Episode 2: Who is America?

How can we come together as a country when it seems like so many things are working to keep us apart?

Host Carvell Wallace turns to Shereen Marisol Meraji from NPR's Code Switch to talk about community. Thanksgiving is one of the only days of the year when a lot of us - literally, physically - have to come together with people we might not agree with, whether we want to or not. It's the quintessential American holiday. So who are the quintessential Americans?

Shereen Marisol Meraji

SHEREEN_SMALLER.jpg

Shereen Marisol Meraji is a co-host of NPR’s Code Switch podcast. Listed by The New York Times listed as one of the best new podcasts of 2016, Code Switch explores race and identity in America. 
 
Meraji has worked at NPR for over a decade. She started as a producer for national news magazines such as All Things Considered, and now is an award-winning on-air correspondent. Since her mother is Puerto Rican and her father is an Iranian-Muslim immigrant, Meraji has for a long time questioned where and how she fits into America’s complex racial puzzle. This curiosity and exploration has led directly to the most fulfilling work of her career with NPR’s Code Switch team. 

 

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Episode 2 Transcript

WHO IS AMERICA?

Closer Than They Appear: Episode 2

Carvell Wallace: [00:00:02] So like, Shereen?
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:00:05] Yes.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:00:06] Is this your country?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:00:09] Are you just going to start with that question?
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:00:12] That's so, wow. You're just going to go there?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:00:13] Yeah. Yeah. This is Closer Than They Appear. I'm Carvell Wallace And this is Shereen Marisol Meraji. Is this your country?
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:00:24] Is this my country?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:00:25] Yeah.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:00:30] So I feel like it's is my country because it's the only country I really know.
 
[00:00:36] Right? This is... I was born and raised here. I think the mix that I am, Puerto Rican and Iranian, it's probably a mix that could only happen here. You probably will only find here. I don't know if there are any other Puerto Rican Iranians out there. On the one hand, I feel like this is the only place where I could have been created, in a lot of ways.
 
[00:01:01] But then I've always felt my whole life felt like I don't really belong.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:01:08] You probably know Shereen from NPR.
 
[00:01:10] She's a reporter and the co-host of The Code Switch podcast, along with Gene Demby. Shereen is one of the best cultural reporters I know of. She's wild smart, deeply curious, incredibly honest. She's Iranian, Puerto Rican, she's an Angeleno. In other words, she is an American.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:01:29] Carvell, can you hear me?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:01:31] I can hear you now... She feels to me a little bit like a long lost sister. Another cultural mutt with a boundless appetite for overthinking things.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:01:42] Can you help me not be frightened?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:01:43] One time I heard her say, "I fit in everywhere because I don't fit in anywhere," and I swear to you, I've never heard my life so accurately described by another person.
 
[00:02:00] So what I'm hoping is that Shereen is going to help me figure out the next piece of my big question, which is how can we come together when it seems like so many things are working to keep us apart? Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. You know this already, so it seems like a good time to have this conversation, especially because it's one of the only days of the year when a lot of us, like literally physically not just Internet-wise have to come together with people that might not agree with, whether we want to or not. It's the quintessential American holiday. So who are the quintessential Americans?
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:02:45] Let me let me tell you a little story.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:02:46] Yeah.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:02:47] So I was I was teaching in Qatar at University City. I was there for a week and I was like oh you know, I'm in this new place and what's close? Like, what countries are close that I could fly to and have a little vacation? So I thought oh well, India. India's only, I think it was a four and a half hour flight from Qatar. So I was like oh, I want to go to India. So I you know I fill out all my paperwork and it's like stacks of stuff that you need and you need all this documentation. And then I finally you know I went in and they were like oh, your visa was denied. And I was like huh, maybe I'll go to the Indian embassy in Qatar and figure this out. And so this... the embassy was packed with people. I mean, it was really, really packed and you know it's really hot there. And so I'm there and I'm waiting and I'm waiting for a very, very long time and I get to get up to the window when I'm explaining my situation to the man behind the window and he is basically like, you know I'm sorry. There's really nothing we can do for you. And Carvell, I... mind you, I mean, there's no excuse for this. I was hot though, and I had been waiting forever and I did not understand this. And I got all uppity ass American.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:04:06] Plot twist.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:04:08] Yes. I'm pretty sure I said this, "I am an American. I am an American. Look at my passport. I'm American. I bought a ticket with American dollars. I paid for a place in Kerala with my American money." I said, "I'm going to spend my money over there. Don't you guys want my money?"
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:04:30] Oh my god. That is amazing.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:04:32] No, no. I went full on like, "How dare you? I'm an American."
 
