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Ep 167

Confronting Racism: A conversation with Kawal Mahendru

Kawal: [00:00:00] I have power, I have a voice. I am a person and. In this situation, I just needed to , take up my space

Carling: Welcome to the, I did Not Sign Up for this podcast, a weekly show dedicated to highlighting the incredible stories of everyday people. No topic is off limits. Join me as we explore the lives and experiences of guests through thought-provoking, unscripted conversations. And if you enjoy this show and would like to support this podcast, consider joining my Patreon.

You’ll gain instant access to over 70 exclusive bonus episodes, entries into giveaways, a discount on merch and more. Your support, allows me to continue bringing you these important stories. So head over to patreon.com/i did not sign up for this and become part of the community.

I’m your host Carlin, a Canadian queer identifying 30 something year old, providing a platform for the stories that need to be heard

oh my God. Kawal. Hello.

Kawal: hi.

Carling: that you’re here today.

Kawal: I’m excited to be here. It’s been a while

in the making.

Carling: I [00:01:00] know, but that almost like it builds like anticipation.

Kawal: this better be


Carling: no pressure. It is so good to talk to you. So we work together. But my favorite story about how we met is that you were like, are you Carling? And I thought it was just because I was the new kid and you were like, my best friend listens to your podcast. And I hadn’t told anybody yet that I had a podcast. .

Kawal: You’ve been

Carling: Yeah, but your friend Kathy’s a listener and I mentioned where I work on the podcast

Kawal: yeah. Kathy was very excited,


Carling: I love Kathy. I always see her Instagram post that you’re in.

Kawal: I was just at her house on

Friday night She’s just the most caring and kind and loving person

Carling: Ah,

Kawal: I would actually say that about

Kathy. Kathy Bja.


Carling: I need to have both of you on the podcast.

Kawal: Oh

yes. Oh, yes. We were in her kitchen. I shared my experiences from the past week with her. And so Friday night I was actually in her kitchen talking [00:02:00] to her, and we were both crying. And not crying, but just tears and just being mad at at how society is sometimes showing up.

And so I think if you brought the two of us together, and I think having our two different perspectives, her being a Caucasian woman who’s lived in Canada her whole life, and me being an immigrant and a woman of color having lived in Asia and now here. I think when you bring those perspectives together, it’ll just be a more balanced conversation too.

Carling: Yeah, I appreciate like how narrow my experience in the world is but I learned so much from people who are just like, come from all these other stories and their lived experiences. So I just I love it. The more I can learn, the better. So we were gonna have a little bitch fest about our travel. Issues.

But then you called me and you were like, we have to talk about this thing. And I think , I agree. It’s so important. We will [00:03:00] save the travel woes and our like view on all inclusives to another time.

Kawal: Yes. And travel woes in the context of the impacts to the communities and the people from the communities who are working in these all inclusives that. Are filled with

Kawal: abundance that they probably don’t have access to in their daily lives and how that disparity shows

Carling: that was my biggest complaint about going to an all-inclusive. I was like, I love that I could just stay in the resort, but man, did I ever feel like I was waving my privilege around and I didn’t want to.

Kawal: Yeah. It’s a little tough, right?

Carling: Well, I would love it if you could introduce yourself officially. Tell me who you are, where are you from, what do you do?

Kawal: Yeah. So my name is Kawal Mehendru. I’m in my late thirties.

Let’s leave it at that.

Carling: That’s who I say. I’m a 30 something year

Kawal: Year old. Yeah. Who needs to know that? I have two young kids. My son will be turning five [00:04:00] this summer. My daughter turns three in two weeks. I was born and raised in Singapore I moved from Singapore to Calgary, Canada when I was 17, and it was a shock to the system.

But now I’ve been here for two decades. I’m Canadian and had to relinquish my Singapore and citizenship. They don’t allow


Carling: Really? Oh, I didn’t know that.

Kawal: Yeah. It made me sad, but it’s okay. I only very recently became Canadian. I would say about three years ago, it was right before Covid hit I went and did my ceremony and I mostly just did it so my kids and I, my family would be able to travel on a single citizenship thing and not have to navigate all of that.

Carling: Wow.

Kawal: it was fine. Oh, and I also really wanted to vote like enough of

Carling: Oh, even as a permanent

resident, You

Kawal: No, you cannot. So the last few elections, so the municipal election and the federal election was the first time I voted, [00:05:00] in spite of living here for almost two decades. And I cannot wait for the next election this year.

Carling: It cannot come soon enough. Oh boy. And you met your partner here in Canada.

