236: How to Identify and Respond to Microaggressions and Unconscious Biases with Pooja Kothari, Esq.

236: How to Identify and Respond to Microaggressions and Unconscious Biases with Pooja Kothari, Esq.


On today’s episode, Pooja Kothari, Esq. dives into the tricky subject of how to identify and respond to micro aggressions and unconscious biases. Pooja spent 7 years as a public defender at the Legal Aid Society, Criminal Defense Practice in Brooklyn trying numerous felony and misdemeanor cases. She is the founder of Boundless Awareness, LLC—a consulting firm that develops customized unconscious bias training for law firms, nonprofits, and universities. Pooja values compassion and nonjudgement, creating experiential, interactive workshops that engage clients in safe, fun, and fulfilling anti-bias education.

On the show, we cover what micro aggressions and unconscious biases are. Pooja discusses the impacts of micro aggressions on marginalized students and professionals and shares tips for how to respond to them in the moment. She also reminds us of the importance of checking our own privileges as a way to uncover biases we may hold. To learn more, check out the companion resource list she’s shared with us linked here.

You can connect with Pooja on her website

boundlessawareness.com, via email pooja@boundlessawareness.com, on Instagram (@boundlessawarenessllc) and on LinkedIn

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236: How to Identify and Respond to Microaggressions and Unconscious Biases with Pooja Kothari


Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:00:00] Welcome back everyone to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. This is your host Doctora, Yvette, and today we're gonna be talking about how to identify and respond to microaggressions and unconscious biases with Pooja. Kothari, our guest, Pooja has. spent seven years as a public defender at the Legal Aid Society, criminal Criminal defense practice in Brooklyn, trying numerous felony and misdemeanor cases.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: In 2016, she founded her company, boundless Awareness, LLC. A consulting firm that develops customized unconscious bias training for law firms, nonprofits, and universities. Pooja values, compassion and non-judgment, creating experiential interactive workshops that engage clients in a safe, fun, and fulfilling anti-bias education.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Welcome to the podcast

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Pooja

Pooja Kothari: thank you so much for having [00:01:00] me. I'm so excited to be here.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Oh, I'm excited to have you here too, . So for folks that are new to you and your work, I love to get started with all of my podcast episodes. Hearing a little bit more about what people do and also a little bit about their backstory, we wanna know how do you got to, you know, be where you are now? How did you become the person you are today?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I know that's a big question, but whatever you're comfortable sharing about who you are, what you do, and how you got here.

Pooja Kothari: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for asking that. So yeah, I spent you know, my very first career out of law school was my, my dream job at the Public defender office in Brooklyn with the Legal Aid Society of Criminal Defense Practice. And it's the only thing I wanted to do. You when you think about human rights work, um, it's so many, uh, areas.

Pooja Kothari: It's housing, it's food, it's children, It's healthcare. it, it's so many things. What it meant for me [00:02:00] was I guess the biggest human right that matters to me. I mean, all of them matter. But for me it was liberty being able to

Pooja Kothari: live outside of confinement. And that was so important to me. It's something that I felt so passionate about. That is just a cr, a crucial Right. That all of us have. And that's why I joined this division of the Legal Aid Society back in 2009. And it's, it was the only job I knew I really wanted to do and. In that you're of course representing clients who are mainly black and brown, um, or, and undocumented people.

Pooja Kothari: And I live in Brooklyn and I worked in Brooklyn, and so I was responding to those communities who live below the federal poverty guidelines, who can't afford an

Pooja Kothari: attorney. And I want it to be that. Awesome, excellent, dedicated curious. Badass, awesome. Cross examine [00:03:00] nerd type of attorney them. And I was, I was able to develop my skills really well in particular because I had great mentors and I found people who saw the skills that I had. And knew how to develop them. So I, I really was taken under their wing and taught really great trial skills. And the Legal Aid Society has a, an incredible education program on that.