[00:04:40] And I was shocked by my reaction.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:04:42] Right.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:04:42] I'm still shocked by my reaction.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:04:44] Right. Right. There's nothing more American than yelling at people in a foreign country about how you're an American. Part of this insane identity of being a non-white American is that you're constantly going back and forth between feeling like you don't belong and yet feeling like Americanness is in your blood and you can't escape it.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:05:10] I think when I was young I heard a lot, this from especially from my grandparents, from my Puerto Rican grandparents, especially from my grandfather, who was in the Air Force and fought in Vietnam. He was actually a airplane mechanic and he was career military, fought in Vietnam. His brother fought in Korea and Vietnam, was in the Army, in the 65th Infantry which is... they were called the Borinqueneers. They were a segregated unit...
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:05:43] Wow.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:05:43] ...in Puerto Rico. Yes. They were actually I think one of the last segregated units to disband. Anyway, all that to say...
 
[00:05:52] My grandfather would always be like, you know... Aw! And he has a really thick Puerto Rican accent.
 
[00:05:58] And so he would be like, you know "I am American! And you know, I don't understand why people don't understand this. And I fought in the Vietnam War."
 
[00:06:06] That man does not leave the house without his Vietnam vet hat. And when people ask him, he's like I'm an American. And this you know, I fought in this war and I fought for this country and we are American and it was something that he just like, he made sure that we knew that we were American and we were American citizens.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:06:24] But that's that American...
 
[00:06:26] This is how I, look, the way you knew you were Americans was when you yelled in the embassy, "I'm an American, spending American money.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:06:33] It's horrible.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:06:33] The way I know I'm an American is that... the way I know I'm an American is that I'm always going, "Yeah, but we can do it!" You know what I mean? Like the fact that it hasn't been that way. I'm like, that's the past. What past?
 
[00:06:49] That's OK. No, we're moving forward. We're moving to the future. We're going to figure this out, guys. Come on, let's do a play in the barn. Like, there's a part of me that really does work that way.
 
[00:06:58] Like like when someone says, has it ever been this way? My fundamental belief is of course it's never been this way but that doesn't mean it can't be, guys.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:07:07] Right.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:07:09] That's what makes me an American. You know? And I don't know anymore if that's an appropriate way to think.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:07:21] So I mean the more appropriate way to think you think would be to be realistic about it?
 
[00:07:26] To go back to the history books and say actually, if you look at the reality here, maybe this idea that being hopeful and thinking that yeah, we can do it... that's actually never really been an American thing.
 
[00:07:45] It's it's something we've duped ourselves into thinking?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:07:50] Well, the duping yourself into thinking is the important thing.
 
[00:07:55] But but but it's like it's almost like, it's almost like.
 
[00:08:00] That's helpful, but it's not enough. You can't do that. You can't go forward on optimism alone. In some ways, that like in maybe that's the biggest problem that you can't go forward on optimism alone and in particular, and in order to be optimistic about America, you have to ignore its past.
 
[00:08:20] You know, you can't really summon the necessary optimism unless you ignore the past.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:08:26] Or you look at the brutal reality of what the past was and you say, well look at us today. There have been steps forward. There have been obvious steps forward. What do you think?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:08:39] Shereen told me that one of the reasons her grandpa wears his Vietnam vet hat is because people stop him on the street and thank him for his service and he likes that. Shereen's grandpa is in his late 80s.
 
