Did you read Little House on the Prairie when you were a child? I didn’t, but I know it’s a common American rite of passage. My guest in this new episode, Dr. Dolly Chugh, got entirely immersed in the story with her two young daughters – so much so that they took a vacation to the places depicted in the story, and her daughters danced around in prairie dresses.
Dr. Chugh didn’t realized until afterward that there was something missing from both Little House on the Prairie and from her family’s exploration of the Midwest: settlers didn’t arrive to find unoccupied land ready for farming; the government actively removed Native Americans from the land so it could be occupied by ‘settlers.’ Dr. Chugh studies issues related to race as a professor, and yet she completely missed this aspect of our country’s history.
In her new book, A More Just Future, Dr. Chugh asks why so-called Good People act in ways that are counter to their beliefs because we don’t have all the information we need, or we prioritize some information over others. In our conversation we discussed this research, and what we can all do to take actions that are aligned with our values – even when we’re new to working on social justice issues.
Dr. Dolly Chugh Book:
Jump to highlights:
(09:13) 3 ways that we tend to perceive ourselves.
(12:02) People who are trying to avoid a loss are more likely to make less ethical choices than people trying to make a game.
(14:35) Kahneman and Tversky’s work that says how you frame something can have meaningful consequences, even if the thing you’re framing is exactly the same.
(15:06) So that’s all the research of Framing says, and the gain versus loss piece of it says that you can have identical situations. But what the research, Molly Curran and I have shown us that if you frame it as a loss, people are more likely to cheat.
(28:51) James Loewen has done some, some deep analyses of textbooks where he’s, you know, God bless him spent two years he took like the 20 most popular history textbooks used in American high schools.
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Sirois, F.M., Melia-Gordon, M.L., & Pychyl, T.A. (2003). “I’ll look after my health, later”: An investigation of procrastination and health. Personality and Individual Differences 35(5), 1167-1184.
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Hi, I'm Jen and I host the Your Parenting Mojo podcast. We all want our children to lead fulfilling lives. But it can be so hard to keep up with the latest scientific research on child development and figure out whether and how to incorporate it into our own approach to parenting. Here at Your Parenting Mojo, I do the work for you by critically examining strategies and tools related to parenting and child development that are grounded in scientific research and principles of respectful parenting. If you'd like to be notified when new episodes are released, and get a free guide to seven Parenting Myths that we can safely leave behind, seven fewer things to worry about, subscribe to the show at yourparentingmojo.com. You can also continue the conversation about the show with other listeners in the Your Parenting Mojo Facebook group. I do hope you'll join us.Brianna:
Hi, I'm Brianna and I'm calling from Fredericksburg, Virginia where I have two children ages 3.25 and one and a half. And I've been listening to Your Parenting Mojo since I was pregnant. If you want to feel confident and informed when making your parenting choices in the face of everyone, your parents, your in laws, your friends, the media and most importantly yourself then Your Parenting Mojo is the podcast for you. This podcast has allowed me to prepare for the inevitable struggles of raising children and to decide ahead of time how I want to handle the difficult situations that arise. It’s giving me the tools to make sure that I am parenting within my values, but also effectively so that my whole family is comfortable with our roles and expectations and our freedoms. The information presented here makes the kind of sense that is so well organized. When you hear it you feel empowered to implement it right away. Go to yourparentingmojo.com/subscribe for easy access to all that good stuff.Jen Lumanlan:
Hello, and welcome to the Your Parenting Mojo podcast. Somewhat unusually on the show, I first heard about my guest today when I was still working in corporate consulting, because she was featured in a video on the topic of bias for my employer. And I picked up her book at the time, which is called The Person You Mean To Be. And it's about ways that normal people can understand their biases, and work to overcome them without necessarily being the best person in the world. And I always appreciated how I offered concrete ideas to help people live in greater alignment with their values. And she's now followed up with a new book “A More Just Future: Psychological Tools for Reckoning with Our Past and Driving Social Change”. And she is here with us today to discuss it. So Dr. Dolly Chugh is a Social Psychologist and Management Professor at the New York University's Stern School of Business. Her work on the psychology of good people has been published in leading psychology, economics and management journals. And she has been named one of the top most 100 influential people in business ethics by Ethisphere Magazine. She received her MBA and PhD from Harvard University. Welcome Dr. Chugh. It's great to have you here.Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Oh, thank you so much for having me Jen. Thank you for doing this marvelous work that you do for all of us parents.Jen Lumanlan:
Thank you. And so I wonder if you can maybe start us out where the book starts out, which is with a vacation. Can you tell us about your vacation in South Dakota and Minnesota?Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Sure. So my kids at that time, we're around six, seven years old. And I had just spent a year reading to them every night from the Little House on the Prairie book series to eight books, you know, about 200 pages each. So it was a full immersive year long family experience that we got very close to the Ingalls family. We felt like they were part of us. And like so many millions of people who have gotten close to this family through the TV show or the books and so my family was no exception. We read it aloud. The kids loved it. And my husband and I decided we would travel to Minnesota, South Dakota. We lived on the east coast. So we would go far from home to where the Ingalls family lived and go to the various towns and homesteads where their stories came from. And my kids were so into the experience like really into it. And you can buy homemade Prairie dresses out there when you're doing this and they wore Prairie dresses for like a whole week. As we made our way through this incredible experience, where we were immersing ourselves in the context and the history, we were breathing the same air walking on the same land as Ingalls family. At some point it started to like nudge away what I had in that whole year, every single night somehow not questioned or helped my kids question this beautiful story about this hard working family in terms of the broader context. So this Little House on the Prairie was on land that was taken from the Native Americans, and those Native Americans, those families, those cultures had been displaced, and in many cases, killed off. And through this colonization effort, and I honestly didn't know how to think about it and didn't know how to talk to my kids about it. So while we're making this trip on the vacation, I'm sort of