You are currently viewing Episode 234: Rooting Out Racism

Episode 234: Rooting Out Racism

George and Laurie add their hearts to the conversation about racism. We need to have the conversations that are uncomfortable. If we’re marginalized, we have to protest – the rage and anger makes sense. As a former first responder, it breaks George’s heart to see the men watching the murder of George Floyd. Where were their feelings? Shut down. Blocked. Trained to be closed. If we can train people to shut down their feelings we can train them to turn on their feelings and be in touch when their humanity is essential. Join Laurie and  George as they talk about what’s happening in the world.


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Announcer 00:00
The following content is not suitable for children.

Laurie Watson 00:02
We’re going to talk today about the racism that we see in our own lives and the lives of our patients and our greater community. And we know that we don’t have all the answers, we just want to add our hearts to the conversation. Welcome to foreplay radio, couples in sex therapy. I’m Laurie Watson, your sex therapist.

George Faller 00:25
And I’m George Fallon, a couples therapist

Laurie Watson 00:28
and we are passionate about talking about sex and helping you develop a way to talk to each

George Faller 00:33
other. Our mission is to help our audience develop a healthier relationship to sex that integrates the mind the heart and the body.

Laurie Watson 00:43
Just as we began please remember to check out Superleague. It really calm is where you can get this great lubricant and help support for play radio.

George Faller 00:52
That’s how you create change. We’ve been talking about this with sex and why would race be any different title we start talking about things that are uncomfortable and talk Think about it, right? It’s the silence and the avoidance of these conversations that just perpetuate the distance.

Laurie Watson 01:05
Now, without the conversation, we fall into our stereotypes, right are generalizations about who others are, what they think, what they’re like. And of course, race marks people in a vivid way. And it’s, it’s easy to class. I just know that it’s broken so many lives. And of course, we are aware right now of the many, many atrocities that are happening to black people with George Floyd’s murder and death and, and many others before and after, and I just, I can hardly stand it. I feel so broken and I and I feel angry too. And, you know, I’m full of white privilege and coming from this place that I know I can’t imagine what it really feels like.

George Faller 01:54
Right? Well, as a couples therapist. It’s not so different. What We’ve been talking about trying to get our listeners to see these feedback loops in these patterns, right? Instead of it being something happening within your house in your intimate relationship. This is just a larger pattern, but it says very similar dynamics, right? So if I’m in the, in the position of someone marginalized, you know, I’m set up to half the protest that anger is my way of trying to fight back and say, Wait, I deserve a little bit more sad. And but if I’m at the other end of somebody who’s protested and being angry, and I know my heart, I’m following the rules. I was told I’m doing the best I can, it naturally pulls out that defensiveness of that listener that says, Wait, wait a second, I’m a good person, I get why you treat me like this. And that defensiveness kind of makes the person on the other end who’s angry and protest and say, You’re not listening. You’re not getting it, you’re not focusing on me. They only get angrier and angrier they get the more the other person gets defensive. I mean, this is the themes we’ve been talking about throughout this podcast yet now. We’re seeing it play out. I just saw a couple today that Like, you know what you two are fighting about look outside your window there in New York City. I say that’s what thousands of people in the street are doing exactly the same thing. We really are in this mess together. And and the good news is there is such science behind that. How do you help people repair when they have two different realities? Like how do they stop getting surprised by the other person’s defensiveness and start anticipating and learning how to actually work with it instead of fighting it?

Laurie Watson 03:25
I know that so many people are trying to come closer to the angry protest, trying to see the righteousness and that anger and how it’s right, that people be angry. And I know there’s a lot of people that are moving toward that even when it’s scary, even when they say to themselves, hey, I didn’t cause this but it’s like, actually, culturally, I mean, somebody has to take responsibility.

George Faller 03:54
Right and there’s a fine line between having a right to be angry and protest and cross it over that line. And using that anger to destroy businesses and people’s livelihood and people’s lives, right? I mean, not sure. Does it make a problem better when that anger turns to violence?

