New Community Project Announcement! A-specs Committed to Anti-Racism

Happy International Asexuality Day! In honor of IAD, we're launching a new community project: A-specs Committed to Anti-Racism. Here's why this project is important and how to participate. Plus, tune in for a book giveaway!

Follow our fabulous co-organizers!


Courtney: Hello everyone and welcome back to the podcast. My name is Courtney. I’m here with Royce. Together we are The Ace Couple, and today we have a very special, very important episode for you. So please stay tuned because today is International Asexuality Day. IAD, April, the 6th. It is the second annual IAD, so a rather new history, but we are ever so excited to celebrate. And I know that for IAD there are a lot of members of the Ace community out there, a lot of activists and organizations who are really focusing on Ace visibility; let’s get our stories out, let’s have people see our faces. And we love that, it is ever so needed. But we figured over here we did an awful lot of that during Ace Week back in October. So we thought that it would be a golden opportunity to use IAD to sort of start a new community project where we can turn inward and look at ourselves and see what it is that we can do, as a community, to come together and do better.

Courtney: Now, it is no secret, and should come as no surprise that there is a racism issue within the Aspec community, and this is not exclusive to the Asexuality community. This is, you know, the world we live in. There is a racism issue. And if you’ve been around here for a while, and listening to our podcast back a couple of months ago, we’ve talked a little bit about the type of racism that has been seen recently specifically in our communities. And the really, really unfortunate trend that we have noticed is that the issue of racism in our community has sort of become a trend. Occasionally it will trend on Twitter, on social media, perhaps a prominent activist has said something or – even more nefarious perhaps – a white activist will say something that Black Aces in our community have been saying all along, and it just gets that little spark of extra attention. And there will be a couple of weeks where lots of people are talking about it. Lots of people are using the word anti-racist. Lots of people are asking what can we do, and then inevitably these conversations will die back down. It won’t be a hot topic anymore, and we’ll just sort of go back to the same old status quo that hurts the BIPOC members of our community.

Courtney: This is absolutely unacceptable and we must all do better. And I think we can do better. During these conversations we’ve witnessed time and time again, there are people out there who want to do better, they want to know what they can do and how to help. And because of this, we are happy to announce that we are launching a community project for Aspecs committed to anti-racism. Or ACAR. Because we want to continue the conversations about systemic racism in our community, even when it is not trending on Twitter. And – and this is important – without placing the burden of education and emotional labor on the BIPOC members of our community. And especially not the Black Aces and or Aros, because racism is systemic and systems are made of people. So, systems are only going to change if the people do. And therefore the goal of this project is for white Aspecs, as well as potentially biracial, multiracial, or other POC who hold white privilege, to look inward and dig deep, and really analyze our place within white supremacy.

Courtney: Because it is great if you want to ask, “What can we do going forward? What can we do right now?” But really that is not enough, we need to actually look at how we do and how we have done harm to BIPOC, in order to really identify the areas where we’ve been failing to show up. Only then will we have the proper clarity to move forward toward a better kinder community. This project is heavily inspired by the book ‘Me and White Supremacy’ by Layla Saad, and we definitely hope that all ACAR participants will be joining us in reading it and journaling along. We are also going to be running a giveaway. We are giving away five copies of this book to listeners, who want to join in this project. So definitely stay tuned. Because in just a few minutes we’ll be talking about how you can enter that giveaway and how you can participate in this project.

Royce: So you’ve been planning this out for a little while now. Do you want to talk more about how this got on your radar and why you decided this was the answer?

Courtney: Yeah. So it was a really good combination of finding the right book at a time where I was really fired up to have this conversation and share it with the community. And that goes back a bit to, I’d say, December and maybe the early parts of January was sort of the last time we really saw a strong social media push to talk about the racism present in our community. And it just so happened, at the end of the year I was starting to plan what books I wanted to read for myself this year. I am– Royce, as you know, I am a big reader. I am always reading, probably three or four different books at a time. And I personally try to read as many anti-racist texts as possible, or texts by BIPOC authors, specifically authors who have an experience different from mine. So, around this time, when I was seeing on social media a lot of white Aces saying, “What can we do? What can we do?” The initial answer that was circulating was a good one, but I would argue that it was incomplete.

Courtney: A lot of people were saying, “Well follow Black Aces.” And yeah, we should be following Black Aces. We should be following as many diverse members of our community as we possibly can, but it’s one thing to follow and it’s another thing to actively listen. And what ended up happening was it devolved into what social media does. Things get shorter. They get buzzier, they get snappier. And when you get into these sort of social justice conversations, the buzzwords start flying, like anti-racist activism, intersectional activism. And what I started seeing, time and time again, was this “follow Black Aces” turned into “follow Black activists”. And then we’d see lists where people were tagging all of these Black Ace and or Aro accounts, which is good, I want to get them more followers. But I started seeing that half of the names on this list were coming out and saying, “Well, I’m not an activist. I’m just a Black member of the community, and occasionally, I’ll share my own perspective or something I experienced, but I have never claimed to be an activist.”

