I answered the Starbucks #RaceTogether questions so you don't have to. (But you might want to.)

Here are the questions:

  1. My parents had __ friends of a different race.
  2. I have __ friends of a different race.
  3. My children have __ friends of a different race.
  4. __ members of a different race live on my block or apartment building.
  5. I most often talk to someone of another race: __ at work__ at church__ at home__ shopping__ at school
  6. In my Facebook stream __% are of a different race.
  7. In the past year, I have been to the home of someone of a different race __ times.
  8. In the past year, someone of a different race has been in my home __ times.
  9. At work, we have managers of __ different races.
  10. In the past year, I have eaten a meal with someone of a different race __ times.

"I'd like a skinny venti triple vanilla cappuccino and a pumpkin-spiced discussion of racial bias in Ferguson, Missouri."


The sanctity of the coffee moment of peace is real. But so is racism. Is the answer ... awkwardness?

So, in the spirit of all awkward things that help the world, I answered these goofy #RaceTogether questions myself.

Here goes.

Read'em, skip'em, but think about it.


When did you first become aware of your race?

I don't actually remember when I knew I was white, but I think it was when I started asking my mom about my classmate's hair.

To mom's credit she kept it pretty focused on like, "hair is different!" vibes and not like, "THAT IS A BLACK PERSON, LORI, AND YOU ARE NOT BLACK." So go, mom.

I also remember hearing the n-word when I was younger and living in the South and repeating it to my mom and she was like, "WHAT? NO." And then she explained about why the n-word was a sad word and I shouldn't say it. And then I kind of learned more about "race" and not just "people are different." I've never really thought about that difference!

But when you learn about race, it's usually a kind of sad moment. I vaguely remember being like, why are people mean?!


10 RACE CONVERSATION STARTERS

1. My parents had __ friends of a different race.

My parents both had a friend who was black that they talked about being GREAT friends with but only during school. My mom actually was really good school-friends with my friend's mom.

I remember Mom talking to me about how she wanted to invite her black friend to her slumber party, but my grandma (who is a wonderful and tolerant person) was just like, "We don't do that" — so mom's friend didn't come to the slumber party.

This friend of my mom passed away when I was a young teenager, and that's when I heard about all of this stuff, as my mom was grieving her friend's death. It took my mom's friend dying for her to bring up race.

2. I have __ friends of a different race.

Do I get to answer this with, kind of a lot? It's not like I count ... but I'm not colorblind. I see what my friends look like, and I know their backgrounds.

I don't want a cookie, a latte, or congratulations, but there. OK. Fine. There! I see color and I notice my friends' family histories; I'm not going to apologize for it.

That being said, I probably do have more white friends than not.

3. My children have __ friends of a different race.

I don't have any children, but I will say it's very rare that the children I do know have friends who are not the same race as them. I'm talking like, my little kid cousins, etc., etc., etc.

4. __ members of a different race live on my block or apartment building.

From what I see when I walk down my street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NYC ... maybe five-ish?

Again, I'm going to have to acknowledge that I look at people's faces and see a face that's different than mine here. Here goes.

There's an Asian family two doors down, and the dad is always playing trucks with his son on the steps, and it's cute. And there's an elderly Asian man who sits on his stoop and smokes a pipe almost every day, and he looks like he has life figured OUT. Cool Asians on my street! That's it!

5. I most often talk to someone of another race:


I don't have a church that I attend now, but when I was young there were a LOT of white people at my church.

6. In my Facebook stream __% are of a different race.

Let's look!

...

OK, well that did not go well. I scrolled for a few minutes, and only a couple not-white folks showed up.

:-/

7. In the past year, I have been to the home of someone of a different race __ times.

I'm going to say ... five-ish times?

8. In the past year, someone of a different race has been in my home __ times.

Also five-ish times, possibly more, since I'm kind of the party-haver of my group.

*UPDATE: A friend of mine who is not white says he's been to my house more than 5 times. Just an update. There it is. Conversations. Happening live.

9. At work, we have managers of __ different races.

Upworthy is one of the most diverse places I've ever worked, and that's including my public high school band class, which was maybe THE most diverse place I've ever worked in my life.

Upworthy's second.

10. In the past year, I have eaten a meal with someone of a different race __ times.

At least 20 times. I'm really, REALY not counting off what my dinner dates look like because THAT would be a little much, but 20, sure.

So there you have it. I talked about race. I learned a bit about MYSELF, and I feel scared but OK sharing these awkward answers with you!

Talking about race is scary.

But the alternative world ...

... is scarier.

So I say ... bring on the awkward.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."