Pooja Kothari: So they, they put, you don't, you don't just go out right straight from law school. I mean, they really train you very well. But while I, you're trying cases, you're, you're representing your clients, you're trying to get them out of. All of these incarcerated spaces, whether it's at the precinct, whether it's behind the courtroom at arraignments, or whether it's Rikers Island, you're trying to get them out of custody. And while you're doing that very hard work, going up against a system that doesn't want your clients out, that for so many incentives, wants to keep people incarcerated, um, while you're doing all of that hard work, we're also [00:04:00] facing all of this other oppression on so many other layers. So there's sexual harassment in the courtroom. There's obvious racism, classism, but you know, when your trans clients get arrested for, and back then, you know, people were getting arrested for sex work. You know, it was, it was such a different, you know, now there's a whole new way of thinking about it. But in 2009, 20 10, 20 11, and Forever. Before that, you know, sex workers were getting arrested.

Pooja Kothari: When your, your clients come in and NYPD and corrections and your court officers and the da, and sometimes the judge misgenders your client. I mean, it's so humiliating and dehumanizing. you're not only doing all of this hard legal work, but you're fighting off these random comments and forces that you have to interact with as just being part of the courtroom. So the first step I took in, in understanding how to get through a day , [00:05:00] just get through a night of night court or night

Pooja Kothari: arraignments, or even during the daytime, was I started with myself and I started unpacking my own racism, my own colorism, my own internalized homophobia all of the systems of oppression that I have internalized. I knew I can't start with anyone else until I fix myself. So I spent the first few years really doing that deep hard work and questioning myself every time, and I found some really great accountability partners to that challenged me and forced me to think in different ways. And then after about three years, I started working on other people. Once I was clear on. What is the issue? How does it manifest it in in me? How do I perpetuate it? Even though I

Pooja Kothari: conscious, obviously, we all consciously reject racism and sexism and misogyny and white supremacy, but we unconsciously perpetuate it. So all of us do that. We consciously [00:06:00] reject

Pooja Kothari: these horrible things and yet we unconsciously, know, perpetuate the very same thing.

Pooja Kothari: We reject. You find that cycle over and over and over again. You can write papers on how ableist society is and still have that same internalized ableism and judge people and treat people differently because you haven't grappled with it yet. So I started working

Pooja Kothari: on, yeah, I'm sorry. Go ahead.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yeah, just you said that you started working on it for yourself and you started working on that with others. So I just wanna kind of have you expand a little bit more on like, what did that look like when you were. Reflecting on this within yourself, because this is as someone who has also act actively been trying to work on these things for myself, it's not easy work and it, I know it looks different for everybody, but what did that look like for you?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: You know, like how did you get started? Was it a lot of reading? Was it discussions, accountability? You said an accountability partner or partners?

Pooja Kothari: Yeah, [00:07:00] yeah. You know, I would it was really through my accounta, you know, my accountability partner was my then girlfriend, now wife. And

Pooja Kothari: I would tell her stories from arraignments and I would tell her like the client interaction, what happened throughout the night how unfair the system was. And she would call out aspects of my storytelling. And say like, I wonder why you think that that's really interesting. Or any comment that I would make of you know, I remember we were watching a TV show and there was a person of color actor and playing a character on the TV show and I said, you know, they really whitewashed that person's accent. And you know, I hate how they do that. She said, maybe that's just what that person sounds like. That's a really interesting thought and I wonder where that comes from. Why can't that person just sound how they sound? What do you mean? Why does it have to be that someone might wash them? Maybe this is just how they grew [00:08:00] up and that's their accent and you know, I ne that was, you know, at least 10 years ago, she said that to me and I've never forgotten that example. And it's these small ways that you're, if you are Accountability partner is dedicated to your growth. They will lovingly call out every time that you need to check yourself. And that really for me made me start thinking of everything. I started thinking about my, my conversations I have with my clients when I first meet them. I thought about what racist attitudes do I have that are coming As an obstacle to me being a better attorney. Maybe I'm not asking them about potential witnesses to the crime or to the, to whatever happened. And maybe I'm miss missing an opportunity because I have these attitudes that I don't even know I, and I'm behaving and then making decisions in a way that's [00:09:00] detrimental to them. And here

Pooja Kothari: I am, putting myself off as a public defender. Who knows? Everything's against the system, is with my clients. I'm down, you know, I understand what's going on. And you know what? Until you really challenge yourself, you don't know what attitudes are coming in your way and actually making you a worse decision maker.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: At what point in this self-work journey did you realize, oh, like this is gonna turn into something else and eventually turned into Les awareness?

