ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
Priya Vulchi - Social entrepreneur, student activist
Priya Vulchi is traveling to all US states with her friend Winona Guo, learning and listening to stories about race.

Why you should listen

For a collective future of racial justice, we must educate and empower our young generation now. Yet, the first time 18-year-olds Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo were required to talk about race in school was the 10th grade. 

That same year, Vulchi co-founded CHOOSE with Guo to equip us all with the tools we lack to both talk about race and act toward systemic change. Their latest publication, a racial literacy textbook and toolkit for educators called The Classroom Index, has been recognized by Princeton University's Prize in Race Relations & Not in Our Town's Unity Award, featured in Teen Vogue, the Philadelphia Inquirer, & the Huffington Post, and called a “social innovation more necessary than the iPhone” by Professor Ruha Benjamin. Currently on a gap year before attending Princeton University, Vulchi and Guo have been traveling to all US states collecting hundreds of powerful stories about race, culture, and intersectionality for another book to be released in spring 2019. Follow their journey on princetonchoose.org or @princetonchoose on Instagram and Facebook.

More profile about the speaker
Priya Vulchi | Speaker | TED.com
Winona Guo - Social entrepreneur, student activist
Winona Guo is spending her gap year traveling to all US states with her friend Priya Vulchi, learning and listening to stories about race and trying to find innovative ways to tackle inequity.

Why you should listen

For a collective future of racial justice, we must educate and empower our young generation now. Yet, the first time 18-year-olds Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi were required to talk about race in school was the 10th grade.

That same year, Guo co-founded CHOOSE with Vulchi to equip us all with the tools we lack to both talk about race and act toward systemic change. Their latest publication, a racial literacy textbook and toolkit for educators called The Classroom Index, has been recognized by Princeton University's Prize in Race Relations & Not in Our Town's Unity Award, featured in Teen Vogue, the Philadelphia Inquirer, & the Huffington Post, and called a “social innovation more necessary than the iPhone” by Professor Ruha Benjamin. Currently on a gap year before attending Harvard University, Guo and Vulchi have been traveling to all US states collecting hundreds of powerful stories about race, culture, and intersectionality for another book to be released in spring 2019. Follow their journey on princetonchoose.org or @princetonchoose on Instagram and Facebook.

More profile about the speaker
Winona Guo | Speaker | TED.com
TEDWomen 2017

Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo: What it takes to be racially literate

Filmed:
1,101,531 views

Over the last year, Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo traveled to all 50 US states, collecting personal stories about race and intersectionality. Now they're on a mission to equip every American with the tools to understand, navigate and improve a world structured by racial division. In a dynamic talk, Vulchi and Guo pair the personal stories they've collected with research and statistics to reveal two fundamental gaps in our racial literacy -- and how we can overcome them.
- Social entrepreneur, student activist
Priya Vulchi is traveling to all US states with her friend Winona Guo, learning and listening to stories about race. Full bio - Social entrepreneur, student activist
Winona Guo is spending her gap year traveling to all US states with her friend Priya Vulchi, learning and listening to stories about race and trying to find innovative ways to tackle inequity. Full bio

Double-click the English transcript below to play the video.