Kawal: Yes. On eHarmony I found another brown person to marry. My mom picked him, so she still feels that she got a say in my partner. So it’s a semi arranged marriage. We often joke, but yeah. Yeah. So married over seven years.

Carling: Wow,

Kawal: Yeah. Been together for a little over 10 years, a decade. It’s

Carling: that’s amazing. And is he from here originally or did he also immigrate here?

Kawal: No, he was born in vancouver, bc. His parents immigrated yeah, his dad came first and then went back to India. Had his marriage arranged to my mother-in-law and then brought her over.

Carling: Wow.

That’s so interesting. I think this is a really [00:06:00] important topic and one that I full disclosure, don’t know enough about. But it’s something that I’m really interested in. So you’ve had some like really not great experiences

Kawal: Yeah. Consistently. But I would say lately it just seems like a weekly occurrence. I’m like, what’s going on?

Carling: Yeah,

Kawal: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


Carling: yeah. So I guess where should we start? Should we start with what happened that triggered our wanting to talk about this? Or is it worth going through and we’re talking about like racism and microaggressions was there a lot of that for you growing up over the last two decades since coming to Canada?

Kawal: Maybe we’ll just start and share and say that today we’re here and we’re going to be talking about the topic of racism and microaggression. I would say that I was exposed to racism even in Singapore because it’s a very [00:07:00] multicultural society, but like how life is here in Canada, in Singapore, the majority of the population is Chinese, so I would say about 70% or so.

And then followed by about a 15% 15 to 20% malaise. I don’t know how to describe them. They’re a different race altogether. Malaysia has a lot of Malay community. And so we share that with that country. They’re Muslim, and then I would say that South Indians make up the third quote unquote majority, but I would say it’s a single digit kind of percentage. And in spite of being an a Punjabi person, and I was third generation born and raised in singapore, like my paternal grandmother was born in

Singapore. I was still a minority, so my ID card. Said minority. But yeah. I am Punjabi, born and raised in Singapore. My father was also born and raised in Singapore.

Everyone’s Punjabi. And , he had an [00:08:00] arranged marriage with my mother and she immigrated to singapore.

Carling: From

Kawal: Yep. From India. From Punjab, India. Yeah. But I would say even growing up in Singapore, it was so bizarre cuz my dad would even say things to me like, don’t talk to those people. Me, me, Me. And I was always like, what?

Like, Could you imagine if someone said that about us? That’s not very nice. But in Singapore they, they really try. To have racial harmony propaganda. There is an actual racial harmony day that you celebrate in school. Everyone comes together and you wear each other’s cultural clothing if you choose.

There’s concerts. We all dance and do things together, which in hindsight I’m like cringey because it doesn’t really solve the root problem. The fact that we have to have this racial harmony day and then the rest of the time. It, there are microaggressions in [00:09:00] society, it’s not uncommon to have job postings in Singapore that I don’t know if that’s evolved in the two decades that I’ve been away, but I don’t think it’s gone because I’ve seen friends who still live there post stuff on social media.

There’s, I would say it’s actually coming, rising to the surface in terms of racial micro microaggressions in Singaporean communities. But job postings that would say fluent in English and Mandarin.

Like it’s pretty obvious what you’re, who you’re looking for. So felt undertones of it.

Didn’t realize that those were all microaggressions because didn’t grow up with that language. Came here to Canada when I was about 17. Did my first, yeah, I would say my first racial sort of, Profiling microaggression. I actually dunno what the right term is, it was a few months into being in Canada and it was from another brown girl who said to me, go back to where you came from, or something like that.

And I’m like, you go back to where you came from. That is the thing [00:10:00] I’ve heard. Yeah. And then I was fairly oblivious, I would say in my twenties. And then . I would like to think him of age in my thirties and realize that it’s a really messed up thing and I’ve been exposed to it so much that I just, I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying attention or wasn’t aware.

Now I look at everything with this lens, and especially now as a mother, I feel responsible like I have to leave things in a better state than they are right now because the way they are right now.

It ain’t right.

Carling: it’s not, great.

Kawal: No. So sorry, that was a very long winded description of what we’re going

to be talking about today.

Carling: Can you share your experience about what happened with the person misnaming you, not misnaming, you mispronouncing your name.

Kawal: Mispronouncing my name, so I have a very interesting name. My name is Kawal, which actually is the Lotus


It’s actually Kave Deep Core. That was my maiden [00:11:00] name. So Kawal Deep Kawal is the Lotus flower. Deep means light, and core means princess, which I think is very appropriate. Although I would prefer like queen or

empress, uh, I don’t wanna be a princess.