[00:08:56] That means when he was born, all those many decades ago, he was born as a U.S. citizen and he lived his life as a U.S. citizen. He served in the Air Force during Korea and Vietnam. He lived through segregation, through the Klans' terror in the South, through the only ever deployment of nuclear weapons on human beings. The Montgomery bus boycott, the March on Washington, the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 
 
[00:09:31] The murder of Martin Luther King, of Malcolm X, the rise of militant movements, increased opportunities, increased representation in movies and films, Latino and Latina judges and Congress people and Supreme Court justices.
 
[00:09:48] And yet. This past year, he saw his fellow Americans arguing about whether people from Puerto Rico were even American enough to deserve clean water or electricity or safety.
 
[00:10:09] That's what makes this past year so back-breaking, actually, if you ask me, for so many people, is that you have a certain percentage of belief, of hope in the fact that OK, things are going forward. It's not... progress is not a straight line but hey we're getting there. You know, the long arc bends towards justice and blabbity-bah and so on and so forth. All right. With this I can work.
 
[00:10:31] And then you see things like what has happened in the past couple of years. When you see when you see black people getting murdered on video who were unarmed.
 
[00:10:45] And there's the the so-called legal system is like yeah, I feel like that was fine. I feel like that was... it was a misunderstanding. Hey, tough luck. When when that happens you go, I don't... it's that's hard for me, because I wasn't that hopeful. I was like I was I was tentatively hopeful. And without that hope, it is really hard.
 
[00:11:09] And that's to me, that's the big question is like why do like what why are we... just to meta this conversation. Why is it important for us to figure out if there's hope or not?
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:11:24] Because you have kids. Right? I mean, I don't have kids so I don't have to have hope.
 
[00:11:33] Just kidding.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:11:34] But no that's not true.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:11:35] Actually I want to have kids, so.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:11:37] Yeah.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:11:37] But but you also want to... I mean, don't you need hope?
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:11:41] Oh yeah. I think so. I mean, you have to have hope if...
 
[00:11:49] Yes, you have to have hope that things are going to get better. If, especially if you're bringing kids into this world or you have kids in this world and you want things to be the best that they can be for them, don't you? Do you have these conversations with your kids?
 
[00:12:11] I mean, in some ways kids are so great because they're so self-absorbed. It's really hard for them to imagine anything in the world.
 
[00:12:18] They're just sort of like you know. I mean, yeah we had these conversations a lot but we also don't have these conversations a lot because they also have other things on their minds that are not this. And I think I'm grateful for that.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:12:31] Yeah.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:12:31] You know I mean, but yeah we have this conversation. We we I mean the day after the election, we had to talk for a long time about
 
[00:12:41] what to do in the world as people and what this means and what it doesn't mean.
 
Georgia Wallace: [00:12:46] And it was weird, because it was like you kind of felt helpless because it's like, we couldn't vote, we couldn't do anything about it. We could just sit down and watch other people control what's going to happen for the next 4 years of our lives.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:12:56] And it's an ongoing conversation.
 
Ezra Wallace: [00:13:00] I don't really feel powerless anymore because I've like been like scared in action, which is just like the kind of person I am.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:13:06] But also are my kids are 14 and 11.
 
[00:13:11] They're 14 and 12 rather. They're capable of being distracted by something very minute.
 
[00:13:21] You know like.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:13:22] Yeah.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:13:23] What kind of phone case should I get.
 
Georgia Wallace: [00:13:25] ...Ate my food. This is what happened, this is what happened. Ezra was... I had a drink, there were two drinks for each of us, there was like two for each of us...
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:13:32] You know, they're capable of being and of taking that with the same level of seriousness that they take what is happening in the world. That is one of the things about being kids you know your your perspective, your size of import, is different than when you're an adult, you know? 

Georgia Wallace: And we were saying, "Don't drink that." We were like, no no no. And then he drank it.