Royce: Going back to one of the points you made earlier, one of the reasons for the approach that you’re drawing here is to take the pressure off of BIPOC individuals to be activists and educators.

Courtney: Yes. It’s– we don’t want to force our own members of the community to become an activist by default. I think everyone who exists in a minority community knows that if you’re the only one at a table with that identity, you’re kind of forced into the role of educator. And that’s not fun for anyone. Now, when you take intersectional identities, if you have someone who is a person of color and they’re in a sexual or gender minority, heck, maybe throw something else in there like a disability, then all of a sudden you’re just needing to explain yourself to people time and time again. And if you are not actually an activist who is educated, emotionally ready to do this, perhaps even getting paid in some manner to educate, or have a team of activists or volunteers around you, this is incredibly difficult and that is emotional labor. And so, yes, we should be following Black Aces, Black Aros, Indigenous, Asian, People of Color, Disabled Aces. All of them. The whole gambit. But we can’t be expecting them to educate us. And so if our only answer is, “Well, listen to them,” then we’re waiting. It’s a very passive– we’re waiting for them to have the capacity to educate us. And that’s not enough.

Courtney: And so around this time, I shared a post on our Twitter account that tepidly touched on my own experience with race because it’s a really complicated one. And I’ve only touched on it a couple of times, I think during Ace Week I mentioned a little bit, during this conversation I mentioned a little bit. I don’t have the experience of a completely white person, but I also know it would be a lot worse if I grew up in the world I did as a Black person. But at the same time, I didn’t want to overstep and talk over the Black Aces who were chiming into this conversation. So I ended up defaulting to making a couple of threads about some really good anti-racist texts that I have read over the last year. Because that’s always kind of the second line when we go here it’s, it’s follow BIPOC, and then it’s read anti-racist books. And so I could lend some examples, some recommendations.

Courtney: But this whole time in my head I kept thinking, even reading a book is pretty passive in the grand scheme of things. More education is good and great and necessary. But there’s a way to take in knowledge where you can understand something kind of logically, without necessarily empathizing with it or engaging with it on a deep enough level to take that extra step into activism, where now you feel it as an emergency and you want to take more initiative to make the community a better place. And it was while these conversations were all stewing around. And I saw a lot of people speculating on, “What can we do to go forward?” And some ideas came up here and there, you know, maybe let’s make a panel where BIPOC Aces can get together and discuss their experience. That’s another thing that would be forcing the labor and education onto them. So I wasn’t jazzed about that idea. I know some others weren’t as well.

Courtney: But I was honestly a little stuck. You know, getting an entire community on board with ongoing anti-racist efforts is a huge undertaking. But I happened to pick up this book, ‘Me and White Supremacy’, and I just started reading it on my own and it was a revelation, because this book gives you homework. This book doesn’t just teach you about racism and how you have been complicit in a racist system. It tells you to get your hands dirty. It has journaling prompts where it says, if you are not doing the journaling prompts you are not reading this book correctly. You need to put pen to paper. You need to sit at your keyboard and you need to actually write and reflect on all of these prompts. And, you know, as someone who has been a weirdly racialized person– someday on a future podcast we’ll talk about my experience with race, but today is not the time for that – I have a little bit of experience with race, experiencing racism targeted at me. But I also want to do better for the Black members of our community, who I know have fewer privileges than I do.

Courtney: So I read a lot of books, and I started getting to a point where a lot of the books started sounding the same because I’ve read so many. And I’m not trying to make that like, “Oh look at me, I read so many books.” It’s more so, I read a couple of very dense academic books, because I actually really like reading dense literature like that, and so, now, most of the books I read are just citing those bigger texts. And so I got to a point where I was like, how do I further my anti-racist education? Because now it seems like all these books are getting a little repetitive. But this book wasn’t repetitive. This book took an extra step, and it was very uncomfortable and it was difficult hard work, but it was revelatory.

Royce: So years ago, you were looking around to try to find a book club to join.

Courtney: Oh gosh.

Royce: And were disappointed that a lot of the material and a lot of the people in it tended to be a bit uniform, and shallow, and uninteresting. And finally today you’re like, “I’m just going to start my own book club.”

Courtney: Well. Yeah, kind of. I was not even thinking about that at all. But that is true. When I first moved down here to the Kansas City area and, you know, I hadn’t met a lot of people, I didn’t have friends in this area yet. And you know, there’s this newfangled thing called and I was like, “I’m gonna find a group.” And I like to read, “Let me find a book club. That’ll be fun.” But the only book clubs I found, I was several decades younger than all of the other members, and that in itself would not bother me because, y’all before I moved down here I hung out with my grandmother and all of her friends. Like her friends were my friends we went out to the bar together. It was a great time. So I was actually kind of thrilled to walk into these book clubs and be like, “All right, yes!” But then you sit down and they’re like, “What book should we read next?” And they are like, “Oh, I’ve, I’ve heard about this new book called ‘50 Shades of Grey’.” [laughs] I was like, “Oh no. Oh, no, I guess this is not the book club for me after all.” I did not go back.