But it’s core is very much rooted in my culture and in my religion. I’m Sikh. And I would say very much throughout my life in Canada my name has always been mispronounced. I actually then decided in university to just go by my initials. So people called me kk. I would say for five, six years.

And it was because it was exhausting having people learn my name every semester and having professors mispronounce my name. And then I working in the marketing advertising agency industry, I would say for the first five years of my career did not correct anyone.

I didn’t feel like I had power. In hindsight, I’m like, why didn’t I just say, that’s not how you say my name, but I just let people mispronounce my name. And it was interesting because I actually came back to a [00:12:00] place of work that I first started my career at and then corrected everyone and they’re like, oh my gosh, we spent so many years just calling you uh, what did they call me?

Caval. They called me Caval.

Carling: for anybody listening, your name is spelled K A w A L.

Kawal: Yeah. But pronounced it’s kovel

Carling: Right. and so they were like, why did you let us go so long?

Kawal: Mm-hmm.

Carling: it’s a really hard thing to correct, especially if you’re breaking into an industry or you’re just at a school and you’re young and

Kawal: Yeah, I would say in these places of work, I was usually the only brown person or there would be just a small handful of people of color. So Asians east Indians and I was young as in my early twenties. , I wrapped up university in four years. Almost, you know, very quickly at the end of that summer had a job lined up.

So I entered the industry in my early twenties and I just don’t think I a realized [00:13:00] what I was doing to myself by not addressing the issue. And I just oftentimes felt like it was just little old me and I shouldn’t rock the boat. I should just be happy I’m here. Now I’m like, no, I’m here. Say it right?

Carling: It’s funny now too, cuz I, the way I know you now, I’m like, oh, I can’t imagine you being, timid or, yeah. What led to. This idea, this feeling, belief that you had to, or that you should correct people and give people proper pronunciation of your name.

Kawal: Yeah, I don’t know what it was to be honest, but I just at some point went, that’s not my name and my name is this and I slowly started to take up my space.

Carling: Yeah.

Kawal: And just take, like it wasn’t, and I had given my space away, so I just eventually went, that’s not my name. This is ridiculous. Please say my name.

And I think I started making choices about my career where I was working with individuals who [00:14:00] actually cared about me and helped me find my voice and helped me, helped nurture me as a professional. And I have a village of these. Women and men that I’ve, very few men, but mostly women who have , helped me find my voice, I would say.

Carling: That’s amazing. Yeah. I know when I first started, I remember asking my boss because I had to go ask you something, and I’m like, is it Cowell? I was like, how do I say her name? Because I knew that I probably wasn’t saying it right.

And he was gracious too. Make sure I knew how to say it,

Kawal: thank you for that. Apparently not everyone shares that sentiment.

Carling: Yeah. So what happened? How much can you say about this person?

Kawal: yeah. So there, there was a person, but I would say there have been people, right? I’ve been, no, throughout the years there have always been individuals who’ve done something very similar. But I’ve been working [00:15:00] with an individual for a. Couple of months, like six to eight.

They’re a vendor partner and it’s not a daily relationship kind of thing. But been in enough situations where you can see my name, someone, or I have pronounced my name and this individual would pronounce my name really incorrectly, like not just. Phonetic things, but the l at the end of my name turned into an I.

It was really uncomfortable and awkward. I would correct my name. I had my leaders actually reach out and correct my name on my behalf. I got a shoddy apology in person, but it was a Caucasian male. And even in that, Apology on the next conference call. They likened my experience to theirs because they’re French Canadian.

And and it’s like my lived [00:16:00] experience is very different from your lived experience. You’re not doing yourselves, any favors. And so to anyone who’s listening, if you’re ever in this situation, all you have to do is say, oh my gosh, I acknowledge that and you don’t even really have to apologize, but you can say, I’m just going to do better next time.

And if I miss the mark, please let me know. That’s all. It’s, that’s all it is. Onwards

and upwards, right?

Carling: yeah. do your best until you know better.


Kawal: yeah. Yeah. And I don’t wanna discount the desire to, that this individual had to do better, but it sometimes comes across weird. My neighbor, here’s another example, my neighbor.

For a few years. So I often say covel like shovel with a K, covel, and people immediately get it. So I just roll with that. However, my neighbor called me shovel for a long time, but we were always in this awkward situation where we were around people or. [00:17:00] The first couple of times I was just stunned, to be honest.