Carvell Wallace: And I'm grateful for that, because it means I don't have to answer this question for them, because I don't know the answer to it.
 
[00:14:12] Hey, so we're going to go back to the show, the conversation was Shereen in a minute. But first, I have a request for you. Yeah, for you. You, right there who is listening to this podcast. I want you to call me. I want you to call me and I want you to tell me something very specific about your life and here's what it is. OK. You know how in the first episode I told you this country might just be 320 million people who all need to sit down and talk with someone that they were afraid to talk to, an estranged family member, a weird neighbor who you find yourself thinking about all the time. Somebody from middle school who said one thing to you one time and you still can't let go of it. Well, here's what I want you to do. I want you to sit down to close your eyes and I want you to imagine that person.
 
[00:15:04] And then I want you to imagine what it is you'd say to them if you could be face to face with them.
 
[00:15:11] And then I want you to pull out your phone, call this number and say it to me. 9 4 9- 5 2 2 -5 5 8 7. That's 9 4 9 -5 2 2- 5 5 8 7. Leave a voicemail. You don't have to use your name. But tell me who you want to talk to, and what you want to say to them and you might just hear yourself on an upcoming episode of the show. I want your voice to be a part of this conversation. So call! And of course, check us out on Twitter @CloserShow or look us up on Facebook and we'll tell you more. OK. Back to the show.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:15:55] Well, when you're when you're trying to find hope and you're trying to think I mean because we do this calculus, right? At least I do. Where I'm like OK, is this like the worst it's ever been? You know? And then I you know I ask my elders like, has it been worse or what do you think? And a lot of the response is, oh yes, it has been worse but you, because of technology and because of the media and because of social media, you are bombarded by how bad it is. All of the time. It just makes everything seem worse.
 
[00:16:30] What do you think about that?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:16:33] I think that maybe you don't feel that way in 1975 or something. Maybe you feel like, I need to do something about my kids, my family, my job, my clothes, my church, whatever. And then, but in in 2017 you wake up and you go I need to do something about my kids, my family, my job, my clothes, my church. And also wildfires, and also hurricanes, and also climate change, and also...
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:17:00] Mass shootings.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:17:00] ...racism and mass shootings and also nuclear. You know, like there's something to that, I would say. The feeling that you have to do something about everything and you know, "how do you...how do you go on?" is a question that I think every person has to answer. Literally how do you get up in the morning and go out. And there has to.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:17:25] And do you shut some of this out?
 
[00:17:27] And if you do, are...
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:17:30] Do you feel afraid?
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:17:31] Are you being a bad citizen?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:17:33] Right. Yeah, I was going to ask you, do you feel afraid to shut some of it out?
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:17:36] I do.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:17:37] Why?
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:17:40] Well, first of all, part of it is my job, right? So there's that. So that's wrapped up in it. But if I don't go and if I don't check Twitter and see what's going on in Puerto Rico today or what the new images are out of Puerto Rico or if I don't do that I feel like there's I'm doing I'm I'm just...
 
[00:18:08] What's the word? I'm not being responsible.
 
[00:18:14] I'm not being responsible to my people.
 
[00:18:16] My responsibility is to be, at least, at least to be aware of what is going on. I have no excuse not to know.
 
[00:18:31] You know? And it's kind of like the least I could do is educate myself and be up to date and aware of what's happening at every moment, which is also making me insane.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:18:47] Yeah, that's what I was going to ask, like.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:18:51] But it does feel like... I mean, do you feel that way?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:18:53] No.
 
[00:18:54] I feel... I feel a lot of ways, but I was going to say I don't know that I agree that your fundamental responsibility is to be informed. I think that our fundamental... I can't speak for you, but I think that our fundamental responsibility is to be of maximum functionality, like we have to be able to do...
 
