Student Well-Being

March 13, 2022

Interrupting Privilege: Conversation with Ralina Joseph and Bonnie Duran

3/9/2022 – In collaboration with the Center for Communication, Difference, and Equity. 

The Interrupting Privilege program series brings together students and community members from across Seattle for intergenerational conversations about race, racism, and its intersections. Through workshops that include skills-building in radical listening, deep dives into racial identity, and work on equitable dialoguing, participants lean into difficult discussions with the goal of better understanding and disrupting racism and other forms of inequality. 

Interrupting Privilege themes range from a variety of topics, from growing up mixed-race, to being Black in Seattle, to daily experiences of microaggressions, to collective action and the interruption of power and privilege. In this conversation, Ralina Joseph (Director, Center for Communication, Difference, and Equity) and Bonnie Duran (Director, Center for Indigenous Health Research) discuss the delicate balance of compassion, action, and self-care. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Interrupting Privilege program at the CCDE, you can read more about their mission and vision here.  


Joseph And Duran

How can we forefront compassion for others while confronting racism?

DR. DURAN: I think I probably do a lot more for people in power than I should. I should take a little bit more time for myself than I do. Does that sound familiar?

DR. JOSEPH: One hundred percent. When you feel that coming up, you feel yourself deferring to a white dude, with these, I don’t know, research scientists…, the MDs, and you feel yourself deferring…. And maybe you feel it before you are consciously thinking about it. Is there something that happens in your body at that moment? How do you process that?

DR. DURAN: When I when I can see white supremacy [and] white patriarchy in the moment? How do I process it?

DR. JOSEPH: Where does it, where does it land? Do you feel it [in] your body? If so, where? Like, what’s going on? More than just intellectually, but all over?

DR. DURAN: Well, you know, I’ll be real honest. I think I’m doing people a favor when I [respond to] that, because I’m trying to decolonize myself and decolonize the system. I realize that you can’t be very harsh, and I’m trying to weaken my propensities towards harshness and anger and all of those things. So, I try to be as minimal as I can, when I say: “Hey, I think you’re wrong because of A, B, C and D.” And so I feel like I’m doing them a big favor by speaking up.

Duran Call OutAnd not that I always have the correct interpretation of things, absolutely not. I often might be this way or that way. But I think speaking up is actually a gift to people, particularly if you’re doing it in a way that isn’t harsh. And people can relate to it. 

It hits me in the heart, that’s where it hits. And when I see people being racist and sexist and homophobic and ageist and all those things, to be honest with you, compassion arises in me for them. Because that is really unwholesome. What that means in my spiritual tradition is that they have these big mental factors that are really in front of any interpretation of life that they have. They’re not seeing clearly whatsoever, and they’re causing themselves a lot of pain. I mean, that’s just got to be painful. I mean, I know that stuff is painful. 

DR. JOSEPH: I’m holding what you said about that piece on compassion and thinking about the compassion for the individual expressing racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, ableism, and the anger for the structure. The difference between the compassion that you can give to an individual – and perhaps because it’s an because an individual has the capacity for change – whereas the structures, we can fight for change. But we know how incrementally slow those changes are. Did I get that right?

Duran Call Out StoryDR. DURAN: I think the systems are another system and changing that is very different. That’s why I went into public health, you know, because I believe that the biggest impact we can have is on the structure. That’s what public health is about, you know, trying to change social determinants, institutionalized racism and sexism, and all of those other things that are so obvious right now. So, yeah, I have compassion for the people who are really causing all of that, but if I could do something quickly to make that change, I absolutely would.

How do we take care of ourselves while fighting racism? 

DR. JOSEPH: You’re thinking about squaring the productive uses of anger, holding on to compassion and letting that anger not burn yourself up. How do you resist? How do you speak back? How do you continue to fight? 

We know all of the research from microaggressions, for example. That [women of color] experience all these disproportion daily impacts of racism, of sexism:, our hair falls out, we get migraines, we get cancer at higher rates, all the things. So, my question is: How do we resist in such a way that we are not creating additional bodily stress? 

DR. DURAN: Well, I think another big, very significant choice I’ve made in my profession is to work predominantly with Native and other people of color. I was doing that before community based participatory research was invented; I think all of us were doing that, you know, we wanted to work with people who look like us, who get us. And so, I was working in New Mexico, I was working with tribal communities here before CBPR became a thing, [and we decided] “Okay, so let’s name that and let’s start doing some research on how to do that well.”

Ralina Call Out

So, I think that’s part of it is just very deliberately surrounding ourselves with people who understand what [oppression] is like, that this is an incredibly sexist, and racist and patriarchal system, and that there are people trying to erase that from multiple directions. And what you’re doing is pointing out how many people are doing the same thing for some collective action. I feel I need to do more collective work because there are other people who are doing exactly what I’m doing. 

DR. JOSEPH: Thank you, you’re giving me so much here.

Bonnie Duran, Dr.PH will be speaking at our Winter Quarter Resistance Through Resilience event – March 15, 6pm PST. The talk will center the important community health implications of contemplative practices and avenues for public health practice that empower and reinforce resilient communities. For more information, visit our Resistance Through Resilience page. 

UPDATE: The Coping Through Crisis: Restoring Resiliency Through Strength recorded livestream is available to watch below. You can access the lecture slides here, or find a complete list of resources referenced during the presentation here.


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