I said, this one Christmas, she came by and we often trade little chocolates or cookies or something like that. And I said, with all, like I said it with all the love in the world because I know that she’s a kind person and I said you’ve been mispronouncing my name.

It’s not shovel, it’s kaul. And you could tell she was very embarrassed and flustered. And I’m like, no, it’s okay. Just it’s kaul moving forward, And she turns around and says to me this is your fault. You should have, yeah, it’s my fault. It’s, this is kinda your fault.

You should have corrected me sooner and you should have never said shovel with a To which I went, here are your Christmas chocolates. Bye.

Carling: Yeah.

Kawal: I was so upset. there’s this term that I’ve heard in some of the readings I’ve been doing where it’s called White Fragility and I’m not here to hold your hand and make you feel better about things.

I’m here to [00:18:00] help you understand where the gap is and help you realize that you can do better and hopefully Plant the seed of wanting to be more aware and do better in your life with others, not just me, because there are many of us. Yeah. And then this year we got a Christmas card and my name was shovel in it, so I just don’t know.

I just dunno.

Carling: God.

Kawal: I can’t, I just can’t. And microaggression at, in, in my house and then just no improvement. , but lovely lady who waves at me every time I drive by her house or she sees me, but I’m like,

Carling: do better. I hate that.

I had a client this past Christmas and in her email it had her name and then it had click here for pronunciation, and yeah, I clicked it and a webpage opened up and it was just the audio, it was just, I don’t know if it was her or not, but, her, yeah, it, it sounded out her name. And it was in her email signature. I’ll send you her email signature. And I was like [00:19:00] this is beautiful. Because the first time I

read it I was like, I don’t, I had to phone her and I was like, I don’t wanna say it wrong.

Kawal: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Carling: was very helpful.

Kawal: I need that. And LinkedIn actually has

that function where you can record the pronunciation of your name. And I actually include my pronouns also because if it’s in an email, it’s not clear what gender I identify as.


So yeah, so that was my experiences last week. With someone in the workplace, but I would just like to acknowledge that what made all the difference was that my leaders became my voice without me actually even saying

anything. Just stepping in and picking up the phone and saying, okay, this has gone on, and now it’s painfully obvious that you need to do better.

So you need to do better. And I received some communication from the individual that was, I think their effort in moving forward. But it was like the tone of it was just off the mark. [00:20:00] It was making light of what happened just. comedic relief is not what we need right now.

Carling: Yeah.

Kawal: my leaders again, sprung into action and took charge and had some difficult conversations on my behalf. then when I found out and went, I actually would’ve tried to talk you out of that conversation. My leader actually said no, you need to take your power. And yeah, I really appreciated it because she also helped me realize that I don’t have to feel uncomfortable, and this is why, because that was what I said.

I said, now I feel uncomfortable because I have to be on these chains and on these communications and calls, and it’s awkward and she really helps me see that I have power, I have a voice. I am a person and. In this situation, I just needed to , take up my space and just be me, and it is not on me.

[00:21:00] So I would say that in this situation I was really lucky because the organization was like, uhoh, no, these are not our shared values. This is not how we show up and went to. Battle for me.

Carling: Yeah. That’s amazing.

Kawal: makes a world of a difference. It makes a world of a

Carling: That’s amazing. What was the second thing that happened? It was at a gym,

Kawal: Oh yes. It was at the gym. So

Carling: I got fired up

at this one.

Kawal: Oh, you okay. So I wasn’t


Carling: No,

Kawal: Okay. Sometimes these things happen and I go, is it me? Am I the drama?

Carling: it’s like story of my

Kawal: And then others go no, that was actually

messed up. No. So there’s a gentleman, an older gentleman who comes to the gym I’ve seen him weekly.

At this time that I go, and he always wears the same red T-shirt that says very bold letters on the front. Jesus is king. And side note, my mother is Christian, [00:22:00] so Truly, like we practice Sikhism and Hinduism at home. I’ve refrained from eating and drinking in front of my friends who are Muslim. during Ramadan,

Like I just think every religion is beautiful and is space for us all and there is beauty in each one and everyone should just be a good human. That is my stance on. Religions. And on the back it says, make Canada Great again, which takes it away from just a I am proud of my religion to a political statement in my humble opinion.

And it’s one step away from MAGA really, which, we all know what MEGA stands for.

Carling: Yeah.

Kawal: And so I saw it once, I saw it twice, I’m like, oh, the poor gentleman just ran outta t-shirts. He didn’t do

laundry. And then I was like, oh, maybe it’s just laundry day again. And now I’m just like, no.