Laurie Watson 04:09
Sure. But I, I’m aware that one of my clinicians who’s a woman of color samurai, and you know, she has been posting all over her Facebook about, but when we talk about the losers and the riots versus the protests, it’s a change of conversation. we’re forgetting what is happening. I’m not saying I mean, every organization, every movement, everything has problems and bad apples, if you will, but, but in essence, I see a lot of people and mostly on my feet, you know, white people talking about the riots and the looting. And it’s like, What surprise comment was, is they’re forgetting the point. And I agree, it’s like, the point is, there’s this outrage and I think if systemically, you know you’ve been prejudiced against for generations. You know, starting back with slavery, it’s like, I get it, there’s just this hopelessness and and yes, people are taking advantage of it. But I guess the the rage makes sense to me.

George Faller 05:13
Yeah. And as as couples therapists, we got a whole two of those truths, right that if you were a person of color, a 15 year old kid, and you know, this rage has had nowhere to go. And now finally, your friends are running around in the streets that maybe you cross over the line. And it turns into, hey, why should I take a pair of sneakers, you know, right. And but the flip side, we also have to hold that truth of people saying, how does this make anything better? Right to destroy businesses in your own neighborhood to to see pictures of that it makes sense why people get defensive and say, Hey, listen, I’m open and I, I want to create change. I want to find ways of reducing systemic racism or trying to get to a place of eradicating it, you know, but this response kind of doesn’t help. But that process? Sure.

Laurie Watson 06:02
I loved what you wrote on Facebook. George. I mean, you come from a background of civil service. You’re a police officer and a fireman for 20 years. Talk about that and what you’ve seen.

George Faller 06:14
You know, when I watched the video of George Floyd died being murdered and seeing him calling out for his mother, oh my god, yeah. It strikes to the heart of every human being. Right? It don’t matter your nationality, your race, your religion, and anybody who watches that video which is just like, oh, how is this happening? Please stop you keep waiting for somebody like that. To stop that and you know, so I guess my curiosity is really trying to understand what blocked these four police officers hearts from being impacted by what was happening. Like what

Laurie Watson 06:52
is that about? like the others just standing there? You know, nobody

George Faller 06:57
watches that video is pulled towards Video it says stop if we want to propel us into action. Right, right. And these four guys did it. So I think that is also what we’ve been doing in this podcast. Let’s get curious, what stops people, what makes them more defended or survive and not be their best selves? Like, you know, so for me, I guess knowing some of the training that these police officers have worked with the military, and firefighter, first responders, it’s like, you get hours and months and years of training, to turn off your feelings. And you get no training at all to turn those feelings back on. Right. So we wonder why police officers look robotic, and they don’t, they don’t show themselves right. They don’t show their feelings because it’s going to be taken as weak and then be used against them. But they don’t recognize the costs of these habitual walls that they put up year after year. What it does today, humanity

Laurie Watson 07:58
Yeah, yeah, I think I’m just reminded of a client, a police officer client who he was about three years in to working in Raleigh. And his wife and him came in. And she talked about, like the change that she had seen in him just this hardening of his heart. Yeah, he was working with a criminal element all the time. But it was just, he had changed so much from this open, loving person that was open to her to he just closed off and become cynical, I guess, in part, I can understand it, in part, it’s to survive what he’s seen every day, but certainly he he didn’t have the ability to turn back on in his intimate relationship and I can imagine in your job, it’s like, when it’s necessary when you need to be human. So hard to turn that back on in the moment.

George Faller 08:56
And there’s a great image of a hardened heart. That’s so After what the trainings trying to do stay cool under pressure, turn off your emotions. Don’t let the fear get the better view. Yet there’s no training to turn that soften that heart when it needs to. And for me if your job being a police officer myself if your job description is to serve the community, how can you serve a community by turning off your heart? Right? Right We got to teach these police officers to be more flexible, turn it off when you need to, and turn it back on when you need to. And that’s why I felt this is a pivotal moment I do believe change is gonna happen. I maybe I might be allistic but to see all those police officers kneeling down with you know, the protest is to me it was so beautiful because they’re touching their humanity. They’re saying I can recognize this too and want to protest it. This isn’t Okay, we want change to we’ll with you. You are our community. We’re in this together. Right But if you’re gonna throw rocks So I’m going to turn my feelings back off. And I’m going to go into kind of cool mode and I’m going to take care of business and arrested people. Police officers can do both. Why not train them to do both?