[00:19:15] You know what I'm saying?
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:19:17] That's right.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:19:17] Like you have to be able to do.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:19:19] Self-care, in some ways.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:19:20] The most that we can... Yeah. And self-care has got like a weird tinge on it now.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:19:24] But your well, keep your well full.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:19:26] You've to be able to operate because we're were needed and... And also, we can't fix everything. And so. So there's this thing where you have to be operating at as close to maximum capacity as you can, and that means doing things like feeling love and petting dogs.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:19:45] And hanging out with your friends... which I realize, man...
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:19:50] I think they call this community? Which is a word that is nowadays kind of used to describe every dumb thing, but at its core it still has value. Real community, physical community, being a part of the thing where you actually connect with other human beings, where there's comfort and trust and honesty, safety and authenticity and with that collective of human beings, you go forward and decide to change something, to make some small progress, to work for something. That I think is what community is supposed to be. And that, I think, is what's missing.
 
[00:20:34] And that's a problem for me, because maybe the only thing that makes me more American than my random, unspecific, and intractable optimism is the fact that I really just kind of want to be alone, on a prairie, like an exceptional cowboy looking off into the sunset with only my horse and a can of beans, but free, you know? Free. I mean, you really have to convince me that I'm better off with other people than I am by myself. It's crazy, I know, but it's the way that I am. It's the way I think a lot of us are. We have a hard time being together.
 
[00:21:21] Maybe it requires too much honesty.
 
[00:21:30] So my question is, do you think this country can go forward together?
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:21:41] I do, I really do. I mean, I feel like people want that. People are... people want... human nature is to want to be a part of a group and to have togetherness and to feel like you belong somewhere that we all want that, don't we?
 
[00:22:08] And we do want to be in community so desperately. I do feel like we want that. And so, if there are spaces where we're creating that and we're trying to, and we're reaching out to our neighbors and we're doing it in our own small way, I think that is possible. I you know I don't know. I've been asking myself a question. It's not that question exactly, but I've been trying to interrogate myself, right? You only... I've been in a lot of therapy, Carvell, so.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:22:40] Good.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:22:40] And you have control over yourself, right? In your own... your actions and you're like, what can I do?
 
[00:22:46] How do I... how can I be better? What can I do better? What's my role in this? As my therapist would always say, what's your role in this?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:22:53] Yes.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:22:55] And so I moved into a predominantly African-American middle class neighborhood in southwest L.A. called Lemmert Park.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:23:04] Right.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:23:04] And it's going through massive gentrification right now. And I've been interrogating, well what is my role in this? What is my role in this wave of gentrification? You know, where do I where do I fit into this?
 
[00:23:18] And it's actually made me knock on doors in my neighborhood and meet my neighbors.
 
[00:23:24] And the one thing that I hear from like everybody, I mean and I hear a lot of things and I hear a lot of and there's a lot of anger and distrust and just pure pissed-off-ness about inequality in the United States and racism that I hear from my neighbors, but also one thing that I hear all the time is, you know, we would really just appreciate it if the people who came and moved into this community if they would just say hi. Like, just walk down the street and acknowledge our existence.
 
[00:24:01] You know? Just say hi to us. Maybe strike up a conversation. It... I mean.
 
[00:24:10] Every last African-American person I've spoken to in my neighborhood has said this to me.
 
[00:24:16] Why... Why won't, you know...
 
[00:24:19] So many of these newcomers to the neighborhood, they don't just stop and speak and say hi.  

[00:24:29] It's way more complicated than that, but it's also as simple as that. Right? That gives me hope that if people did something as simple as just walking down the street and saying hi to their neighbors, like something will break. Something will soften.
 
[00:24:49] Does that give you any hope? I don't know.
 
[00:24:53] I've been going to like coffee and tea at my neighbor's houses, my neighbors drive down the street and give me hugs.
 
[00:25:02] I mean, this woman who was like oh these settlers moved into that house blah blah blah and I said Miss Sheila I think you're talking about my house. And she was like wait, she's like these settlers with their little dogs. I was like, I do have a Chihuahua.
 