Carling: He’s got

seven of these

Kawal: a. Yeah, I, and I have a trainer and I mentioned it to my trainer and she [00:23:00] encouraged me to say something and she said, until someone from who uses the same space says something, it’s, you know, no one from the staff is immediately going to. Jump and prompt this individual, which is actually a little sad because it places a lot of pressure on the person who is uncomfortable or triggered by something to say something.

So then the responsibility falls on me as a woman of color to go up and say something, which I actually did last Friday. It was an interesting. Interesting interaction because the individual at the gym who was a manager on staff that I connected with actually said that they, so side note, the gym is a community organization, so I know that this is not a fit with their values.

And so the manager then says I will take this back to the general manager and we’ll have a conversation. And I just, it, I guess it just really depends on your definition of inclusivity.

Which, then again, puts the onus on me to define [00:24:00] inclusivity for an organization who I know that this is not what they think, falls within that umbrella. And don’t know, it was, it didn’t make me feel great. Because I had to justify and provide definitions and be, I don’t know, like I felt like I had to present a case as to why this was not appropriate. Yeah. So I left and that was two days ago. I plan on sending a formal email to the inbox that. She had shared with me they said they’d call me back. I have not received a call back. I’m sure that me being me, I will get it escalated enough that someone will have to call me back, which reminds me, I had another interaction where someone actually did call me back and it was lovely.

were just looking at show homes, my mom and I, because she’s selling her home and we went to a show home We’d gone to a few, so we had an idea of what we wanted. So we were at a builder’s show home that was just in a different [00:25:00] community, so I knew which floor plan, blah, blah, blah.

And I was just asking for a price point and he implied that I couldn’t afford it. He’s like, oh, it’s really expensive. And in fact, it was the cheapest one that we’d seen all day, to which I said that was actually, that’s not expensive. And then he said the people before you who were brown.

Thought it was really expensive,

Carling: that’s a terrible salesperson.

Kawal: Oh, horrendous. I’m like, brown people need to buy houses and live in places too,

Carling: Yeah.

Kawal: money.

Carling: And yeah, like I hate that.

Kawal: Yeah, so our realtor actually also works with this builder and sells their show home. So I mentioned it to my realtor who mentioned it to the area sales manager because I’d asked him for the phone number and email address, and I got busy and never reached out to this said individual. He called me.

And he called me repeatedly because I was like, who is this? I am not answering this Like unknown number

thing And then[00:26:00] he asked me about my interaction. I gave him my feedback and he was, Like, no, this is not okay. Our c e O is a man of color.

We service a lot of different communities and this is not right. This is not how we present our organization. I’m a marketing and brand professional. And so I said, look, this is not a good look for your company from a brand perspective, Even the way he was so selling or positioning their product compared to other builders.

I’m like, you don’t want to build a brand by putting other brands down. So I just think that this is a coaching moment with this individual. But yeah, someone told me I couldn’t afford a house. I was so mad because I know the value of the house that my mom is selling, and I turned around to him and I said, oh, I could buy two,

Carling: Good for you.

And was your mom there? Did she hear it

Kawal: No, she didn’t hear it, but she was in the vehicle with my daughter at that point because, The prior conversation was taking a long time, but [00:27:00] then as we were leaving, they had left. I’m like, oh, I’m just gonna pop in and ask these questions, which is why it was so direct. No excuse though, but yeah, no, just.

This happens quite a bit. yeah. At the gym, I witnessed a black woman two days ago that same day, have an interaction with the older Caucasian man. And I went to her after and apologized and I said, I saw that happen. I’m sorry. It’s not right. And she’s like, oh, , I’m just tired.

I’ve grown up in Alberta and I’ve been followed in grocery stores. There were some teachers who were incredibly racist to me as I was growing up. My son’s a teenager in high school. He still experiences it. But yeah, no, I still felt the need to go up and say something because the fact she said to me, You know, I appreciate you coming up and acknowledging this because sometimes I walk away from a situation and go, did that really happen?

Am I overreacting? Was it me? And I do that all the

time. I try to, [00:28:00] rationalize what has happened and I go well, I, now I’ve gotten that person into trouble and I feel bad. I actually said that about the situation at work where I’m like, oh, I feel bad. It’s exhausting.

Carling: Yeah. I feel like I should have asked this at the top,

Kawal: Mm-hmm.

Carling: you know the actual definition of

Kawal: Yeah, I pulled it up. So this is the definition from the Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion. I encourage everyone to go to their website. They have amazing resources webinars and toolkits that you can use if you’re a professional, an HR professional, or just wanna do something for your team.