Laurie Watson 10:11
Yeah, that that broke my heart too. I saw some Fayetteville officers meal as the crowd was coming toward them. And you could just see people’s hearts melt their own hearts melting and protesters coming forward hugging the police, black and white. And you know, it was it was a moment I felt of hope and a moment of peace. I mean, I think that’s true, right? We also have to see the police officers as human and what they’re up against. And, you know,

George Faller 10:43
it’s the sacrifices that they make. They’re willing to turn off their feelings to follow the training, even though the cost of putting up those walls is they start to lose themselves over time. That’s what the hardening does. They can’t share this stuff with their families. They can’t Like, there’s a big pressure every time. You know, it’s a tough job when every time you see people it’s a negative environment, you’re given a ticket, you’re dealing with a dispute, it’s, you know, there’s something bad you’re always carrying around that gun. There’s just a heaviness, there’s a weight to the job, and they’re willing to take on that weight, and they don’t know where to go to share that. And yet, then that blame because they start to turn off their feelings when they’re just following the rules. It’s really heartbreaking that they’re doing what they’re willing to sacrifice. And it’s people don’t really recognize the sacrifice, they just want to point out the shortcomings of the results of that sacrifice. Mm hmm. I so appreciate the sacrifices that police officers are making, and they really don’t recognize the costs. And that’s really what we’re trying to make room for that they need somewhere to go with these emotions that they use. You don’t run towards bullets, unless somebody is running with you, right? You don’t run towards a fire. It’s all based on we don’t face fear well, alone. Police officers know this and they do it with others. The best way to handle fear is in relationship. Yet what’s so sad for so many police officers there is their own inner world, their own fears. They really have nowhere to go with that.

Laurie Watson 12:20
Yeah. And then sometimes when they’re banding together, it’s to the detriment of the community, because the loyalty doesn’t allow for, you know, the one to stand up and say, Hey, wait a second. This isn’t right. You guys will stop. You know, they’re trained to band together. And I mean, this is why right, the four, four guys didn’t interrupt that one officer with his knee on George’s neck.

George Faller 12:47
Well, let’s explore more of that. After the break. Like what stopped these four police officers because as much as if we want to end systemic racism, we really gotta understand what stops people from listening to their emotions.

Laurie Watson 13:05
Again, we’re thanking Uber lube. And it really is sending a package of the product to the first I think 10 or 20 people who sign up with us with Patreon so definitely, you’re going to need to send me your address so I can get it to them if that’s okay with you. But really, it is a product that I have given out to every patient for like three years we have a bowl that people can take handfuls of the samples before they’re on their way out so that nobody can see them take it, but it’s it has this long lasting performance because really, it’s made from Silicon so it doesn’t get absorbed into the body and it also doesn’t trap bacteria. So it’s really safe to use. It has like three types of high grade silicone and it has a little bit of vitamin E so that makes you your skin feel good afterwards.

George Faller 13:52
Yeah, I recommend the whole taking a bath tub in it. Just good for your skin. Good for your soul, good face. This sucks, like, everything’s good,

Laurie Watson 14:03
right, and it’s scent free and it’s taste free. So you can switch doing all kinds of things sexually, and feel good about that. And it doesn’t impact your pH balance or your hormones, which is really important for women. It is recommended by thousands of doctors. It’s recommended by Dr. Laurie Watson. And it’s made in the USA and I’ve said this before, but I really like the packaging because it’s just clear glass white lettering. It’s beautiful. They’ve done a good job. So please go to Uber lube, calm and use the coupon for play when you check out and that credits us with your purchase. And we would just love for you to support them. And that helps us to thank you, George, you’ve got this whole new website with training materials and stuff. Tell me about it.