00:12
Priya Vulchi: Four years ago,
we really thought we understood racism.
0
960
3736
00:16
Just like many of you here today,
we had experienced and heard stories
1
4720
4016
00:20
about race, about prejudice,
discrimination and stereotyping
2
8760
3576
00:24
and we were like, "We get it,
racism, we got it, we got it."
3
12360
3040
00:28
But we weren't even close.
4
16120
4056
00:32
Winona Guo: So we decided
that we had to listen and learn more.
5
20200
3056
00:35
We talked to as many
random people as we could
6
23280
2176
00:37
and collected hundreds
of personal stories about race,
7
25480
3176
00:40
stories that revealed how racial injustice
is a nationwide epidemic
8
28680
4296
00:45
that we ourselves spread
9
33000
1976
00:47
and now can't seem
to recognize or get rid of.
10
35000
2640
00:50
PV: We're not there yet.
11
38240
1616
00:51
Today, we are here to raise
our standards of racial literacy,
12
39880
4816
00:56
to redefine what it means
to be racially literate.
13
44720
3576
01:00
WG: We want everywhere
across the United States
14
48320
2896
01:03
for our youngest and future generations
to grow up equipped
15
51240
3496
01:06
with the tools to understand,
navigate and improve
16
54760
3056
01:09
a world structured by racial division.
17
57840
2736
01:12
We want us all to imagine
the community as a place
18
60600
3216
01:15
where we not only feel proud
of our own backgrounds,
19
63840
3016
01:18
but can also invest in others'
experiences as if they were our own.
20
66880
4240
01:23
PV: We just graduated
from high school this past June.
21
71760
2720
01:27
WG: And you'd think --
22
75120
1296
01:28
(Applause)
23
76440
2560
01:31
And you'd think after 12 years
24
79840
2776
01:34
somebody in or out of the classroom
would have helped us understand --
25
82640
3296
01:37
PV: At a basic level at least --
26
85960
1576
01:39
WG: The society we live in.
27
87560
1496
01:41
PV: The truth for almost
all our classmates is that they don't.
28
89080
3800
01:45
WG: In communities around our country,
so many of which are racially divided,
29
93640
4576
01:50
PV: If you don't go searching
for an education about race,
30
98240
2776
01:53
for racial literacy --
31
101040
1296
01:54
WG: You won't get it.
32
102360
1616
01:56
It won't just come to you.
33
104000
1736
01:57
PV: Even when we did
have conversations about race,
34
105760
2416
02:00
our understanding was always superficial.
35
108200
2040
02:03
We realized that there are two big gaps
36
111240
3136
02:06
in our racial literacy.
37
114400
1560
02:08
WG: First, the heart gap:
38
116320
2696
02:11
an inability to understand
each of our experiences,
39
119040
4416
02:15
to fiercely and unapologetically
be compassionate beyond lip service.
40
123480
6080
02:22
PV: And second, the mind gap:
41
130440
2896
02:25
an inability to understand the larger,
systemic ways in which racism operates.
42
133360
5800
02:32
WG: First, the heart gap.
43
140920
1720
02:35
To be fair, race did pop up
a few times in school, growing up.
44
143560
4216
02:39
We all defend our social justice education
45
147800
2136
02:41
because we learned
about Martin Luther King Jr.
46
149960
2776
02:44
and Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks.
47
152760
2776
02:47
But even in all of those conversations,
48
155560
2296
02:49
race always felt outdated, like,
49
157880
2096
02:52
"Yes, slavery, that happened
once upon a time,
50
160000
3376
02:55
but why does it really matter now?"
51
163400
2976
02:58
As a result, we didn't really care.
52
166400
3000
03:02
But what if our teacher introduced
a story from the present day,
53
170600
3696
03:06
for example, how Treniya
told us in Pittsburgh that --
54
174320
4016
03:10
PV: "My sister was scrolling through
Facebook and typed in our last name.
55
178360
3536
03:13
This white guy popped up,
56
181920
1216
03:15
and we found out that his
great-great-grandfather owned slaves
57
183160
4776
03:19
and my great-great-
great-grandmother was one of them.
58
187960
3576
03:23
My last name -- it's not who I am.
59
191560
2616
03:26
We've been living
under a white man's name.
60
194200
2376
03:28
If slavery didn't happen,
who would I even be?"
61
196600
2440
03:32
WG: Now it feels relevant, immediate,
62
200400
2656
03:35
because the connection to slavery's
lasting legacy today is made clear, right?
63
203080
5216
03:40
Or what would happen is our teacher
would throw out these cold statistics.
64
208320
3496
03:43
You've probably seen this one before
in news headlines.
65
211840
2976
03:46
PV: African-Americans are incarcerated
66
214840
1856
03:48
more than five times
the rate of white people.
67
216720
2480
03:51
WG: Now consider Ronnie, in Seattle.
68
219920
2520
03:55
PV: "My father means everything to me.
69
223200
2296
03:57
He's all I've got, I don't know my mother.
70
225520
2616
04:00
My father's currently being
wrongly incarcerated for 12 years.
71
228160
4696
04:04
I've got a daughter, and I try to be
that same fatherly figure for her:
72
232880
4016
04:08
always involved in everything she does,
it might even be annoying at some points.
73
236920
4176
04:13
But I'm afraid I'll go missing in her life
74
241120
3096
04:16
just like my father did in mine."
75
244240
1960
04:20
WG: Throwing out just the statistic,
just the facts alone,
76
248680
3376
04:24
disconnected from real humans,
77
252080
2136
04:26
can lead to dangerously incomplete
understanding of those facts.
78
254240
