EP003: Teacher & Filmmaker Lee Mun Wah on How to Boldly Face Racism

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A conversation about finding the courage and compassion to stand up -- even when courage comes at a price. And on his work to encourage that capacity in others as well. New episodes every other Tuesday! Subscribe in iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play, or your favorite podcatcher. 

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Introducing Lee Mun Wah of Stirfry Seminars:

This week, a conversation with Lee Mun Wah, founder of Stirfry Seminars. He’s an internationally renowned documentary filmmaker, author, and master diversity trainer. For 30 years, Mun Wah has been engaged in real talk about race in America. He’s a unique combination of fearless, unwaveringly direct, and kind-hearted. When he began leading his workshops in corporate America, he started doing something pretty radical at the time: he put down the powerpoint slides, and got people actually talking about race.

Interview Highlights

[13:19] My greatest fear isn’t so much that I won’t stand up. My greatest sadness in this country is to be alone when I do that.

To feel alone. To feel that I have to have some sort of groundedness that my reality is true. I think that what happens for Asians, for many minorities, is that we question ourselves. That to me racism and discrimination is really about a betrayal. A betrayal of our senses. A betrayal of trust.

[15:18] That’s what my work is. My work that gives me a fire is that -- number one -- I want to train and encourage and model people for speaking up.

I think that sometimes people ask me, “well, how could you be so bold?” And I said “I am bold because whenever I hesitate, I think of my son. I think of all the brave people in my 30 years who have stood up and spoke the truth in the middle of a huge room of people that they’re working for and they could lose their jobs. That I owe it to them to keep going. That if I don’t, I don’t model for them.”

[26:38] [About the April 2018 racist arrest in Starbucks] What I would have liked, is that a white person stand up and said, “Arrest me. I've been sitting here doing the exact same things. Using your bathroom illegally, and you didn’t do a thing. Arrest me.” And I often tell people, soon we will be getting a Muslim registry. I would like every person in America to say, “I am a Muslim.”

[53:17] Sometimes you don’t know the words until you start getting mad. And if you think too long, you’ll never say something. But it’ll come to you. No matter what you say, it’ll come out right because you care.

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Alexis P. Morgan is a writer and artist. You can see her unfolding work, “The Season of Maya,” at https://www.thechurchofsaintfelicia.com/

Sasha Allenby is a ghostwriter for thought-leaders in the social evolutionary field, specializing in books on socio-economic, racial, sexual, gender and refugee equality. www.sashaallenby.com