feeling like we should, I don't know, we should be doing more learning, more talking and I just couldn't get myself there to do it. And then we came back, my kids have gotten older. And over the last few years, it's really bothered me that I felt so ill equipped to think about it for myself, and to help my kids and that what I've in essence done is just pass on my discomfort, my ignorance to my kids. So that now they have to do the hard work of unlearning what I spent that whole year teaching them this very beautiful story about a beautiful family, but a very partial story about other families, American families, and how they were living at that time. And so I've been thinking, as a Psychologist, as a Social Psychologist, I'm interested in how people engage with the world around them, how we perceive each other. And I wondered if I could use the tools of my field, to better understand how we think about the past, about people from the past, stories from the past. And if there's something we could do to help people like me, and perhaps some of your listeners, and viewers with tools that come from science of how to handle these situations.Jen Lumanlan:
And it turns out, you're not in a bad spot to investigate this because this is kind of what you do. So maybe we can launch into that and you can tell us a bit about what is bounded ethicality? And how does that fit with learning about what happens about your vacation in those years ago?Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Yeah! Absolutely, absolutely, yeah. So I, you know, I study what I call the Psychology of good people. The jargony word for that is bounded ethicality. Bounded ethicality is a spin off for those who are kind of behavioral science junkies, you might be familiar with the term “bounded rationality” which is a Nobel Prize winning concept and research literature that says that our human mind has limits in how much memory, how much storage, how much speed it can handle. I mean, no parent listening to this is surprised by that (Nobel Prize? Really?). But yes, I mean, there's sort of a lot of assumptions that we tend to make about the world that don't assume bounds on how the human mind works. And so, back 50 plus years ago, bounded rationality was an important idea in the social sciences. And the spin off on that idea, bounded ethicality, that I developed with my collaborators, Max Bazerman and Mahzarin Banaji says that, just like the human mind will tend to pay more attention to the cereals at eye level in the store than the ones that are down below or above. That's an example of bounded rationality. We kind of take the mental shortcut those that same mind that relies on shortcuts is making decisions of ethical importance. So decisions about who side to take in a conflict, decisions about who to hire, decisions about what is appropriate or inappropriate as a joke. These are examples of ethical decisions. And so bounded ethicality simply says, just like we have some limitations on the rationality of our decisions, there are some limitations because of processing speeds, storage, et cetera, on how ethical our decisions will be. And a big part of that is a lot of our mind’s work happens on autopilot outside of our awareness. And so the clincher is those constraints are not always things we're aware of, it's happening in our unconscious mind than our conscious mind.Jen Lumanlan:
Okay, and so, I'm thinking about the three ways that we tend to perceive ourselves that you're perceiving ourselves as moral, as competent, and as deserving. Can you tell us dig into what each of those things means and why that makes it more difficult for us to see things and recognize conflicts of interest?Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. When we see ourselves as moral, competent and deserving, those are identities most of us care a lot about.The moral identity of seeing ourselves as moral is really interesting because we don't all define moral the same. We don't all define being a good person the same. In fact, White Nationalists describe themselves and care about being good people. They just don't define it the same way I do or I suspect you do and many of your listeners do. So as a result, these identities we have, where we believe that we are moral, we believe that we are competent, we believe that we are deserving. And I want to be clear, this belief is not always happening in a conscious way. I mean, you may be walking through your day feeling like I'm the least competent at my job. I'm the least competent parent ever. I mean, we all have days like that. But there's still an unconscious level, and identity that we try to protect, where we do see ourselves as competent. So what happens is, these identities that we have as moral, competent, and deserving will lead us to perceive the world around us in ways that favors that identity. So I'm a professor, I am, let's say teaching a class full of students. And if a student writes on my class evaluation, she was boring. She's not as funny as she thinks she is. She you know, she favors people named Dolly. If a student were to write that in the evaluation, my identity as someone moral, competent, and deserving will instantly try to discount what that person is saying even if there's lots of truth to it. And I will have to override that automatic response, that reflex to discount it and say, Ah, let me let me sit with that. Do I in fact, favor people named Dolly, let me think about it. Let me look at the data. Let me ask for another opinion. There's all sorts of overrides that are required to override that way I see myself. So bounded ethicality or the psychology of good people is driven by these impulses that we all have, they're almost like sugar cravings. They are just built into us.Jen Lumanlan:
Okay. And another idea that is sort of connected to this that I found in the literature when I was doing the background research for this was the idea that people who are trying to avoid a loss are more likely to make less ethical choices than people trying to make a game, which was to some extent, was sort of mediated by time pressure. And so I'm thinking, Okay, well, we have a lot of time to think about these things. But then, I was thinking, well, what if when our children pose this question to us or they, you know, Thanksgiving rolls around, and we're like, you know, this is the first time I have to engage with this. And I don't know what to do. And it feels like there's time pressure. And so I was just trying to sort of fit that idea of avoiding a loss and the time pressure into how that fits with the way that we make decisions about these kinds of things in the parenting world.Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Yeah, I love that. If you don't mind me just stepping outside of that question for a moment. Just note I've done a lot of podcasts in my life. And you are by far the most prepared podcast hosts out there. So kudos to you for how deeply you read and how far back you read. It's really, really impressive and I think your listeners are really lucky to have that depth that you bring to the conversation. And I'm also just wanting to note that the way you're connecting things, like you just connected something to be totally honest, in my work from 10 plus years ago, that I really hadn't even connected to this conversation. So I think that's so interesting, that you're able to not just be so deeply prepared but to see connections in what you're preparing. So thank you for that and the opportunity.Jen Lumanlan:
That's a part of my work that I enjoy the most actually.
Dr. Dolly Chugh
Is that right?