Pooja Kothari: Oh, I, I never, I never thought pless awareness would be anything I, I knew. I really liked thinking about how to challenge people in a constructive way that was productive to them. That kept the dignity of myself and my client and them and invited them into a conversation. So I really liked that challenge. I had no idea [00:10:00] if it would turn into something that other people would wanna hear about. So it was, you know, it's, as you know, it is terrifying to start out on your own. And in the beginning I had some, like, like, you said. Incredible mentors

Pooja Kothari: that, that, that encouraged me and said, this work is good. Keep refining it. I, I,

Pooja Kothari: had held all of these focus groups. I invited friends and then I started networking. I would invite people, I wanted to hire me to these focus groups and, and workshop my exercises through them and see like, okay. how do I learn what pedagogy is right for me? what's the right teaching tools?

Pooja Kothari: What is my teaching strategy as a person who doesn't have a education teaching background, you know, I had to learn so much. I mean, it's a, teaching is a magnificent job that I have so much respect for. Um, so I never knew it would become anything, but I, I have some people in my life that were very [00:11:00] supportive and, and made it, and made it, it gave me my first opportunities.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Well, I'm so grateful to them because that's, you know, the reason why you're here today and, and we're here to specifically tackle. The topic of microaggressions and unconscious bias, which I know you facilitate workshops on these topics regularly. And so I'm, I, I know these, these terms are tossed around all the time, but I always like to hear, you know, everyone's kind of individual take or definition of each of these terms.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So can we kind of just go, go back to the 1 0 1 piece of it and

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: if let us know like what . What are microaggressions? What are unconscious biases? And then from there, maybe we can start to talk about how they might impact. Primarily I focus on talking about first Gen

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Bipoc that's my audience.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So how might they impact firsthand bipoc listeners and then what we can do about [00:12:00] it too. So yeah, let's start with with how you're defining

Pooja Kothari: Yeah, unconscious bias. I like to define as the discriminatory beliefs that we don't even know we have. And when I say discriminatory, it doesn't have to mean anything overtly hateful at all. It is just the difference in which we treat people. We're not conscious of that. So

Pooja Kothari: for example a long time ago when I needed a social media manager, I was talking to my wife again and I said you know, I should really get a social media manager. And she said, yeah, that's a really great idea. You should. I said, yeah, but I have no idea where to find him. And she goes, oh, interesting. Teaching about bias and you think your social media manager's gonna be a guy, and that's like not just, oh, we can't say anything anymore. It's not about that. It's about how that unconscious thought is gonna affect my decision making. And we so many, [00:13:00] as you know, so much research has gone in to the words that we use and how they influence our decision making. So if you think you're an IT person or your social media manager or someone who's gotta be good with computers is gonna be a man. You are gonna have more credence when men apply and you're gonna give them more credence. We see it all the time with lawyers. Oh my gosh. I've experienced it myself and my clients are like, you know, is she gonna be good? You know, she's not a white

Pooja Kothari: man. You know, so it's, or we experience it all the time with doctors, especially women, doctors of color, have patients question them all the time and say the horrendous things to them. So who we decide of. That can be helpful to us. That's influenced by who we think is who belongs in that position. We're seeing it right now with how people are treating the Harvard President and the horrible racist and sexist things that are being said about [00:14:00] her right now. You know, and the delegitimization of women of color, queer women of color, queer people of color. I mean, it just disabled people of color. It's

Pooja Kothari: just, you know, every day it's a

Pooja Kothari: natural, every day run of the mill thing. And that we have to challenge that in order to, uh, just make better decisions and, and be a, a more just, and honestly, a more efficient society because we waste a lot of

Pooja Kothari: resources on people.

Pooja Kothari: We think Are right for the job who are frankly just pretty mediocre.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So you just kind of walked us through unconscious biases and these like . You know, the way that it's unconscious, the way that we might have discriminatory thoughts. And how is that different? How would you differentiate that? From microaggressions? Yeah. And [00:15:00] what's like the relationship between the two?