George Faller 14:50
It’s called success in Similar to what we’ve been talking about in the podcast, I’m really trying to train therapists on how to keep their focus in session. And two, if you’re going to invite couples and clients and families to risk doing portability, then it’s really critical that they have success when they do it. The reason why people don’t do vulnerability is it doesn’t work out so well for them when they do. So we really want to empower therapists to, to know what to do in these critical moments to kind of usher in the transformation that could happen when people go to these vulnerable spots.

Laurie Watson 15:28
So therapists who listen to us can go ahead and check it out. And you’ll be doing trainings and all sorts of things and you have a team of people. It’s success in vulnerability, calm. I’m excited about it. I get to learn a bunch more from George,

George Faller 15:43
one of the blessings of COVID-19 I never had time, but we can get creative when we’re locked in a house and come up with some new endeavors. So I’m looking forward to it and I appreciate any feedback and support.

Laurie Watson 15:57
George as we come back from the break, I just Want to read what you wrote on Facebook and also invite people to follow you on social media? It’s George Fowler marriage and family therapist is George’s page. Mine is Laurie Watson couples therapist and hopefully y’all are on for play radio as well on Facebook. But George writes as a firefighter and police officer for over 20 years, it broke my heart to watch the George Floyd video, and to hear him calling for his mother before dying. I believe part of the problem of systemic racism is emotional constriction, and the habitual training to turn off feelings. What was blocking those four officers hearts from being impacted by the cries of those around them. We invest a lot of resources to help turn off the feelings of emergency first responders and the military to face the challenges of stressful situations. It’s about time to wisely invest in helping them listen to their emotions when appropriate. Emotional flexibility and resilience is the antidote to the harshness of the chronic emotional oppression. The good news is we can teach people how to turn emotions on and off and empower those who serve us to develop more choice and agency with their emotional reality. God knows we need and deserve the change. We also appreciate James Hawkins for helping us create a safe space for real conversations focused on racial healing.

George Faller 17:20
So yeah, Laurie, I think, you know, that was just a spontaneous just shooting out some words, but that really has, resonates with a lot of people to to recognize the costs of our training, and we got to stop with just the words and feeling bad and actually put those words into action if we’re really going to make a change. So, you know, two decades three decades from now, we’re not having these same conversations.

Laurie Watson 17:47
I guess what I wonder about is I know that within the police force, you know, therapy is kind of frowned upon, but it’s somehow another weakness. If you need to go talk to somebody I mean, there’s this real culture that says talking about what you’re experiencing and going through is a bad thing or is a weak thing? Could you speak to that?

George Faller 18:09
For me, it’s it always comes down to a math equation. If I’m a police officer, and every time I deal with emotions, it’s negative and it’s bad. I want to get away from it. And I don’t want to do emotions. Why would I want to go to a therapist and talk about emotions? Right? If we want police officers to do more emotions, they have to have success similar to what we’re talking about with withdrawals, people shut off. The root of the problem is a lack of success with their feelings. That’s why the training is so important. It’s like if you could kind of see what it’s like for a community member if you could empathize if you can share that empathy with a protester and kind of realize the fruits of what emotion can do which is lead to connection, a sense of being in something together, really being seen affirm, I mean, it’s that positive emotion that comes from sharing our feelings that daily daily to felt sense of. And that’s so often the missing ingredient that they don’t have success with their feelings. They’re trained to run away from them. And they don’t recognize the chronic avoidance of a feelings just robs them of their own vitality. And then it’s so sad that just following the rules and then they blame for doing it. And you’re right, there’s a hall who wants to be around somebody who’s hard. Like if I’m in a, in a minority neighborhood, and I have a police officer that’s always sending a negative vibe. That’s always kind of wait for me to do something bad never sees the good and what I’m doing I mean, that’s that’s oppressive. Mm hmm. to just be around that you get why you don’t like police officers, regardless of what words they say actions that they take the energy that they’re setting up, sets up, you know, and then I’m going to deal with that by feeling these police officers don’t like me screwed up, man. I that that disrespectful, angry attitude starts to get pulled out of me. Which is exactly what the police officers are expecting. And it just becomes a self fulfilling feedback loop

Laurie Watson 20:05
the cycle, the negative cycle in the community.