It’s seeing those connections across ideas and pulling together. Yeah.Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Oh, interesting. That's really interesting. So I'm going to think it through with you, since I'm thinking about this for the first time. So what you're describing is what we've called, Molly Kern, my collaborator, and I have called the Ethical Framing effect. The idea with the Ethical Framing effect is that you can have two really similar situations, like I could tell you, Hey, let's play this game. You have a 20% chance of winning this game. Okay, so I've just framed it as a game but I focused on what you could gain from it, 20% chance of winning, you know, you're gonna win $5 If you win the game. Or I could have said to you, hey, let's play this game, you have an 80% chance of losing this game, right? Well, people might say between 20 and 80 those kinds of sounds different. Okay, fine. What if I made it 50-50, you have a 50% chance of winning this game, versus you have a 50% chance of losing this game. Now the numbers are even the same. The math is equivalent. And yet what we find and this is born of work, another Nobel Prize winning a stream of work by Kahneman and Tversky work that says how you frame something can have meaningful consequences, even if the thing you're framing is exactly the same. Now, every parent knows this. Every parent knows this. Right? There are these moments where you just realize that you're like, instead of saying we have to take a bath, we get to take a bath and it completely changes the response. Right? So that’s all the research of Framing says, and the gain versus loss piece of it says that you can have identical situations. But what the research, Molly Curran and I have shown us that if you frame it as a loss, people are more likely to cheat. So they'll more likely cheat to win that game if I described it as 50% chance of losing or 80% chance of losing than if I described it as 50% chance of winning, or 20% chance of winning. We tried it all the different versions so that's why I'm offering because I know people often ask those questions. So the connection that I see between what you're describing and this Ethical Framing effect, time pressure, the Ethical Framing effect is further activated and exacerbated by time pressure. And what we're talking about in terms of unlearning whitewashed history and the challenge that poses to us, I think part of it is that we live in a time right now, where a lot of things are framed as a loss. These conversations are framed as losses, they're framed as difficult and uncomfortable, and as polarizing, as divisive and there's no doubt I live in the same world as everyone else. There's a lot of all of that. But there's also, I think, huge gains here. One of them is that just like we want our kids to have better lives than we have had that could be along financial dimensions, or educational or whatever it is, I think we can set up our kids for having more comfort and having these conversations if we start them at home. So there's huge gains there. Another thing is this distance we're feeling from our fellow citizens, if you live in the United States, the distance you're feeling from your fellow Americans right now, that's a loss. And I think we think of these conversations as is pulling us even farther apart. What if we thought of them as an opportunity, a gain where we could come together? With the research on Framing says we might approach these moments with more enthusiasm, or more effort or less shortcutting of them if we've used them through a game? How did I do? I feel likeJen Lumanlan:
Wow, I'm impressed by your thinking on the spot.Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Im impressed by your questions. So thank you. Keep going. We spend the whole podcast on this.Jen Lumanlan:
Yeah, we could. And yeah, I absolutely agree. And also, I just want to point out, it gets easier, the more you do it, right. And I always think back to when I first started to use anatomically correct body terms, talking with my daughter, and you know, where it sees her in the bath. Have you watched evolving yet, and I'd be like, you know, I can barely even say it without going red. And now I can say on a podcast that it you know, it doesn't matter because it's just another name for a body part. And the more you get used to talking about racism, White Supremacy, these concepts with your child, the less they become threatening things that I have to see as an attack on myself and more just an idea that we need to acknowledge.Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Exactly. That's been my experience as well. With practice, like everything, things get easier. We also make mistakes with practice, and we fix them. Yeah, it's often our kids on these issues who help us fix. Yes. I'll do better next time.Jen Lumanlan:
Okay, so let's go into that process a little bit more then. Can you tell us where you went to elementary and high school and what you learned about race and racism and kind of what that unlearning process has been like for you?Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Yeah. Well, I was born in India. I was six months old when my parents immigrated here. And then I moved pretty much every year from age six months to age nine. So I've lived some of these places. I'm going to name places, but I don't know, I don't actually have like memories of some of these places, because I was so little, but I'll just name them because it's impressive. Berkeley, California, Midland Texas, Wichita Falls, Texas, Odessa, Texas, Hobbs, New Mexico. I think I'm forgetting one or two in there. So as you can hear in the list I just offered, I've just named some of the most liberal parts of the United States and some of the most conservative parts of the United States.Jen Lumanlan:
You saw the polar opposites of the textbook world.Dr. Dolly Chugh:
I fairly did. I was too young to realize but yes, exactly. And I was doing it through the perspective of an immigrant family who really didn't even know all these dynamics or politics or anything. So it was happening in a very, in some ways, a very unencumbered child's eyes. What did they learn about racism? I mean, overly nothing, like I don't think it was like ever I don't have any memory of. Oh, and I'm sorry, I stopped at fourth grade. And then my parents had noticed I was quite shy. I was Having trouble with the moving every year and so my dad was able to switch to a line of work that brought him to the New York, New Jersey area. And that's where we settled. And that's where life has been since then. I don't remember that. I remember in high school, there’ll be a Black History Month trivia contest, where you would go up to the front desk every morning, for a month, and there'd be a question posted, and you could come up with the answer and put it on a little sheet of paper and put it in the box. And then find out later if you're right. And of course, this was before Google and this was like the 80s. But you were allowed to go to the library and look things up and things like that. And I think I won that contest, and I am pretty sure I'm the only one who did it. I think I was very invested in winning this contest and then realize later that I probably could have just entered one day and I would have still won the contest.Jen Lumanlan:
