Confronting Racism in Small Towns with Amber Adrian

On today’s show, we’re joined by Amber Adrian, former Teach For America teacher, to talk about what racism means, how it shows up in our world, and what we, even in our small towns, can do about it.

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Confronting Racism Episode Summary:

Amber Adrian, former Teach For America teacher, shares a few of her personal stories and offers some practical ideas for how we, even in the smallest of towns across America, can begin to open our minds and hearts to what systemic racism is, how it affects us as a society, and what our individual and collective roles are in changing it.

About Amber Adrian

Amber Adrian is a former middle school English teacher who worked in Los Angeles through Teach For America and was a founding staff member at a unique charter school in St. Paul, MN. She was raised in the Mitchell, SD, area and recently relocated back there alongside her husband Ryan, a native of the Twin Cities. 

Amber is a freelance writer and an at-home parent to her daughters, Alice (4) and Clare (2). When she isn’t cooking or tending to toddler emotions, she writes materials for businesses, maintains a blog and monthly(ish) newsletter, and writes occasionally for the local paper. Amber has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Education, and she’s passionate about conversation, community, and personal growth.

In this episode, we tackle…

What is systemic racism and why is it so important that we understand the difference between that and overt acts of racism?
For many of us, when we hear the word “racist” we take personal offense to the suggestion that we play a role because frankly, most of us are not bad people that truly hate people of color. But Amber shares a lot of information about the nature of systemic racism and how it’s not about individual acts, but it’s about an entire system designed originally to keep POC from advancing. There are remnants of that original system left today, which makes access difficult for some and not for others. 

What’s the reason that we don’t engage in discussions about race more in small towns/rural America?
In this time of heightened politicizing, it’s because the language around racial equality and justice for all typically belongs to the liberal side of the aisle. With small towns and much of rural America being more conservative politically, we hesitate to have these conversations because we don’t want to align with the “other side”.

As Amber shares, you’ll hear that race isn’t about sides. This is about humanity and how we each have a role to play in ensuring that everyone is seen, valued, and welcomed in our society.

Listen to this episode to hear more about:

  • Why listening is the key to unlocking more understanding
  • What it means that racism is “the water we swim in”
  • How to start the work of learning and growing our own understanding about racism
  • What our role is and why it matters, even in small towns
  • When good intentions matter and when they don’t
  • Why “call-out culture” is unproductive to the actual cause we’re claiming to care about
  • How to approach this topic with love, grace and calming energy

Links Mentioned

Teach For America
Movie Rebecca mentioned about redlining: The Banker
“Now This” video Rebecca mentioned seeing on Facebook: Systemic Racism Explained
Article: Blackface: The Birth of an America Stereotype
Emmett Till post written by Amber’s friend:
Amber’s blog post about Philando Castile:  
The book Amber is reading right now: White Fragility
The poetry book mentioned in the episode: Bronx Masquerade 
One of the most helpful books for Amber when she was teaching: Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School 
Family movie to encourage inclusion: Zootopia

Connect with Amber

Instagram: @amber.adrian