Pooja Kothari: Definitely yes,

Pooja Kothari: Completely related microaggressions. I'm gonna use professor Derald Wing Sue's definition. He's a professor emeritus at Teacher's College, and in his book, he defined microaggressions as the everyday verbal non-verbal and environmental slight snobs or insults, whether intentional or unintentional that communicate a hostile. Derogatory or negative messages to people based solely upon their marginalized identity. Okay, so I can have an unconscious bias about my social media manager being a guy, and then inadvertently, because I didn't challenge that thought, might prefer a man to a any other gender when hiring for that job. Okay? A microaggression, Takes that discri unconscious or subconscious discriminatory attitude and[00:16:00] puts it in the form of a verbal or nonverbal communication, but it's only directed to marginalized people. So me saying, oh, men are better at it, or anything like that, is not a microaggression. Even though it's a positive comment, positive comments can still be microaggressions. It's not a microaggression because men are not a marginalized group. We live in a misogynist society as patriarchal. There's a lot of toxic masculinity that it's very harmful for everybody. bUt men are not a marginalized group. They're not historically marginalized, so that's not a microaggression. If I say why people can't dance. That's might be a joke to some people. Might be offensive to some people, might be insulting to some people, but it's not a microaggression because white people are not a marginalized group. So something can be an insult that doesn't make it a microaggression. Insults are kind of the larger umbrella

Pooja Kothari: microaggressions are underneath that only it belongs to the [00:17:00] marginalized group.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: This reminds me of the difference between, uh, folks who . Don't understand how racism works and will claim that there is such a thing as reverse racism, which for those of us that have, you know, familiarity with race and, you know, racism, we know that, that there is no such

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: a no such thing as reverse racism because.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Racism impacts folks of particular marginalized

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: races. Right.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Okay. So it's really, really helpful to hear you talk about Okay, microaggressions as kind of the the acts or kind of behaviors versus biases as more and

Pooja Kothari: Mm-Hmm.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Related to it, not necessarily an act. and now I'm thinking about my audience members.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I'm thinking about them. A lot of them are students. Some of them are early career professionals. They are in predominantly white academic spaces.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Even if they are at [00:18:00] in spaces like Like HSIs or HBCUs. The university setting itself in many cases is a very kind of white supremacist

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: space. So they might be dealing with microaggressions and at the same time struggling with their own forms of internalized unconscious biases.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: it's kind of tricky.

Pooja Kothari: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: But one thing that comes up a lot, and I hear this all the time, and it was my experience as well, is that they're in this space. They're already feeling self-conscious perhaps, or struggling with, you know what people call the imposter phenomenon or even imposter, and someone does or says something that's that sting, that microaggression.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: You know what? What is it that students or young professionals can do to kind of better manage these circumstances? Because they happen so often that I know my [00:19:00] immediate response when I, I mean, even to this day, sometimes it's still my response is there's like the fight, flight, freeze, fawn response, , and I would always react in a freeze or fawn, kind of like that.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Did, did I just hear that? No, I didn't hear that. No. Or like, I just don't know how to respond to that. I just heard that. I have no idea. I'm frozen. But yeah, like what are, you know, what are some best practices, strategies, ways to manage, just anything that can be helpful to folks who may be experiencing this, the microaggressions all the time.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And then we can talk about unconscious biases separately too. But I'm, I'm, I'd like to start with the microaggressions since that's . It's a topic that comes up a lot.

Pooja Kothari: Yeah, it's a lot and I think it really, it, there, I have several, many phrases that I'd like to offer, but these phrases, you know, should be deployed based on your [00:20:00] stamina that day.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yeah. Yeah.

Pooja Kothari: Based on how many times you've heard it based on your freeze. Freezing in the moment is so common and understandable. And especially when it's unexpected. I mean, we freeze all the time, so I, you know, I hope people are not are easy on themselves when it comes to not being able to respond in the moment. Most of us can't. This isn't like a TV

Pooja Kothari: show where you're supposed to just have your line. and especially when power's involved, I mean, it's, it goes

Pooja Kothari: even worse. So I feel like every, we should all just take a deep breath and be like, you know what? I can deal with that tomorrow when I

Pooja Kothari: have the words and I have the presence of mind, and I've thought about how I actually wanna react to this. And maybe I've played out potential reactions and then depending on your anxiety level of, because it's very hard to confront somebody. [00:21:00] Especially when our society says that it's rude to do so, that you should just accept it and move on. You know, our society doesn't encourage honest discussion of our feelings or

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Right.