That’s something about I guess effort and also the potentially the knowledge of history.Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Right. I may be underestimating the competition, I don't know. But I do remember specifically in doing some of the research for those answers, I remember sort of digging into stories like I remember reading about Paul Robeson was someone I read about. He was an activist and a musician and, and I remember being kind of shocked by some of the stories I read about the people that were the answers to these questions. There's no doubt my family as Indians in West Texas, we were often the only Indian family in the towns we were living in, there's no doubt there were moments of things that were happening. My parents recall very warm treatment from the neighbors and from the community. But also, you know, I think we were oddities. But my parents kind of laughed off the treatment of them as oddities, my father remembers being asked to, you know, go to accent reduction classes that he refused to go to. So there was some lived experience. I remember being teased by kids who said I smelled and I, I actually, this is like, almost embarrassing to say, and I don't think I've talked too much about it publicly. But I was an adult, when it suddenly dawned on me that I probably never smelled. I think I went through much of my childhood thinking I actually smelled, and then realizing later in, which makes no sense. I mean, I sort of didn't have a medical condition, I bathed regularly. I mean, why would I have smelled. So there were some things that just made sense, in hindsight, but I don't remember learning a lot in school..Jen Lumanlan:
Yeah And I guess in a way, I want to sort of push back a little bit gently on something that you said in the book, and you wrote, young people are notoriously myopic. So it's difficult to make the subject of history relevant. And, of course, we're seeing how your teacher decided to make it relevant to your life by offering a prize for learning about something. And I guess, you know, I see that children are interested about it in things that affect them and the things that they see in the world. And most children care a lot about fairness, right? And when we see how slavery explained some of the things that they see around them today, then they care about learning, what caused it, and we're exploring this for ourselves. At the moment, we're reading a book in the red wall series of books for children. And there's a fox who captures woodland animal children to sell them into enslavement. And I had no idea what the book was about going into it. This is like the third book in the series. The others hadn't been on that topic I started reading, I'm like, Whoa, I had no idea what we're getting into. And so we kind of launched into there into looking at a diagram of the book slave ship and the interactive animation on slate that shows the dots pinging across the Atlantic Ocean with each dot representing a ship, and then my daughter's totally into it. And so I'm wondering, you know, isn't the real problem that we're trying to teach history is you're going to learn this today. And it has no relevance to your life or anything that you care about. And so in isolation, rather than relating it to things that our children actually care about, and it's not that they're myopic, it's more that we kind of suck at teaching this stuff.Dr. Dolly Chugh:
You're 1,000% right. And yes, and my statement sort of assumes we're not doing it well and in relevant ways. Absolutely. I think everyone, kids and adults care more when it's relevant in the way that you just described. So your 1,000%, right. No doubt.
I think I was speaking more from a standpoint of even when you just talk about something that happened, I wouldn't call it history, like just happened before they were born. My kids are teenagers. So if I talk about something 20 years ago, without those bridges that you just described, it just feels abstract. It's just hard for them to grab to and that's what I was trying to capture is that there's just some sort of moment, but it wasn't well worded. And you're absolutely right. And, and I think, you know, the success of the Broadway show Hamilton is a great example of when something from the past is made relatable, relatable and connective people of all ages are able to engage with it in a different way.Jen Lumanlan:
Yeah. Okay. And I guess, you know, maybe that sort of gets back to something we alluded to about the textbooks and how you were, you're experienced both ends of that. And I know that you've dug into that a little bit in the book through the experience of a young person that you met, who has had been learning about these kinds of topics. And can you just give us sort of a brief overview of what we're talking about when we're talking about how the textbooks are written? Whose history it tells and whose history it leaves out?Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Right, right. Yeah. So this was this was a little bit of an education for me. And I wouldn't claim to be fluent in this at all. I'm not a scholar of textbooks. And there are people who do that work, but was just realizing, like, let me give an example, if I'm in the field of social psychology, if I were to decide to write a social psychology textbook, I'm sure there would be lots of editors who would weigh in, and there'd probably be some editorial board who would have reviews, I would have to think about there would be lots of people who would have be informed by their disciplinary expertise in the subject, who would influence what I wrote in my textbook. However, it turns out that writing a social studies textbook or a history textbook, is a process that also involves lots of inputs, but they're not necessarily inputs from people in my field. So that's where elected officials will have inputs, school boards will have inputs panels that are built of non educators will have inputs, parents will have inputs, and through processes I don't understand that are extremely complicated, and are very big money. We're talking big, big business. In the textbook adoption industry. The content of a textbook is not simply the product of experts in that field. I really didn't understand that. And to add another layer to it. The content that isn't purely a product of experts in the field, varies based off of where this textbook is being used. And so a textbook in you know, I'm in the state of New York, may discuss slavery differently than a textbook in the state of Texas where I spent half of my youth, even though they're not necessarily talking about different events in history but the words may be different, the framing may be different. There may be things that are excluded and included. And so this understanding that the process of textbook development is in fact, a political process as much as an educational process and editorial process was very eye opening to me and helped me realize, I think part of the need for a book like the one I'm writing where it seems like what's happening in the textbook creation process, is a fear that we don't know how to handle, we don't know how to reckon with the emotions that come up, when we look at some of the horrible parts of our country's history, so we find other ways to protect ourselves and bubble wrap ourselves through that.Dr. Dolly Chugh:
My thought is, rather than trying to do all that, that seems very complicated. What if we just knew how to deal with those emotions, and therefore could learn the stuff and move through it to do better in the future. And I'll just cap this off with James Loewen has done some, some deep analyses of textbooks where he's, you know, God bless him spent two years he took like the 20 most popular history textbooks used in American high schools. By most popular I just mean most widely used, the most kids are seeing them. You know, these are books that are like 500 to 1000 pages each. They weigh pounds and pounds. He went and sat literally at the Smithsonian for two years, pored through every one of these books. And as a historiographer, his interest is to study how we study history, just so interesting and meta. And so he was interested in seeing what is included versus excluded in the books, how much variation is there between the books, what gets listed in the index? I mean, literally, like, how do we cover these topics? And one of the most interesting things I took from his analysis was that most textbooks discuss slavery as something uncaused. It existed but it was sort of just there like you know, like a natural disaster, even natural disasters, we now know that have some causes but like manmade causes, but let's just, you know, it just sort of happened as opposed to it was a set of systems, laws, cultures, norms that human beings chose to create, enact, and maintain, and defend, and go to war for,
And certain groups of human beings.
