Sara Blanchard and Misasha Suzuki Graham are best friends. They’ve been hosting a podcast together for three years, and co-authored a book titled "Dear White Women: Let’s get (Un)comfortable Talking about Racism."
Racism is a hot-button issue that makes many people feel uncomfortable when talking about it.
“I think because it’s been a topic that for so long we've been told wasn't something we should talk about,” Suzuki Graham said.
Blanchard and Suzuki Graham say it's necessary to talk about racism if we want to build a culture in America that makes everyone feel included.
“I am the daughter of a Japanese immigrant mom and a white father and sort of grew up always trying to figure out where I fit in," Blanchard said. "You know, I wasn't Asian enough. I wasn't white enough. And people always wanted to, you know, put you in one of these boxes.”
The women believe they can build empathy if people are exposed to life experiences that are different from their own.
“We are at a tricky point in race relations in the United States,” Blanchard said. “The shootings a year ago really opened up this culmination of this fear that people have had. People of Asian descent have felt sort of being othered with the pandemic and people calling it the China virus or the China flu. And not even bothering to see whether someone is of Chinese descent and have just come off a plane from China. But really just blaming a whole look of people for something that is completely out of their hands.”
Though you may not be hearing about it, Blanchard and Suzuki Graham say Asian hate crimes have not stopped.
“There's been around 11,000 reported since the pandemic, and that is probably just a fraction of the number that is out there because of language barriers, because of cultural disinclination to want to try to say something," Suzuki Graham said.
According to STOP APPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) HATE, Asian hate crimes have been rising since March of 2020. A hate crime is a crime motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or disability.
Blanchard says she fears for her Japanese mother in New York, while Suzuki Graham worries about her children. Her kids are Black, Japanese and white.
“I was pregnant with my first son when Trayvon Martin was murdered," Suzuki Graham said. "I was holding my second son, who was a baby, when Tamir Rice was murdered. And so I think that, you know, when you see instances of violence and hate against Black boys, instead of thinking about the future that your sons have, you think about the ways that their life can end.”
The goal with their podcast and book is to get people to listen, learn, and act.
“If one person understands, opens their heart, learns the history, and does something different, that affects the life, saves the life of Misasha’s boys or kids who look like hers - we will have been successful,” Blanchard said.
Blancard and Suzuki Graham say we can make decisions every day that make a difference.
“Just thinking about who you buy things from and where you buy them," Suzuki Graham said. "You know, wallet power has a big say in in who gets shelf space places and who gets their products into bigger markets.”
“If you're at the holiday table and someone makes a racist joke or an inappropriate comment, you can interrupt by saying, what do you mean by that?" Blanchard said. "There’s ways to do this in a heart-led way that don’t send accusations and further the divide.”