Pooja Kothari: anything. So you're really up, again, you're like climbing a mountain when you're confronting someone. So one, if you freeze, be easy on yourself. If you do wanna say something. For whatever reason. And depending on the power dynamic, I would say, gosh, that's a, that's an interesting thing to say. Or What did you say? Can you repeat that? Or repeating what they said very slowly.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Mm.

Pooja Kothari: Like, which it can, you know, lead to like, an awkward moment, but it, it allows the other person to like really hear what they have to say. So someone

Pooja Kothari: said to me once at the end of a race, I was running this like 24 hour Ragnar race. It's like you stay up all night. [00:22:00] To run anyway, it's a little ridiculous. So at the end of this race, someone who I'd been with for 24 hours, like team building and like supporting each other and the whole team, you know, we had the breakfast or the race was over, we're finally drinking water and eating and all this stuff. And she says you know, I'm from Canada and you know, our neighbors growing up, they were Indian too. And I just love how you Indians are also smart. And you know, one thing you could say in that moment, if you're like, 'cause you know, I'm not gonna see this person again tomorrow, even after that breakfast, I'll probably never run into her again in my life. So I had a moment a chance to either say something or not. So you could say you love how all Indians are smart. Interesting.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yes. You saying it back, it sounds really

Pooja Kothari: I'm there's

Pooja Kothari: 1.4 billion people [00:23:00] who would love to hear this message.

Pooja Kothari: Mike, what does this mean? And while that seems like a positive compliment, it goes into the model minority myth, which is like a whole

Pooja Kothari: other conversation and it's a microaggression. 'cause even if

Pooja Kothari: it's positive, it's a derogatory message because the model minority myth is meant to separate non-black people of color from. Black people, so in this country. So, I mean, it's really a bad thing to say and kind of say it so you could repeat that back to her or say gosh, that's a really interesting thought that all Indians are smart. I wonder what makes you think that? , because if you say, well, what do you mean? Then that person, because they're unaware of the stereotype that they hold, is not gonna really realize it. So to say it back slowly or to say, I wonder what that means because that can't be possible that all Indians are so smart. So is it just your neighbors and [00:24:00] anybody else that, you know, that are smart? What does even smart mean? So so much to unpack behind that with her, I didn't have any power dynamic. We were on the same power level. So there wa there wasn't a fear. There was only like a, a social fear of like, do I alienate this person that I just spent 24 hours with? But she had just alienated me. So, you know, how can we compassionately work around that in something where you are in an institutional setting, a university setting where there is a power dynamic between a professor and a student, or a TA and a student, or whoever it might be. I would still say that's an interesting thought. I wonder where that comes from, or I think what you mean to say is that there's kind of this stereotype about Indian people being really smart and you saw it come true with whoever your neighbors are. But I'm not sure that's what we wanna say, like as a generalized statement. [00:25:00] So two ways. What does that mean? That's a very interesting thing to say, or I don't think that's actually what you mean when you say that. So both ways can offer like to, to to educate. It

Pooja Kothari: is none of our responsibility to educate anybody. No one should ever feel like, oh, I missed an opportunity to educate. and it's never too late to do it. So four weeks later you can go still, go back to that person and say, you know, a while ago you said something. It's been on my mind. I was wondering if we could talk about it. So those are some strategies. really depends on, on who, who it is, and the power they have.

Pooja Kothari: Over your grades, over your recommendation letters, over your reference letters, over everything.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I appreciate you giving. . Two phrases that could potentially work. And giving examples [00:26:00] of how it has happened in your own life. And then also acknowledging that we, it is not a responsibility to educate everybody and that you can take the time because some of us take more time to think and process through what has happened.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I'm one of those people. I, I, I need to take my time. . Yeah. And then also it depends on your capacity levels, your energy, your ability, your willingness that day. Like I, I try to remind people like, we don't have to fight the fight all the time. Like that's a recipe for a lot of, a lot of issues. But, okay, so we just talked about microaggressions and the other thing that comes up is

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Unconscious biases and like taking ownership of our own biases, really. my Experience with learning about unconscious biases was attending mandatory asynchronous HR trainings,

Pooja Kothari: Okay.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: and they were very dry, [00:27:00] monotone, not interactive at all, and felt like just like a .