3815
04:30
It fails to recognize that for many people
who don't understand racism
79
258079
3537
04:33
the problem is not a lack of knowledge
80
261640
1856
04:35
to talk about the pain
of white supremacy and oppression,
81
263520
3736
04:39
it's that they don't recognize
that that pain exists at all.
82
267280
3816
04:43
They don't recognize the human beings
that are being affected,
83
271120
3496
04:46
and they don't feel enough to care.
84
274640
3176
04:49
PV: Second, the mind gap.
85
277840
2096
04:51
We can't ignore the stats, either.
86
279960
2416
04:54
We can't truly grasp Ronnie's situation
87
282400
2936
04:57
without understanding how things
like unjust laws and biased policing
88
285360
4576
05:01
systematic racism has created
89
289960
2656
05:04
the disproportionate
incarceration rates over time.
90
292640
3096
05:07
Or like how in Honolulu,
91
295760
1816
05:09
the large prison population
of native Hawaiians like Kimmy
92
297600
3816
05:13
is heavily influenced
by the island's long history
93
301440
3296
05:16
with US colonialization,
94
304760
1456
05:18
it's impact passing down
through generations to today.
95
306240
2920
05:21
For us, sometimes we would talk
96
309720
1696
05:23
about people's personal,
unique experiences in the classroom.
97
311440
3856
05:27
Stuff like, how Justin once told us --
98
315320
2120
05:30
WG: "I've been working on psychologically
reclaiming my place in this city.
99
318400
4136
05:34
Because for me, my Chicago
isn't the nice architecture downtown,
100
322560
4216
05:38
it's not the North Side.
101
326800
1336
05:40
My Chicago is the orange line,
the pink line, the working immigrant class
102
328160
5176
05:45
going on the train."
103
333360
1200
05:47
PV: And while we might have
acknowledged his personal experience,
104
335600
3496
05:51
we wouldn't have talked
about how redlining
105
339120
2056
05:53
and the legalized segregation of our past
106
341200
2536
05:55
created the racially divided
neighborhoods we live in today.
107
343760
3776
05:59
We wouldn't have completely understood
108
347560
1896
06:01
how racism is embedded in the framework
of everything around us,
109
349480
3936
06:05
because we would stay narrowly focused
on people's isolated experiences.
110
353440
4896
06:10
Another example,
Sandra in DC once told us:
111
358360
4216
06:14
WG: "When I'm with my Korean family,
I know how to move with them.
112
362600
3536
06:18
I know what to do in order to have them
feel like I care about them.
113
366160
3776
06:21
And making and sharing food
114
369960
1576
06:23
is one of the most fundamental
ways of showing love.
115
371560
3160
06:27
When I'm with my partner
who's not Korean, however,
116
375560
2496
06:30
we've had to grapple with the fact
117
378080
1656
06:31
that I'm very food-centric
and he's just not.
118
379760
2776
06:34
One time he said that he didn't
want to be expected
119
382560
2896
06:37
to make food for me,
120
385480
1536
06:39
and I got really upset."
121
387040
1856
06:40
PV: That might seem like a weird reaction,
122
388920
2136
06:43
but only if we don't recognize
how it's emblematic of something larger,
123
391080
4616
06:47
something deeper.
124
395720
1256
06:49
Intragenerational trauma.
125
397000
2216
06:51
How in Sandra's family,
widespread hunger and poverty
126
399240
2976
06:54
existed as recently
as Sandra's parents' generation
127
402240
3296
06:57
and therefore impacts Sandra today.
128
405560
2176
06:59
She experiences someone saying --
129
407760
2176
07:01
WG: "I don't want to feed you."
130
409960
1496
07:03
PV: As --
131
411480
1216
07:04
WG: "I don't want to hug you."
132
412720
1456
07:06
PV: And without her and her partner
having that nuanced understanding
133
414200
3256
07:09
of her reaction and the historical
context behind it,
134
417480
2736
07:12
it could easily lead
to unnecessary fighting.
135
420240
2616
07:14
That's why it's so important
that we proactively --
136
422880
3176
07:18
(Both speaking): Co-create --
137
426080
1416
07:19
PV: A shared American culture
138
427520
1896
07:21
that identifies and embraces
the different values and norms
139
429440
3776
07:25
within our diverse communities.
140
433240
2440
07:28
WG: To be racially literate --
141
436440
1696
07:30
PV: To understand who we are
so that we can heal together --
142
438160
3616
07:33
WG: We cannot neglect the heart --
143
441800
1816
07:35
PV: Or the mind.
144
443640
1496
07:37
So, with our hundreds of stories,
145
445160
2056
07:39
we decided to publish
a racial literacy textbook
146
447240
2736
07:42
to bridge that gap
between our hearts and minds.
147
450000
3496
07:45
WG: Our last book, "The Classroom Index,"
148
453520
2296
07:47
shares deeply personal stories.
149
455840
1936
07:49
PV: And pairs those personal stories
150
457800
1736
07:51
to the brilliant research
of statisticians and scholars.
151
459560
2976
07:54
WG: Every day, we are still
blown away by people's experiences,
152
462560
4616
07:59
by the complexity
of our collective racial reality.
153
467200
3736
08:02
PV: So today, we ask you --
154
470960
2696
08:05
WG: Are you racially literate?
155
473680
1776
08:07
Are you there yet?
156
475480
1336
08:08
PV: Do you really understand
the people around you,
157
476840
2536
08:11
their stories, stories like these?
158
479400
2976
08:14
It's not just knowing
that Louise from Seattle
159
482400
2936
08:17
survived Japanese American
internment camps.
160