George Faller 20:09
And we know how to shift out of that cycle. It’s about getting people to go underneath the surface right above the surface is all the content that they’re fighting over the million different things. below the surface is the same emotional realities. I have these vulnerable reactions, these fears these hurts, and if I could share them, and it actually get led to responsiveness, the other person coming close to helping me with it. Why would I need all this protection, all this stuff that happens above the surface. Give you a good example. I was example, as a 22 year old police officer coming from an all white neighborhood sent to a minority neighborhood, not having much cultural awareness. My training taught me make a difference by taking guns off the street. I worked in an ad At Bronx, huge homicide rate drug raid guns. So what would I do? What was I trained to do? Pull up on a corner. If you see anything suspicious, throw, you know, 510 people up against the wall and search them and get guns get guns off the street. I mean, I felt good about every time I got a gun. It was like, you know, we would celebrate it. We’re really making a difference. I had no idea. Now I look back. I have a 15 year old son. Could you imagine some police officer coming into his neighborhood isn’t just randomly thrown them up against the wall. Like already seeing him as a troublemaker and a bad kid assuming the worst, kind of like, there was no awareness of that emotion and no empathy for what it was like on the other side. Nobody helped me to do that. Mm hmm. Right. How different could that have been? If I could have some of those conversations? Yeah, right, that it’s not all about just the goal of taking off guns. It’s how you take those guns off the streets. causes you to lose the community or servant, it becomes so counterproductive. And I didn’t even realize it. That’s what I want a lot of people to real for so many. This isn’t a choice. This is just muscle memory. Right? We do what we’re trained to do I turn off my feelings and I think that’s a little what happened with those four offices, right? They just tune people out. They’ve been trained to do that. And in doing that, they missed these, please, that they’re hot should have said Damn, yes, snap out of this. whatever we’re doing, like, check this guy’s pulse, like, do something. Right that that that muscle memory just blocked it

Laurie Watson 22:38
out. I think that’s that’s the essence of racism, right? Is we block out the humanity of the other out of fear out of conditioning, you know, out of that’s

George Faller 22:51
the key word conditioning. It’s almost like the language you speak you don’t realize you’re doing it. It’s outside of where it and starts what makes it so vicious and sustainable. If you think you’re a good person, you don’t realize you’re doing these things. You’re making assumptions outside your awareness and you’re acting on those assumptions. Right? So we really want to change that we really got to slow down that process and get people to be more aware of who they are. They become more intentional. It’s about mindfulness, right? It’s about being present and authentic. All of these things that we would do with a couple as we’re trying to get them to be more in their experience and to share that truth with our partner. We need to do that as a society.

Laurie Watson 23:29
Mm hmm. I’m reminded of my father who was a world war two that and I took him to his 66 I don’t know 50th something military reunion of his platoon. And you know, he could barely walk at that point. And, you know, overall, my father was not, at least outwardly a racist. No, he taught us right. And but when I went back to this reunion, they called the Japanese or with a racial slur, everybody talked about them with a racial slur. And, and I realized that they had to kill these other men. They had to see them as less than human. It was a way that they distance themselves from the humanity, the enemy, right? By calling this not realizing these were boys that were 20 years old. You know, and all of them still all these years later, kind of hadn’t process the fact that they killed man and done this and it was like, I mean, I think that that’s some of what happens, right? We, when we’re afraid, when our survival mode gets activated, we generalize and then we see the other is less human. And unfortunately, right race is this outward marker that flashes in people’s minds of This person in this color means x. So it’s easy to generalize just on site, rather than having the conversation and, and dealing with our own fear our own misconceptions.