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Checking a box, like just learn about what this means to check a box and you're good.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And I personally don't think that's necessarily effective for most people to learn about anti-bias and to work on their own biases. So in your, you know, from your experience, I'm curious, you know, your expertise, like what makes four impactful? . Constructive generative anti-bias trainings. And then what can folks who want to start this journey or continue this journey of learning to be a better, whether it's anti-racist, anti ableist, anti classist, anti all the isms, what can we do to continue on this path?

Pooja Kothari: Yeah. I think the best way to learn about unconscious bias is, [00:28:00] uh, through experiential education. I. So our workshops are all experiential. They're, which means, you know, you I do, uh, very little talking and everybody else is, is learning through the exercises that I give them. And then they're teaching each other, which peer-to-Peer education is so much more Powerful than getting a lecture from me. I mean, when you hear your colleague teaching you about experience that they've had or a way that they're analyzing the microaggression example that I'm giving them, you learn a lot better and faster and it stays in your brain. So my, all my workshops, whether they're virtual, hybrid, and person, are all experiential.

Pooja Kothari: And I take my participants through an imaginative, creative scenario or you know, I'll write a hypothetical situation that is so close to the things that they experience on a daily basis at work or in the, in at school that they can really place themselves there and say, [00:29:00] wow, what would I do? Or what, what is the problem with what this character said in the scenario? And and then, you know, they go on to break it groups and, and really pull at all the threads there. I think all of us

Pooja Kothari: have those areas that we haven't explored yet. So like as a queer woman of color, you know, I might think, well, I am so oppressed, you know, I'm oppressed on these multiple levels, you know, I am, I am, I have kids, you know, and so I'm thinking about how people are perceiving them.

Pooja Kothari: You know, how people perceive my wife and I, how people, how we safe when we travel. You know, my wife and my two kids, and I like. You know, in a, in a hostile areas. And, and if I only think about the ways that I'm oppressed, I forget to think about all the privilege I have. I have an American accent in the United States. I speak English fluently, I have citizenship. There's, so I'm the, my [00:30:00] so socioeconomic status, my education, my access. Who offered me my first internship, how I got my recommendation letters, how hard I had to prove that I was smart and

Pooja Kothari: worthy of a professor's recommendation or or your first job, how you handle interviews. My, my disabilities and if they come into play while I'm looking for a job or not. So. So many other, you know, my cisgender privilege, my femme presenting privilege all so much. So if I only focus on how oppressed I am, then all of the ways that I have privilege are influencing the discriminatory, discriminatory beliefs that I have, and I'm not checking them. So when I walk by someone who's houseless, what am I thinking about about them? If it's a white person who, who doesn't have a house, if it's a black person who doesn't have a house, if it's someone [00:31:00] who's speaking a language, I don't understand, what am I thinking about that person when I walk by them? And how is that influencing the way I'm treating other people and who I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to a lot of privilege really is like getting the benefit of the doubt in your life. You belong. I'm not gonna question you. You seem to fit right in. All of that is privilege. So

Pooja Kothari: the first point I think when we're talking about, wait, how do I know what my unconscious bias is? If it's unconscious, like how am I supposed to locate that? You first look at all your privilege because that's what you don't have to look at. Society's letting you have a free pass on, on, on what you have a privilege on. No one's quite wondering, ah, why does she call herself? She, her hers. Ugh. Why does she use those pronouns? Society doesn't tell me that. I have no problem with that. So maybe I should check my transphobia bias. You know, as a person of color, I'm not black.

Pooja Kothari: Maybe I should check my anti-black [00:32:00] racism bias and see like where it's popping up in my life. And you know, it really doesn't matter who you're related to. You know, a lot of people back in the day used to say, oh, well, you know, my husband's black so I can say this. You know, it's like, it, your proximity

Pooja Kothari: does not give you that identity. So it doesn't matter if your best friend is gay or any of that. You've gotta check your where your privilege is, and that's where your bias lies.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Mm. Thank you for putting it so clearly, like is really acknowledging our privileges. I. And that is one of the ways to step into learning more about our, our biases. oKay, so now we're gonna transition to having you kind of speak more directly to my audience members. So, you know, they're primarily students, early career professionals.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: They're mostly all first gen, BIPOC and . , [00:33:00] you know, they, they come for advice, for insights, for, you know, consejos or just to hear from folks about like what they would say to them, you know, or to their former selves. So for you, thinking back to your former self or thinking about current students in early career professionals, um, if, if they're embarking on a journey or they're already there in spaces where they are one of the only ones or the only one, and

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Do you know the, the two things might come up. You know, they might notice, oh, I'm starting to notice some biases. And also, ooh, I'm starting to notice some microaggressions, like. What is there? Are there any other thoughts that maybe you haven't shared? Closing thoughts, advice, just anything that, if you could go back in time, tell yourself, you know, this is gonna happen, but this is also what you can do about it, or anything else that comes to mind.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Final thoughts on the topic.