There are lots of little tools that you can use in the workplace or in the classroom if you’re an educator. Their definition of microaggression is small interactions with people or the environment that expose bias. Towards marginalized groups. While microaggressions may be unintentional, they can have cumulative negative effects on an individual’s wellbeing [00:29:00] and sense of belonging.

Examples include asking a person of color, where are you really from? Or a woman in a meeting being repeatedly spoken over or dismissed by her male colleagues.

Carling: Ah,


Kawal: you know,

microaggression. So they’re not just rooted in racism. It could be sexism. It could be directed towards the LGBTQ plus community.

it does affect our wellbeing and sense of belonging. It really does.

it just makes you feel like less than,

Carling: And I find I really hate the. Generation belief of well, they’re just so old that’s how they grew up. Oh, it was just,

like that. That’s just, oh, don’t, and they sort of like, if, like a grandparent says something racist like, no, that

Kawal: Mm-hmm.

Mm-hmm. Yeah. I think that there are a lot of passes, quote unquote, given to individuals [00:30:00] of a different

generation. And I would say, it’s not just, I don’t wanna say only Caucasian groups do this. Like my grandmother would say things, I’m like, nanny, you can’t say that. Stop yeah.

And I don’t care if you grew up in a village in India and have never seen that. Different isn’t bad, different isn’t less than. And so I would say things to my dad too. I’m like, that’s racist. And he’s like, I’m not racist. I actually say that too. Oh my gosh, I’m gonna get into trouble for this. I call my mother and father-in-law out all the time, all the time.

I’m like, that is racist. And then they’re like, they get all defensive. I’m like, no, it was racist. I don’t know what else to tell you. That was racist, that was sexist. Please don’t use that word. Or this and that. And I just think that. People of a certain generation grew up and were just raised, you know, and there was a lot of trauma when they were, building lives and raising a family.

But at the same time, I think in today’s day and age, we’ve come , to a point where it ain’t [00:31:00] right. It’s not right. Do not do it. And if you are unsure, ask Yeah, I just, I have zero tolerance now. I just can’t, I just can’t,

Carling: Yeah. Do you think that has that really started since becoming a parent like I wonder what it’s like parenting children of color as a woman of color.

Kawal: oh my gosh. I was like this before I had children. I think I’ve always. Held these values. And once I found my voice, I’ve always been very vocal. Kathy can confirm. I think it’s one of the reasons why she loves me. We had a difficult conversation around my kitchen nook table where we were at her home and someone said something and I’m like, that was racist.

And she’s like, they’re from like this. Culture or ethnicity from Europe, which they just, they don’t know better and we should help them understand. And I’m like, no. And I felt horrible. I like she left and I’m like, oh, I was so critical. I was so harsh. But then I get this communication [00:32:00] after going, you know, I really appreciate you pushing me and challenging.

Our approach when it comes to certain things. And she’s an educator too, right? And so I think she’s always trying to do the best thing so I just find that I. Sometimes by having these difficult conversations I push people and sometimes I feel like an asshole.

Oh, I couldn’t say that.


I feel

Carling: okay. You can say asshole. I

Kawal: like a, I feel, yeah, I feel like a terrible person after who push too hard. But I think that if people are open and receptive, I’ll just make our communities and our world a better

Carling: Yeah, and I think I think it goes for just language in general in these microaggressions that if you are called out, don’t be so fragile about it. Just own it and say, oh God, like I didn’t know. Because it’s okay to not know, but it’s not

Kawal: yeah,

Carling: be told and then to keep doing it.

Kawal: Yeah.

Carling: There’s tons that I still don’t know. [00:33:00] And I hope I try to approach everything, that if, that, if I’m called out for something or if I realize I’ve done something not great to address it and do better

Kawal: Yeah. And even myself, I don’t know everything. I don’t know all of the things I have a lot of learning to do as well. I think that everyone is on a journey, and I do want to acknowledge that it is an icky feeling when someone says you’ve been doing something wrong, like getting negative feedback.

No matter how positively it is, spun , it elicits emotions within a person. So I acknowledge that, but I think where you can show. Your grace as a human is in how you react to that feedback

Carling: Yeah.

Kawal: and being self-aware is a good thing. Always, no matter, professionally, personally, wherever. I just think being self-aware is a great skill to have.

Carling: And do you think so? Showing up, like the word ally comes to mind [00:34:00] how can somebody like me who has white privilege, if I’m somewhere and I see something, what is the best way that I can show up to show support for the person being affected by microaggression?

