now, what we do with that is what's important. We have to be willing to check our feelings and the mind model that's mentioned in the book can help with that.

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