Pooja Kothari: Yes, find [00:34:00] your people and even as someone who is, you know Not that extroverted or, you know, doesn't like building relationships 'cause it's for whatever reason in whatever way that is meaningful to you. Find your people. And and, and it doesn't mean the ones who exactly share your identities.

Pooja Kothari: It's the ones who are go, who understand and who are gonna have your back. My mentors have, I don't think I've ever I don't think I've ever had a South Asian mentor, but I found my people that didn't share my identities and but got it, got my life experience. Understood what microaggressions were. Understood what power, power dynamics were, and were able to just hear the stories. My, my, the microaggressions that I experienced, and without it, it can be so [00:35:00] lonely. And there are always people for you. It, it doesn't matter who you are, there are people who want to support you, um, at whatever. You might have to dig a little harder to find them, uh, if it's not so apparent.

Pooja Kothari: But they're there. And, and build that relationship and give back to that person and, you know, feed the relationship. Because it's easy when, especially if there's like a mentor mentee relationship, it's easy to take. And I, there are ways even as the student that you can give back to your mentor. for example, just sharing feedback with them, how important they are to you, um, what benefit that you've derived from them.

Pooja Kothari: That's all that you know, you need to kind of feed a relationship. Because I have been, you know, as a younger person, you know, you kind of just take and take from people who are there for you because you don't understand how to give back. And now as a, you know, over 40 person who mentors a lot of people, [00:36:00] like, that's all mentors want is is your feedback. Am I helpful to you? How, you know, what else can I do? And that you don't have to give any gifts or anything like that. Just some, some feedback of of how they've affected your life is, is plenty. sometimes you don't think of that as a younger person.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yeah. Well I appreciate everything that you've shared and, and reminding folks to, to develop, you know, your support system, to find your people to, um, have reciprocal relationship with their

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: mentors or fem mentors. Yeah. So for folks who want to maybe continue to learn more from you, connect with you, learn more about your work, how can folks reach you?

Pooja Kothari: You can email me at Pooja pooja@boundlessawareness.com. I'll always write back, so feel free to reach out. My website is boundless [00:37:00] awareness.com. I'm boundless awareness on Instagram. On LinkedIn. Feel free to connect with me. I am happy to connect with any young person or student or you know, first gen person going through this and struggling. I. Just with the daily life of microaggressions and just dealing with this power struggle. I'm happy to connect with you. I'm happy to connect with all of you, so please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, which I know isn't very popular, um, with people under the age of 40.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: It's getting, it's getting more popular.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I'm telling everybody to go there. They're like, I'm like, don't just follow me Instagram. Don't just hang out on

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Go to LinkedIn,

Pooja Kothari: LinkedIn is great, but you know, the education is a lot on Instagram, so if you want like these little nuggets of, you know and I'm also happy to share a document that I keep updating every year is our companion resource list. It has, you know, who to follow on Instagram,

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:38:00] Oh

Pooja Kothari: books, articles, movies, podcasts to continue you, you on your anti-oppression journey.

Pooja Kothari: So I'm happy to share that as well.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Oh, we would love that. So we'll keep all the links that you mentioned. They're gonna be in the show notes, and if there's a link to that

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: too, we would love to

Pooja Kothari: Yes. Yes, absolutely. I'll send it to you.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Oh, awesome. Well, thank you so much, Puja, for being here with us today for sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience. This was a lot of fun. I even learned a few things, so I'm excited to take . You know, what we've learned today to continue on my own path of anti-biased learning and learning to better manage or combat

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: microaggressions,

Pooja Kothari: you're the best and, and you know, you're doing such important work. So thank you and thank you for having me here.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Thank you.

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