Kawal: Yeah, I think basically not letting any of those microaggressions or if you see something, not letting it go unchecked. Sometimes things like the interaction at the gym where this gentleman was really unpleasant to this woman uh, of color and then left. Things happen and you can’t address it right there and then.

But even acknowledging to the person that I saw this, I see you. It is not okay. And for every person who treats you poorly, there is one of me who will come up to you and hold your hand. I think that is important to show support to acknowledge that these things happen and to acknowledge it to the person and to call things out.

I also think that they’re, sometimes. We keep coming back to [00:35:00] Kathy, but Kathy was like, I don’t want to be like the white savior who’s saving this person from this horrible interaction and whatnot. So I’m cautious about how I show up, but at the same time, I appreciate it when my colleagues go I’m connecting you with K A W A L.

Her name is pronounced like this. I appreciate those things because my community is helping me.

Rather than me always having to do that for myself, because sometimes it’s exhausting and I get mad at my mother, I’m like, why’d you name me this? Could you not spell it phonetically? Thank you.

Yeah. So use your voice for good and if you’re unsure, ask the person. I feel compelled to say and do something. Is that okay? Just ask.

Carling: I like your point about, after the interaction going up to the person affected and acknowledging it because, sometimes you may not feel safe to stand up to the bully or, depending on the situation. That’s to say that there’s always something you can do, even if it’s,[00:36:00]

in AF just after it happens.

Kawal: Yeah. Because that woman could have gone to management and said, I was made to feel uncomfortable by this gentleman. There are cameras all over the gym if you pull up the footage. I would like to point him out, like she could have done that. And then me having acknowledged that I saw the entire interaction and was, compelled to come up to her and acknowledge that this.

Form of microaggression had occurred. I was a witness. So I could have offered some support or assistance had she wanted to do something with it. And I think someone acknowledging that to her could have, may have, would’ve given and maybe in a different situation where it’s a bit more severe, given her the power and strength to actually go, th this is not right and I’m actually going to do something about it.

Carling: Yeah.


Kawal: Yeah.

Carling: you.

Kawal: Oh, I love you too.

Carling: I always just wanna like have conversations with you literally about everything. You’re funny and smart and

have a ton of lived experience and

Kawal: Thank [00:37:00] you. And sometimes I have such imposter syndrome around this because I’m like, what makes me such a. You know, Other than having an opinion and having some of these lived experiences, I’m not a Brene Brown or someone who does research on the subject matter, so why me? Like, why should I be standing on my little soapbox going, do better everybody?

Carling: But I think because you’re not Brene Brown, because you’re not like, I think those are the exact reasons that your voice does need to be heard by more people. Because it’s one thing when a celebrity or you know somebody with a bunch of letters behind their name or something, Say something, but it’s, I don’t know, there’s something so united about hearing somebody who’s on your level experiencing something real in real life.

And to me, that feels more validating than, you know, I really love Brene Brown, she’s Brene Brown. But hearing somebody say something that I can connect with on a more personal level, I think is more impactful.

Kawal: Oh, thanks Carlin. Yeah, no, just here to share my lived [00:38:00] experiences. I, we could probably turn this into a four part special if I started on my list. But yeah, it happens more frequently than I think anyone realizes. I would say a weekly thing for me. My is a weekly thing for me. If not more frequently, I see my children pick up on things.

So I have two children, but they have very different skin tones. people have asked me some inappropriate questions. My son is picking up on the fact that my daughter looks different. My mom says things, so sometimes we do it to ourselves. But yeah, so it’s just, it’s an on. Going thing and there are days when I am tired, I’m exhausted.

I actually at work said I am not sitting on the D e I committee. I said, you all go do the work If

you need someone to figure it out, if you need someone to consult and weigh in on a topic, I’d be happy to do that, but it is not my responsibility. Everyone else do better.

Carling: When it comes to your kids, have you

Kawal: your kids, have you noticed

Carling: [00:39:00] experiencing microaggression and do you call it out for what it is to them so they, can I identify it or do you try more to them from it?

Kawal: Yeah. No, there’s no sheltering. Uh,

Carling: Yeah.

Kawal: we, Kathy literally gives us books about colorism and she gave us this little book about a little Punjabi boy whose name was mispronounced at school. And she often gives us these books and I just cry while reading them to my children. And my kids are like, why are you crying?

And I’m like, cause that’s how I felt. No, but we read a lot to them. About the topics of colorism, we re consent. We read to them about, the pronunciation of our names in the context of children’s books. But at the same time, I do know that I have friends who are also people of color who are like, we don’t want to do that because we don’t want to plant that seed inside of them.