485360
3096
08:20
It's knowing that, meanwhile,
161
488480
1576
08:22
her husband was one of an estimated
33,000 Japanese Americans
162
490080
5136
08:27
who fought for our country during the war,
163
495240
2496
08:29
a country that was simultaneously
interning their families.
164
497760
4896
08:34
For most of us, those Japanese Americans
both in camps and in service,
165
502680
4456
08:39
now see their bravery, their resilience,
their history forgotten.
166
507160
4416
08:43
They've become only victims.
167
511600
2216
08:45
PV: It's not just knowing
that interracial marriages
168
513840
2656
08:48
like Shermaine and Paul in DC exist,
169
516520
2856
08:51
it's acknowledging that our society
has been programmed for them to fail.
170
519400
4336
08:55
That on their very first date
someone shouted,
171
523760
2616
08:58
"Why are you with that black whore?"
172
526400
2256
09:00
That according to a Columbia study
on cis straight relationships
173
528680
3816
09:04
black is often equated with masculinity
174
532520
2656
09:07
and Asian with femininity,
175
535200
1936
09:09
leading more men to not value black women
and to fetishize Asian women.
176
537160
5296
09:14
Among black-white marriages
in the year 2000,
177
542480
3096
09:17
73 percent had a black husband
and a white wife.
178
545600
3696
09:21
Paul and Shermaine defy that statistic.
179
549320
2896
09:24
Black is beautiful,
180
552240
1736
09:26
but it takes a lot to believe so
once society says otherwise.
181
554000
3320
09:29
WG: It's not just knowing
that white people like Lisa in Chicago
182
557880
3576
09:33
have white privilege,
183
561480
1336
09:34
it's reflecting consciously
on the term whiteness and its history,
184
562840
3616
09:38
knowing that whiteness
can't be equated with American.
185
566480
3520
09:42
It's knowing that Lisa can't forget
her own personal family's history
186
570760
3536
09:46
of Jewish oppression.
187
574320
1856
09:48
That she can't forget how, growing up,
188
576200
1856
09:50
she was called a dirty Jew
with horns and tails.
189
578080
3096
09:53
But Lisa knows she can pass as white
190
581200
2296
09:55
so she benefits from huge systemic
and interpersonal privileges,
191
583520
3616
09:59
and so she spends every day
192
587160
1576
10:00
grappling with ways that she can
leverage that white privilege
193
588760
3536
10:04
for social justice.
194
592320
1416
10:05
For example, starting conversations
with other people of privilege about race.
195
593760
4736
10:10
Or shifting the power
in her classroom to her students
196
598520
3616
10:14
by learning to listen to their experiences
of racism and poverty.
197
602160
4896
10:19
PV: It's not just knowing
that native languages are dying.
198
607080
3336
10:22
It's appreciating how fluency
in the Cherokee language,
199
610440
3176
10:25
which really only less
than 12,000 people speak today,
200
613640
3176
10:28
is an act of survival,
of preservation of culture and history.
201
616840
4520
10:34
It's knowing how
the nongendered Cherokee language
202
622040
3536
10:37
enabled Ahyoka's acceptance
as a trans woman
203
625600
3036
10:40
in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
204
628660
2356
10:43
Her grandmother told her firmly
a saying in Cherokee,
205
631040
3216
10:46
"I don't tell me who you are,
206
634280
2536
10:48
you tell me who you are.
207
636840
1776
10:50
And that is who you are."
208
638640
1536
10:52
WG: These are just parts of a few stories.
209
640200
3016
10:55
There are approximately
323 million people in the United States.
210
643240
4096
10:59
PV: And 7.4 billion people on the planet.
211
647360
2896
11:02
WG: So we have a lot to listen to.
212
650280
1620
11:03
PV: And a lot to learn.
213
651924
1332
11:05
WG: We need to raise the bar.
214
653280
1496
11:06
PV: Elevate our standards
for racial literacy.
215
654800
2536
11:09
Because without investing
in an education that values --
216
657360
2736
11:12
WG: Both the stories --
PV: And statistics --
217
660120
2136
11:14
WG: The people --
PV: And the numbers --
218
662280
1896
11:16
WG: The interpersonal --
PV: And the systemic --
219
664200
2256
11:18
WG: There will always be a piece missing.
220
666480
2456
11:20
PV: Today, so few of us
understand each other.
221
668960
3656
11:24
WG: We don't know how to communicate --
222
672640
1896
11:26
PV: Live together --
WG: Love one another.
223
674560
1976
11:28
We need to all work together
to create a new national community.
224
676560
3096
11:31
PV: A new shared culture
of mutual suffering and celebration.
225
679680
3736
11:35
WG: We need to each begin by learning
in our own local communities,
226
683440
3816
11:39
bridging the gaps between
our own hearts and minds
227
687280
2936
11:42
to become racially literate.
228
690240
1616
11:43
PV: Once we all do,
we will be that much closer
229
691880
2736
11:46
to living in spaces and systems
that fight and care equally for all of us.
230
694640
6016
11:52
WG: Then, none of us
will be able to remain distant.
231
700680
3416
11:56
PV: We couldn't -- sorry,
mom and dad, college can wait.
232
704120
2936
11:59
WG: We're on a gap year before college,
traveling to all 50 states
233
707080
3216
12:02
collecting stories for our next book.
234
710320
1896
12:04
PV: And we still have 23 states
left to interview in.
235
712240
3056
12:07
(Both) Let's all get to work.
236
715320
1976
12:09
Thank you.
237
717320
1256
12:10
(Applause)
238
718600
4640