George Faller 25:14
Exactly. And it’s exciting that we live in times where we now can see what’s happening in the brain that you can see when somebody has a fight or flight response that, you know, their frontal cortex that decision making goes offline, that literally the parts of their ears that take in information shut down, right, so we need to, and I love how you’re expanding it to, like, look at these moral injuries. These awards are when it’s all what is the common theme and all of them emotional constriction, people have to turn off their feelings to do these actions. That’s right, you know, and we don’t want to lose that ability when that is needed inappropriate. There are times if you’re going to run towards bullets, you gotta learn how to turn off emotions. We don’t want to make it Like we’re trying to turn everybody into this emotional, soft weeping person, right? This is about flexibility. And the research is pretty clear in this that, that leaders who are emotionally flexible, which means they can turn it off when they need to turn it off and take care of business. And then when it’s safe, they can turn it on and they can connect and they can be real. Those are the people that have the richest lives. Those are the people that we want to follow. Right? So we really need to change this system, we really need to get leaders that that can role model both really role model flexibility.

Laurie Watson 26:33
Yeah, and make it okay. I mean, the leaders need to give permission for the men and women beneath them. That Hey, you know, you got to process this stuff. This is important to process what you have felt the injuries that you have felt, and I know in police work, there’s moral injuries, right? There’s calls that are made that maybe ordinary people never have to face, you know, to get the job done. But they need to be able to process that so that they do become more moral. I mean, like these four men standing around George Floyd, you know, just that their humanity and their morality comes back online.

George Faller 27:15
I saw a great example of video of Army, National Guard soldiers coming into a neighborhood. You know, they were all on trucks with their m 16. up in the air, you know, and they’re taught to do this right, this ditch showing a presence. Half of what they’re doing is short sighted and forcing gain control a situation. That’s how you do it. And then your general whoever the officer was on the street as every call came by, screamed up there and bought those guns down. Like he remembered the focus the mission. The mission is this is our neighborhood. These are our people were serving. Like we don’t want to make them feel scared. We’re here to protect them and to serve them, not intimidate them. Right and that leadership changed the whole vibe of that, you know, That force coming in. So again, I always go back to the good news, which is I’ve never seen a time with all these murders, where the police officers have and, and government officials have been joining the protesters. And as say, we all agree that this needs to change. Now the real work is about how do we actually do that. And I think our big message here is a big part if you want to do that is you have to help people become more emotionally flexible, that if you cannot serve your community, if you’re habitually turning off your feelings, no relationship would work with somebody who doesn’t do feel likes.

Laurie Watson 28:41
Yeah. Right. So to take a wider lens on the person who’s angry, the person who is protesting the person who is angry on the other side, right, we have to take a wider lens and see somehow or another that their heart has been injured, that they’ve been taught something It feels so essential to hang on to. One of the things I’ve often fantasized about is that having would be a place where we would see people’s hearts, you know, that we would just see through to their injuries and things would become understandable.

George Faller 29:17
Yeah. And we certainly I know, you agree that our message is we support that protest, because the emotion driving it is say, Can you see my dignity and my humanity and, and, and and treat me as an equal, and you absolutely deserve that. And if that’s not happening, then you need to stand up and express that. And that people around me to listen to that and to support that, because we’re, we’re as only as strong as our weakest members, you know, and when we’re all united, which is some of what we’re seeing now. It’s amazing what we’re capable of doing.

Laurie Watson 29:54
Mm hmm. I do agree with that. Absolutely. Amen. So we also want to tell people that we’re going to have a Facebook Live next Friday night for our Patreon supporters, if you want to come and sign up, I think it’s a higher level. And I hope people will join me in conversation because I’m going to be live on Facebook talking about anything. I mean, we can certainly continue this conversation or we can talk about sex as we usually do. So join us there and surely

George Faller 30:25
to be having some sex during these times to right.

Laurie Watson 30:30
We do need sex during these times. Yes, some relief. And check out our sponsor Uber lube, calm and use the coupon for play so that the podcast is supported through that. Thank you so much. Thanks for listening.

George Faller 30:47
Keep it hot.

Laurie Watson 30:49
For those of you who are listening today, we are also going to send out some free over lived those of you who sponsor us on our Patreon page.

Announcer 30:58
Call in your questions. The foreplay question voicemail dial 833 my four play that’s 833 the number four play and we’ll use the questions for our mailbag episodes. All content is for entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered as a substitute for therapy by a licensed clinician or as medical advice from a doctor.