Dr. Dolly Chugh
And certain groups of human beings, the more groups that we think so you know, those of us who live in the north, like to think we're free from this, but in fact, in New York City, one in every four homes, enslave humans. Its just New York just abolished slavery sooner than the South but was equally complicit. So his analysis, you know, really points to sort of some of the ways in which we're bubble wrapping ourselves instead of kind of doing the work that I know we're capable of. And I'm not a developmental psychologist, you know more about what kids are capable of than I do. But my sense is kids are probably even more capable than us because they have less unlearning to do.Jen Lumanlan:
Yeah, they have way less baggage around this. Yeah, exactly. And I think that there's a big tendency among parents, among teachers, and I mean, teachers are in sort of a double bind, right? They, you say too much, bad things happen. You don't say enough. And kids don't learn what's really happening. Yeah. And I think this is where at first person sources can be incredibly valuable, because they don't have that layering on of, well, you know, Rosa Parks sat on a bus and Dr. Martin Luther King made a speech and now everything's fixed. But they're just what happened at that time, what was reported at that time, what the person actually said. And I just want to point out, we'll attach to this episode, a resource that I put together quite a while ago now when we talk to Dr. John Bickford, where we were looking at various aspects and you've printed it, I can't believe it. It's a resource offering first person accounts discussing various aspects of slavery and the civil rights movement. And we use teaching tolerances teaching hard history framework. So if folks do want to dig into, like, what does a complete overview of these topics look like from people who have really studied in depth that idea, and use some primary sources to do that then that's there as well. SoDr. Dolly Chugh:
I just want to double click on how useful it is and how immediately actionable it is, like, one could build a whole lifetime of inquiry and, and dialogue around this one could also immediately put it to action, like at the dinner table today, like yes, there's stuff on the first page, you're like, oh, I have talked about that today. So it's got both features of depth and sort of immediacy to it.Jen Lumanlan:
Awesome. Thanks for that. And so I think that that links to a question I had about the idea that we think that slavery genocide of indigenous people have a long time ago, right, that's all in the past. And your work, I think, really helps us to understand that this has implications for how we think about these topics. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Yeah, I mean, part of this is just how our minds work, we, you know, the psychological distance we have, we tend to our minds, just like we sort of something we can look off in the the geographic distance to something far away. Our minds also have psychological distance. And the things that are more psychologically distance are the things that are not here, not now, not like me, and not real. So the more fictional it is, the more distant it is, geographically, the more long ago it was, and the less likely it was, the more I'm just going to sort of make it very abstract. It makes it harder for me to like relate to it, it makes it harder for me to have empathy for it, it makes it harder for me to see it as relevant to what's happening in today's times. And then you add on to that, you know, in today's world, in the United States, we are a very segregated society, particularly in the way we live and the way we worship. Most people live in communities with people very similar to them, racially. And so. So that creates this real challenge in sort of connecting to what happened a long time ago and seeing it psychologically connecting to that and then even practically connecting to that in our lives today. But we can overcome that it's not difficult to overcome. Okay, how? We can absolutely. So we can start by just asking ourselves some questions. Nostalgia is something we all like to soak up. It's so delicious and awesome, especially as parents you know, you pull out that little baby outfit they used to wear, some little trophy they earn, it just, you feel the Nostalgia. But like Nostalgia, sometimes you know, you look at the baby up, but that's what happens, me I pull up that little Oh, they got, that was their baby a bit and then I'm like, wait, that was, quite honestly, as much as I love my children. It was an awful year. It was really hard when my kids were born. There was a lot going on in our lives, a lot of challenges, and they were premature and blessings as they were, it was a very, very hard year. And so that Nostalgia is kind of covering up some reality in my mind. And so one of the questions we can ask ourselves when we feel the nostalgia of the good old days is who didn't benefit in the good old days? What was really happening underneath all this sort of the sentimental stuff? If we say, oh, you know, those were good old days, remember, you know, we could just play outside. Was that true for everyone who was experiencing bad at the time? We can also look at disparities so that we can, for example, where people live is one that we just brought up and asked why the disparities exist. So just asking why, because I think a lot of us have just always grown up in a society like that, where there were White neighborhoods, Black neighborhoods, and Brown neighborhoods. And the question is, how did that happen? Where did it begin?Jen Lumanlan:
Dr. Dolly Chugh
So then we're like, what is redlining? Yeah, how did redlining happen? Why is it, you know, still happening today? So, the first question is, you know, who didn't benefit in the good old times? Second question is, you know, why does the disparity exists? And maybe out to the sort of three to five why's, you know, be like your kids keep asking why. I'm thrilled to get different perspectives on the same event, you know, just to, if you watch the movie about veterans after World War Two, watch a movie about White veterans and about Black veterans after World War Two, because it turns out, White veterans were the recipient of the GI Bill which enabled them to buy homes and go to college for free. They didn't buy the home for free, but low interest, no interest mortgages, and go to college for free. And we often have learned about the GI Bill is leading to the rise of the American middle class, the rise of the American suburb, but I don't remember learning, doesn't mean I wasn't taught it, but I was a mediocre history student. And honestly, what many of us were not taught is that Black veterans were not able to take advantage of the GI Bill. That through a complicated set of state and federal laws, it was very rare that a Black veteran was allowed to receive those benefits. And so what became this upward trajectory, after World War Two for the White middle class was not that it was actually a widening for the Black, different perspectives on the same event, like the GI Bill would lead us to something different. And then in general, to just think about what is the back story behind anything that we see on the surface? So basically, we're trying to just dig beneath, and ask more questions for things that we might just take for granted today. These are all questions that help us connect the dots between things that seem like a long time ago, and things that happen are happening in the world we live in now.Jen Lumanlan:
Yeah, thank you. That's really helpful. And I just want to add, the more that we do this, the more our children start to do it, too. We'll be watching a documentary about biologists who are working in Africa, and three of them in a row are White and my eight year old, around six or seven at the time, why are all the people on the camera White? We’re in Africa. Right, and so yeah, so now she is the one who is starting to notice the discrepancies to why is this like this? So then it doesn't have to be you all the time doing it. That we can, Oh, yeah, you're absolutely right. And maybe I had noticed it, maybe I hadn't noticed it. And then the next person happens to be a Black person but it's still woefully uneven, inadequate.Dr. Dolly Chugh:
That's such a great story because that also gets to what you said earlier about the kids being unencumbered, that, you know, we know kids naturally are more curious. They're more curious than us, but they're certainly more in touch with their curiosity than adults.Jen Lumanlan:
We were curious too onceDr. Dolly Chugh:
We were, I remember once. And so, but if we, if they, if she were to ask a question, you would be like, Oh, we don't, we don't notice. If we shut it down, they will know not to ask again. And so those are the moments where even if we feel a little uncomfortable, it's the moment to tell me more, what are you noticing, and then they can lead us so we have all that unlearning to do and they have less of it. I remember you know, those books, those little biographies, that who was or who is, so and so. It's like this year, I think I might have the title wrong, but it's this little series about like different famous people like who was Laura Ingalls Wilder, Wilder, whatever. But there was I remember one of the first ones when my daughter was just learning how to read. She read Barack Obama was president at the time. And so she was reading the who was Barack Obama one, it was like, you know, in the series, and I hear she's upstairs like supposed to be going to bed She's reading her little book. And I hear this. what? And she comes running down to a pitter patter for her. Mom. Did you know Barack Obama's the first Black president? And I was like, Did I forget to mention that? Like, just like, wait, how did I not mention that, like, you realize what we take for granted and kids actually notice.Jen Lumanlan:
Yeah, yeah. And those, those kinds of books are absolutely right for the exactly the kind of analysis that you were talking about earlier. When we look at whose story is missing here. Why was this like this? Because they're presented in such simple language that they inherently draw a line from this is exactly what happened, one after the other logical consequences of naturally occurring series of events, ignoring many other factors that were at play, ignoring broader social movements. And this is actually Dr. John Baker's work. It’s heavily involved in looking at children's books and how this kind of stuff is positioned. And yeah, I mean, it's so simplified that there's no way that it can provide any kind of coherence. Well, I guess that what they're doing is they're sacrificing accuracy and completeness of story for a narrow, coherent storyline.Dr. Dolly Chugh:
That's fascinating. And you know what, that is one of the things I talked about in my book is that we basically, as adults, sort of settled for like the children's version of stories that the kids table in our version of American history, like we can't handle an adult story. So it's really interesting to hear you describe that research. That unfortunately, continues, most of us go our entire lives with nothing more than whatJen Lumanlan:
Yes, and where does this come from right? This comes from us reading these books in elementary school and thinking this is what actually happened.Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Exactly. And then let's pair it with Bounded Ethicality where we want to see ourselves as moral, competent, and deserving. That image we want to have of ourselves as individuals and of our country as a whole means that we're not going to want to challenge that little children's simplistic version which portrays us as the good guys etcetera, etcetera.Jen Lumanlan:
Yeah. Okay. So let's just say that we did want to start challenging that. We want to uncover some more perspectives on these kinds of events. But there's a lot of oh my goodness, I'm not going to feel guilty. Am I going to feel ashamed of having ancestors who participated in these difficult systems? You know, slavery of African Americans, genocide of Native Americans? If you're, if your ancestors were here in that period, chances are they had some involvement in it. Or even if your ancestors weren't here, like mine, where I'm fresh over from England not so terribly long ago, that sort of the guilt and shame of not knowing enough about these systems, right, having been in denial about them, what can we do to navigate those difficult feelings?Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Absolutely. So there's lots of good news here on this, we think this is going to be so much harder than it is. And so what I offer are some really accessible tools for doing that. The first one, it's just, you know, begins with literally, and this is, this is so relevant for every parent dressing for the weather, I call it, you know, just like when we head out on a rainy day, whether or not we're going to enjoy our outdoor activity depends on whether we brought a raincoat or whether we wear the right shoes. Setting out for this kind of learning and unlearning activity depends on whether we're ready for the emotional weather ahead. And what that all that really means is not approaching it with the expectation that it will be sunny every day. Right. So if we approach it with the expectation that it will be sunny, if Sunny, if Sun is your thing, if that's your idea of like a perfect day, Sunny and 70 degrees, then you will be disappointed when there's a little rain shower, you'll be disappointed when you know there's there's a bit of a nip. But on the other hand, if you approach it with, no matter what weather comes, we got that extra layer, you've got the umbrella, we've got the rain jacket, we can weather this literally, then you're going to be just fine. And you're not going to sort of shut down, you're not going to complain, you're not going to say whenever you come here again, you're not going to sort of end the trip early. And so the first thing that I think is actually kind of missed in all these conversations about the past is let's just dress for the weather. Let's just go into it with a it's not a Oh, it's we kind of approach it with it's either got to be sunny and 70 or its evacuation hurricane weather, we can't go near it. So we have to shut it down. And that's the bubble wrap approach. As opposed to you know what, there's going to be a range there's gonna be things that are Sunny, there's going to be things that are stormy and whatever it is, if we dress right for it, we can get through it. And it's worth the journey because on the other side of this this day, we come out with the gains we talked about being excited for what we could do for our country. What we can do for our kids, and so that's the place we start. And part of that dressing for the weather is allowing for what I call belief, grief. This is just the idea that there might be some things we have really, always believed to be true that just factually are not true. And once you know, I'll give one example. I've, like many Americans always believed Rosa Parks was a tired, elderly seamstress who just accidentally became an activist one day. Let's begin with the fact that she was 42. She was not elderly, even by the the norms of the time. And she was not an accidental activist. There's extensive documentation of the fact that she had for decades been a very intentional activist. Well, it starts to feel differently my belief in sort of, kind of, I had this belief that like Rosa Parks, accidental activist, she was like, Hey, I will feel a notice. But this isn't really fair. And then everyone went, Oh, my gosh, she's right, you know, okay, a little bit of a boycott. But now we get it, you know, and let's fix this. Racism solved. Exactly solved. But once, once you actually dig into the story, you realize she had been fighting this for a really long time, so had thousands of others, and probably tens of thousands of others for centuries. And the resistance had been very, very strong. Martin Luther King was, was viewed as moving too fast, he was not viewed as a moderate, he was viewed as a radical. So my beliefs start to be like, II, like, I'm starting to grieve, the understanding I had. Belief grief, just like grief of other kinds, is something that we are going to feel deeply, but we can also work our way through. And so that's an example of something we can prepare for the weather on dress for the weather, I shouldJen Lumanlan:
say, yeah. Okay. And then I just want to sort of take a little skim through some of the other ideas that you've called out as important, you know, avoiding denial, and which we talked about earlier, when when you're thinking about that sort of attacks on yourself, oh, no, that can't possibly be true. And instead of accepting, oh, maybe it's possible. There is another explanation that I wasn't familiar with affirming our values. Can you? Can you talk a little bit more about that? What do you mean by values affirmation?Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Yes. So there's research that shows that when we think about what we care about most, our values, it actually on an unconscious level enables us to be more resilient when we face setbacks. So some of this research has actually been done with kids in school, you know, they asked me if yes, kids beginning the year, reflect on some of the things they care about most, this little 15 minute writing exercise actually leads to them having better grades later in the year or a greater sense of belonging. And the theory. I mean, it sort of seems magical that such a tiny little exercise could do that. But the science is being done to try to understand it seems to be pointing to this resilience, that comes of when you bring your values to the surface, you write about it, you think about it, that allows you to kind of keep touching that value, and sort of write out the things that are tough. And so I've offered that perhaps that same tool could be used in these moments. So if we, if our values as American, for example, really include our commitment, our belief in equality, that's just the thing we love most about this country, then when we kind of hit these, like, this belief, grief, and this other stuff that just makes us want to turn it off, stop the conversation and tell the kids hey, you want ice cream, you know, is way to kind of end it. That those are moments where we could maybe be able to stick with it a little bit, because our mind will sort of just be like, ooh, remember, remember values values, it'll kind of bubble into our resilience. Reserve is the idea.Jen Lumanlan:
Yeah, and I think linked to that is the the emotional forecast, right. And the idea of ignoring that. And that was a super interesting point for me, because I was preparing for this conversation at the same time, as I was preparing for a conversation with Dr. Fuchsia Sue on procrastination. And she uses the same idea, the idea that when we procrastinate, we're doing it because we think that it's going to like doing the thing is going to be really awful. It's going to feel terrible. And so and it's going to last a really long time. So we have this negative emotional forecast. And it was so super interesting to see this idea pop up here as well. And if we can kind of discount that and see that actually, the vast majority of the time when we think something's gonna be really awful, and it's going to be really awful for a long time. Most of the time, it kind of isn't. We just get used to it.Dr. Dolly Chugh:
That's right. That's exactly right. And that's the research from psychologists shows with our emotional forecasts, they're wrong in both direction. The good things don't feel good as long as we think they will, the bad things don't feel bad as long as they we think they will and the intensities often less too. And this has been shown with both lottery winners and people who've experienced accidents that have left them paraplegics like, in both directions, it's not as good or bad as we think that's going to be.Jen Lumanlan:
Yeah. So we can take some comfort in that. And then I think it's particularly difficult to get our heads around is this idea of paradox mindset? Because we, I think it's it's we're sort of trained, it's almost even a factor in White Supremacy culture, is this either or I'm right, you're right. There's no way for us both to be right in this situation, and to instead moving towards a both end. What are aspects of this, that that are can both be true at the same time? Yeah. And so I think that that's really hard for me to get my head around for parents in general to get their head around it, how it how is that showing up for you?Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Yeah. So the research on paradox is so cool. I mean, it gets at this idea that if we can allow two contradictory things to be true, it actually opens us up as more creative as more resilient. And it's actually I actually think we know how to do this. So so this is what the the lens I've been using, as a parent on this. We know, by and large, how to love our children deeply. And to realize that they've got a little work to do on their emotional intelligence, or on how they keep their room, or on their resilience with setbacks. In other words, we can see two things at the same time, we can see our kids as absolutely perfect. And as human beings who have some flaws that they need to work on. That ability, we have to see both of those things at the same time, is exactly what we're looking for, and how we see our country. Right, we can see our founding fathers as having done some absolutely extraordinary things. I mean, how did they do this? How did they overthrow the most? I'm so sorry, the most powerful government in the world and Empire, like a high school basketball team beating an NBA team. I mean, it's, it's absurd when you think about it. They did that they created an incredible system, and economy a democracy. And they were enslaved, enslaving other human beings while they did it. Yeah. So it's confusing. paradoxes are confusing, but we know how to love something and look at it with an eye towards how can it be better in the future? And that's all we need with paradox is to be able to see both possibilities.Jen Lumanlan:
Yeah, I really appreciate that. And maybe that sort of leads us into a concluding question about ways that we can take responsibility for our role in a White supremacist society. And I really think that's what it is. And you don't use that language in the book. And I totally get why it makes it approachable to a broader a broader audience. But if we are seeing that we have some responsibility in this system, what do you recommend for the ways that we can start to address that? And I'm also curious about what you you are doing on this front as well?Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think where we start is just adopting a different view than some of us might have on what it means to love our country. So what I'm proposing is that we think of ourselves not as patriots, but as gritty patriots. So this is the research I'm sure a lot of us know on grit from Angela Duckworth. Grit is passion and perseverance in pursuit of a meaningful long term goal. And so what I'm proposing is what if we think of patriotism as love of country as a meaningful long term goal, it's something we have to continue to work at all the time, just like, if you're trying to learn the violin, or if you're trying to have better posture, or whatever the thing is that your meaningful long term goal it's going to take I know, I say this, because I'm just noticing how much I was watching the intentionalityand activeness of it is what I think will help us in this work of being a gritty patriot. And what I'm trying to do in that work is when I think of myself that way, I'm able to hold more contradictions, I'm able to deal with more belief, grief, I'm able to connect more dots like it, it all works better. If I think of it the same way. I think of other things that take grit in my life, other hard things that I'm able to do. And so for me, it's everything from trying to broaden the media I consume. So this doesn't mean I have to like sit and watch documentaries all day. I mean, if you're into documentaries, sure, but I think it's whatever media you're into, if you're a podcast person, if you're a music person, if your social media, whatever you're already consuming, seeing if there's ways you can kind of audit it, like, look at the last 10 you consumed. How much similarity is there in the voices that are represented? Is this an opportunity? Do some of that, connecting the dots we talked about with different perspectives? Is there something you can notice about the nostalgia with which it's attaching to the past? Just a little bit of an audit as you consume whatever you consume? And then could you just add in, you know, you're already consuming this stuff anyway, is there a way to just sort of added some different voices, some different perspectives, it'll make something you already love more interesting. And it will naturally lead to, I think, a grittier view of patriotism as a way to think about your love of country. And the way you're communicating that to your children in a way that's active and intentional, and based off of a fuller, truer, more grittier view of what it means to love this country.Jen Lumanlan:
Okay. And then what, as we're taking that perspective, I think we can also take some concrete actions, right, and you list some in the book about apologies, and addressing ongoing wrongs, football team names is one that's, that's current and in is active in many communities, right? I mean, how many high school football teams are there that are named derogatory terms for indigenous people? We may see hiring and pay disparities in our work environments. Absolutely. In response, there's a responsibility to address those. And you also address reparations as well. And I'm curious as to your thoughts on that?Dr. Dolly Chugh:
Absolutely. Well, the position I take in the book is the one that I've taught to Hussey Coats is one of borrowed from him, because he really opened my eyes to this. I don't know how we could or couldn't make reparations work. I mean, the practicalities of that I just don't know how to tackle. That doesn't mean we couldn't do it. I just, I just think it's complicated. But when he argues says, That's not the question we should be asking first. The question we should be asking first is we should do the math, we should actually figure out where the harm was done, to whom it was done, and do it in a really focused way. So for example, you know, go into the city of Evanston and housing and redlining and see what happened and who was affected, and what did it cost and, and really do the math, and use Evanston because that's a town that's actually trying to do this. And that was really compelling to me, it was like, oh, that's, that's a good point, like, we're getting ahead of ourselves, let's actually figure it out. And in the process of doing that, we will have to connect the dots, we will have to dress for the weather, we will have to do all the things. And if in the end, reparations are not actually, don't actually happen, at least we will have made some progress towards fixing the systems because it will be hard to unsee what we have seen in order to do the math. And so, so that was very persuasive to be that. Because I think I had before that just been like, well, what's the point of this conversation? I mean, you know, it's, it's, it's unthinkable the harm that's been done, but but how do we fix it now? And his argument is we do the math.Jen Lumanlan:
Yeah, I was particularly inspired to read that example, from Evanston. And I took a deeper look at it. And I think they've had some criticism of the process. But the fact that they're even starting the process, and they're providing some model for other communities to follow, I thought it was really inspiring.
Dr Dolly Chugh
And yeah, I guess one thing I would potentially add to the list and or maybe reframe some of the the ideas that you had in a slightly different ways, is a lot of this has to happen alongside others, right. All of this trauma happened between people. And so it has to be healed between people as well, we have to provide for each other in our communities, we have to take direct political action. And we have to do that not individually. This is what I think this is what I'm going to do but in community with other people, I think that's really, really important.Dr Dolly Chugh:
I love that. And of course, we want to do it not from a space of individually deciding what we think would benefit others as opposed to hearing what others are asking for. And I think that's what you're pointing us to. And that's that's a wonderful, wonderful way to address it.Jen Lumanlan:
Yeah. Thank you so much for writing this book and giving your people such an approachable place to come into this work and really dig into it. And I'm really grateful for your time today.Dr Dolly Chugh:
I'm really grateful to have been on the program and learn from you. Thank you, Jen.Jen Lumanlan:
So thank you so much for being here today and references for all of the papers that I read in preparation for today's episode, as well as the link to Dr. Chugh's book A More Just Future: Psychological Tools for reckoning with our past and driving social change can be found at yourparentingmojo.com/amorejustfuture.Brianna:
Of all the places to get parenting advice Your Parenting Mojo has been the most consistently helpful, easy to implement, and effective that I've come across. I'm Brianna Lats from Fredericksburg, Virginia. And if you've liked this information, please pass it on to your friends. Go to the website to subscribe. And by the way, as easy as it is to fast forward through ads, I think we can all agree that it's really convenient to be able to listen to this information without ads, and also to support small businesses and really put our money where our mouth is for the kinds of things we want to support. So please consider being a patron of Jen's buying a cup of coffee, helping support the podcast and keeping this information out there for all of us so that we can use it to support our families healthy growth and development. Thank you.Jen Lumanlan:
Thanks for joining us for this episode of Your Parenting Mojo. Don't forget to subscribe to the show at yourparentingmojo.com to receive new episode notifications and the free guide to Seven Parenting Myths that we can leave behind and join the Your Parenting Mojo Facebook group for more respectful research based ideas to help kids thrive and make parenting easier for you. I'll see you next time on Your Parenting Mojo.