▲Back to top

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
Priya Vulchi - Social entrepreneur, student activist
Priya Vulchi is traveling to all US states with her friend Winona Guo, learning and listening to stories about race.

Why you should listen

For a collective future of racial justice, we must educate and empower our young generation now. Yet, the first time 18-year-olds Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo were required to talk about race in school was the 10th grade. 

That same year, Vulchi co-founded CHOOSE with Guo to equip us all with the tools we lack to both talk about race and act toward systemic change. Their latest publication, a racial literacy textbook and toolkit for educators called The Classroom Index, has been recognized by Princeton University's Prize in Race Relations & Not in Our Town's Unity Award, featured in Teen Vogue, the Philadelphia Inquirer, & the Huffington Post, and called a “social innovation more necessary than the iPhone” by Professor Ruha Benjamin. Currently on a gap year before attending Princeton University, Vulchi and Guo have been traveling to all US states collecting hundreds of powerful stories about race, culture, and intersectionality for another book to be released in spring 2019. Follow their journey on princetonchoose.org or @princetonchoose on Instagram and Facebook.

More profile about the speaker
Priya Vulchi | Speaker | TED.com
Winona Guo - Social entrepreneur, student activist
Winona Guo is spending her gap year traveling to all US states with her friend Priya Vulchi, learning and listening to stories about race and trying to find innovative ways to tackle inequity.

Why you should listen

For a collective future of racial justice, we must educate and empower our young generation now. Yet, the first time 18-year-olds Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi were required to talk about race in school was the 10th grade.

That same year, Guo co-founded CHOOSE with Vulchi to equip us all with the tools we lack to both talk about race and act toward systemic change. Their latest publication, a racial literacy textbook and toolkit for educators called The Classroom Index, has been recognized by Princeton University's Prize in Race Relations & Not in Our Town's Unity Award, featured in Teen Vogue, the Philadelphia Inquirer, & the Huffington Post, and called a “social innovation more necessary than the iPhone” by Professor Ruha Benjamin. Currently on a gap year before attending Harvard University, Guo and Vulchi have been traveling to all US states collecting hundreds of powerful stories about race, culture, and intersectionality for another book to be released in spring 2019. Follow their journey on princetonchoose.org or @princetonchoose on Instagram and Facebook.

More profile about the speaker
Winona Guo | Speaker | TED.com