But my daughter is almost three and. Recently at her preschool, I [00:40:00] stood in the corridor and said her name is pronounced,

and the teachers or the caregivers were amazing. They’re like, oh my gosh, thank you so much. We will say it that way. But if we, if you ever hear that again, please let us know.

she wasn’t even three yet, and there was mispronunciation of names I’ve been told, like, why would you name your kids that they’ll never get jobs? And I’m like, I’m doing just fine. My husband’s doing just fine. Stop that. Recently I got a resume at work for a role and my colleague pointed out like, oh, why did they only put an initial for their last name when in fact I know what her last name is based on her email address?

And I’m like because they didn’t want us as recruiters to have a bias about them based on their last name.

And as, and assigning it to a, an ethnicity. So they left it as an just an acronym or like a initial, sorry. And my colleague was like, oh, I’ve never thought of that and thanked me for shedding [00:41:00] light on that.

But oh, I knew exactly why they did that. If you go into the northeast here in Calgary and you see all these ads and whatnot, these realtors and bus benches, they have a Caucasian name next to their actual name. Or they just have

like a, you know,


Sandeep becomes Sandy, Randeep becomes Randy.

These are real things. People actually change their identity to assimilate. But is this how we want to assimilate? Is this how we want to show up in community? Because Randeep, he Randeep was named Dr. King.

Carling: Oh

Kawal: Yeah. A really, really cool

king. Yeah. Yeah. But now he’s Randy, because that’s how he’s gonna get clients.

Carling: I hate that for him.

Kawal: Oh, that makes me sad.

Carling: I know that makes me really


Kawal: me sad. Yeah.

Yeah. So you know, the next time you see a person of color who has a very not ethnic name, like just.

Carling: I know, but

Kawal: ask him?

Carling: them be like, okay, but what’s

Kawal: No.

Carling: name?

Kawal: I guess That

is a [00:42:00] microaggression.

Or if there’s a bracket next to then go can I actually call you randeep? How do I actually say that properly? I would say maybe that’s a bit more

Carling: I love that.

Kawal: Yeah. We could go

Carling: I know I’m gonna

have to have you back, tell Kathy to get her schedule in order

Kawal: I know she doesn’t do anything but put her around the house getting organized on Sunday so we can do this.

Carling: she’s an, She’s an educator. She’s got a lot on her plate,

Kawal: Oh, she does meaningful, important work. We all do. In some way, shape, or form, and Carlin, thank you for doing this big, deep, important work.

Carling: thank you. I wanna do more of it. I just wanna have these conversations with people,

Kawal: Yeah. No, and Thank you for giving us a platform too,

Carling: thank

Kawal: Because I have these conversations in kitchens but I don’t know, I actually debated if I should just go on Instagram every so often, but then I’ll just sound like that trope of a angry brown woman, I’ll just sound like that and be one of that, I’m sure off as that.


Carling: I hate that.

Kawal: the angry brown woman, angry black woman. Trope is very much a thing. [00:43:00] We’ll save that for a different day maybe.

Carling: like fired up about this.

Kawal: Yeah. So when I share my opinions, I have to really check myself in how I share my opinions as well. I have to be articulate. I cannot be emotional.

I have to. Back it up with examples, and that’s why I showed up with a definition today,

Carling: Yeah.

Kawal: And because I don’t want to sound like a emotional, angry brown

Carling: Right.

Kawal: because I am, like I, I’m emotional and

Carling: but that doesn’t diminish your experience and like unfortunately, to some audience it

does and I

hate that, I’m sorry

Kawal: And I also want to. Deliver my message and my story in a way that it’s going to be received. And so if I’m just, upset about it, or emotional or angry, I also think that sometimes people just shut down and they’re not ready for that narrative. However, if I’m able to properly share the experience or, some thoughts about a matter it’s just received [00:44:00] better.

Carling: Amazing. I will let you get on with your day. Thank you so much for taking time.

Kawal: Thank you for having me. This was fun.

Carling: Thank you so much for joining me on this episode. I hope you found our conversation informative and entertaining. If you enjoyed this episode, please don’t forget to follow me on social media. Share this podcast with your friends and leave a review@ratethispodcast.com slash I did not sign up for this.

Your support means the world to me. If you want more interviews, exclusive content and add free episodes, join the patreon@patreon.com slash I did not sign up.

I hope you all have a fantastic week ahead and we’ll talk soon