[00:25:19] And I think that's my house. And like the other day, she drove by and she was like, "Come here, give me a hug." You know what I mean?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:25:27] Yeah.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:25:28] We had a conversation. We like it we we spoke. We broke the ice. There was there we were creating community.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:25:38] God damn it, Shereen. See this is the kind of shit... Look, I like community in theory, but in practice I'm like a loner. I moved around so much growing up. I went with 11 different schools by the time I was in 10th grade.
 
[00:25:51] I'm really good at dropping into a group just enough to get people to like me and then dipping before it gets too personal. I mean, I guess that worked well for a while, but the stakes have changed. You know what I mean? Things that used to be good enough are no longer good enough. Of course, Shereen picked up on that. This is what I meant when I said she's one of the smartest reporters I know. I figured it was probably time to tell her about Aunt Bea, the white woman who partially raised me.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:26:29] She and I haven't haven't seen each other in 17 years.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:26:34] Wow.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:26:35] And, what you're saying makes me feel like like like OK, so the question is why?
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:26:44] Yeah.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:26:44] It's because. I am afraid that people will say well, you're different than me and I don't like that. So, I don't like you.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:27:09] Right.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:27:09] And that I won't be able to take it. I won't be able to connect. I won't be able to... I won't be able to bridge what I think is the gap, which I actually think is exactly why the "settlers" as Miss Sheila calls them, don't talk.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:27:26] Because they you don't want to feel rejected.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:27:29] I actually know that for a fact. They're rejecting because they don't want to be rejected. They feel like, I can't bridge the gap with this person. They're going to they're going to have a world that I don't understand. They're going to have foods I don't get. They're going to make jokes that I'm uncomfortable with and I'm going to feel you know, and I don't want... I just want to stay in my world, like where all the rules that I know make sense. Here's here's the kind of dog you should have. Here's the kind of plants you should plant. Here's how you should deal with the environment. Here's how you should talk about race, gender, sexuality, et cetera. This is the world that I know and I don't want... there's other people over there who I think might be different. Who knows what they will say? I may go over there, they may say some politically incorrect shit and then I'm gonna feel hella awkward because I'm in these people's living room. You know what I mean? And all that is just too much for me. I don't want that so I'm going to... I just need to and if I just don't if I don't make eye contact, then that won't be an issue for them. I can maybe skate by.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:28:21] Yeah.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:28:22] That's what I think people are actually doing.
 
[00:28:24] And to be 100 percent honest with you, that's what I think I'm doing on some level. I've never even said that out loud. What you're saying is that we actually can't live that way.
 
[00:28:42] We have to go and connect with people that are different than us.
 
[00:28:49] And like, that's not that's not that's not like me saying hey, like go find like... Me not telling black people, go find your nearest Nazi and just try to find their humanity, because there is a way in which that message gets twisted and that's not what I'm saying.
 
[00:29:09] But I think that there I think for me, I have to go and... I have to do a better job of connecting with people that are different from me.
 
[00:29:22] How do you not talk to the woman that raised you for 17 years? How do you not see...?
 
[00:29:29] How does she not see me? And we're both doing that. She hasn't seen me either. Like.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:29:32] And you're not talking to her because...?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:29:37] I don't know.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:29:38] Oh really? I mean it wasn't because she was outwardly racist...
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:29:39] Maybe I'll find out.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:29:40] Or she treated you in a certain way?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:29:44] I mean she wasn't outwardly racist. I mean, she was no I mean she she was a white woman of her era. I'm sure that she had some type of stuff that if she was to tweet it now, people would jump on her.
 
[00:29:56] You know, she said some things like that in the 80s, and she was and she came from this small town, this dairy farm in Connecticut, and left home early to go to law school and came to this small town McKeesport to like to help people... You know, like help deal with poverty and she was like going to roll up her sleeves and do it because she was about it.
 
[00:30:16] She was about that life you know, in the 70s and then she met my uncle and then they got married and then they semi-adopted me when my mother couldn't keep you know, keep the lights on and keep us in a home. I mean, how do you...? I mean, when I look at it from her perspective, you're this white woman raising this black child in this small, white town. You have to be a lot of different things in order to do that.
 
[00:30:42] And I'm going to go see her.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:30:42] You are.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:30:44] I am. I'm going to actually record an episode with her.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:30:48] Ah, that's going to be amazing.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:30:53] I'm going to go back there and I'm going to see her.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:30:55] God, I want to hold the microphones.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:30:59] Yeah.
 
[00:31:00] So I guess that's.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:31:01] This is like inspiring me. I'm like, who do I need to reconnect with and why have I ignored them?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:31:08] Yeah.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:31:08] There's a long list actually. Yeah. That is the question. Who do you need to reconnect with?
 
[00:31:15] And you're, basically what you're saying is you cannot be truly whole in order to... we have to be whole to do this good work to make things better. And if you haven't faced those fears or however, whatever cliche we want to say, that we can't we're not going to be healthy enough to make this world a better place.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:31:41] Yeah. I mean, I think so and I also think that it's really what you said, that we have to go talk to people that we're worried might think something bad about us. We've over-corrected. Social media has allowed us to separate out people who aren't on our thing and only kick it with the people who are. Ok fine and that's good. But we've over-corrected. It's gotten hella specific. Everyone is like exactly with the exact... we've curated the exact right people that we're always, you know?
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:32:12] Yes.
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:32:12] And and that may be that, if what you said is true about what this country needs to go forward together, that we need to go and say hi to each other, then in that sense the over-correction, the over-curation isn't helping.
 
[00:32:27] And I have to go... I personally, if I'm telling other people to do that, I need to go personally do that.
 
[00:32:36] And that's what I'm gonna do. I'm going to go do that.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:32:40] I love that you're going to do that. I'm really inspired by that. I'm going to... I'm going to try and do that myself. I have one particular person in mind and I'm like, hmm, do I have...?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:32:59] I don't want to talk about this, but I have to.
 
[00:33:05] Facing your fears. Connecting with people. Finding community. It's all great sloganeering until it's time to you know, actually face your fears and connect with people and find community.
 
[00:33:18] I don't want to talk about this, but I have to because many of us and that includes me, have to do something, something different, something better than what we've done before.
 
[00:33:36] I said in the last episode that I wasn't going to make you face your fears alone. I'm doing it too.
 
[00:33:42] I'm facing my past, but now I need help.
 
[00:33:50] I need to talk with someone who is out there facing things he's afraid of every single day. And to find out what that's actually like. So next week, my guest is Dr. Ayaz Virji. He and his family are the only Muslims in the small town of Dawson, Minnesota. Since the beginning of the year, he's been teaching his Trump-supporting neighbors all about Islam. Yeah.
 
[00:34:14] It's going to be an interesting conversation.
 
[00:34:17] Closer Than They Appear is the debut production of Jetty Studios.
 
[00:34:27] You can subscribe and listen in all the usual places and find full episode transcripts on our Web site at CloserThanTheyAppear.Fm. After you listen, we'd love to hear from you. Write us a review on Apple podcasts or find us on social media. We're on Facebook and Twitter @closershow. Our senior producer is Casey Miner. Our producer is Lacey Roberts and our editor is Leila Day. Graelyn Brashear and Paulana Lamonier run our social media and our associate producer is Meradith Hoddinott. Our show was engineered by Mark Behm, with mixing and sound design by Ian Coss. Music is by Antique Naked Soul. You can hear more of them at antique-music.com. Megan Jones runs our podcast operations and Jessica Wang is our senior video producer. Jetty's executive producer is Julie Caine and general manager is Kaizar Campwala.
 
[00:35:21] Until next time, thanks for listening.
 
[00:35:29] Where's my therapist when I need her? OK. So I think.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:35:32] Am I'm going to get paid at the end of this?
 
Carvell Wallace: [00:35:34] You have to go through my insurance company.
 
Shereen Marisol Meraji: [00:35:37] I don't take insurance.