Courtney: So instead we’re gonna talk about 50 shades of racism. That was a horrible joke, we need to get back on track. But yes, essentially this book seemed so much different from all the other ones, because I hit a complacency where I was just passively taking in information. A lot of it I’ve already read in previous text. So it– it needed some spice. And this book gave the spice. It’s active. That’s what I like about it. It is an active book. You aren’t just sitting and passively taking in the information. You are looking in on yourself and all of the skeletons in your closet, and you are bringing them right to the forefront so that you can look at it for what it is. And it’s messy and it’s uncomfortable, but as it says on the inside cover of the book here: you cannot dismantle what you cannot see and you cannot challenge what you do not understand. So the goal of this is to actually look, see it for what it is, name it, and now unpack it. And do better!

Royce: So you said something about a giveaway?

Courtney: Yes. We are going to be giving away five copies of ‘Me and White Supremacy’. Here is how you can enter the giveaway: head on over to our Twitter account @The_Ace_Couple, The Ace Couple, and find our tweet announcing that this episode is out. It shouldn’t be easy to miss. It will say new episode. It will have the little thumbnails that we use for our YouTube channel, so there will be an image with the book cover and the Ace flag. Find that tweet, retweet it, make sure to follow us for future updates because we will of course be sharing information as we go along and as this project evolves. And finally, we’d like you to tag an Aspec friend or a white community leader or activists, to let them know about this project and invite them to join it with you. We are going to give you all a week from today to do that. So the winner will be announced on April 13th. That is retweet, follow us, tag someone.

Royce: For the people that want to join in, is the book a hard requirement or are the prompts simple enough that they could be posted and someone could work through them without the material?

Courtney: Well, there are going to be two different ways to join in this community project. One of which is going to be on Discord. The other will be periodic Zoom calls, book club meetings, we’ll share the details of that here in a moment. But to your question, technically no, you don’t definitively need to have the book. But ideally, yes. Because before this book was published the author Layla Saad did have a free condensed workbook with these prompts that were completely available to the public, and it sort of began as an Instagram challenge to get people involved. So, sharing the questions alone is not going to be out of the question. However, the book does this really, really cool thing where each chapter sort of focuses on a different aspect of racism. And before it gives you the journal prompts, it will give you sort of a crash course on what all of these words, and terms, and phenomenon mean and it gives you a bulleted list of all the different ways it might show up. So it does a really good job of helping you jog your memory. Because especially if this is something you have pushed back and not looked at, if it’s something that was years in the past that you haven’t thought of in a long time, it really does a good job of helping dredge those things up.

Courtney: And of course we want to support the author. We want to be coming into this with all sort of the same sets of information, so that we can really extrapolate on that, and break the discussion wide open when we do all come together. And we know that not everybody is going to be able to just buy this book, and that’s part of the reason why we are doing the giveaway to jump-start us, but if buying the book outright is not an option for you I do definitely encourage you to look into your local library. I actually have read this book through twice now, and the first time was on audiobook from my library. And then we got a physical copy that I went through a second time. So there is an audiobook option, and if you are an audiobook listener definitely check with your librarian, see if there are easy ways to download those books. Because I honestly had no idea how awesome it would be to just be able to go on to an app and download an audiobook for free from the library, right at my home. But I started doing that last year and I’m never looking back, very nice and easy to do, if that’s something that your local library offers. Otherwise, if you are looking to purchase your own copy of the book, you can go to to see all of the different places where you can buy it. It’s in a lot of the usual places: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound Bookshop. So, perhaps just check with wherever you like to buy books.

Royce: So you mentioned that part of this was going to be organized on Discord. Do you have any more information about who is welcome to join and how they would do so?

Courtney: Well, for starters we are unfortunately going to need to make this an 18 and over project, and there is a good reason for that. The author Layla Saad has actually created a young readers edition of ‘Me and White Supremacy’ that is specifically geared toward a younger audience. And the book right now as it reads is definitely targeted at adults, and there are some questions in there about, you know, how have you viewed or treated children of color differently from white children, and teenagers differently. So although I have not read the young readers edition myself, I can only imagine that those questions are tailored a little bit better toward a different experience. And I really, really hate to cap it at 18 right now, but we are going to have to. So if you are under 18 and you’re listening to this and you feel very motivated to read the book and do something, I definitely do recommend that you still get the book. And there is nothing that says that you can’t organize something within your own community at your own school club in your city, or any other way you’d like to organize a different group, that would be awesome.

Courtney: But aside from that one caveat, this is open to any Aspec person. Essentially, anyone who identifies with or has strong ties to the Asexual and or Aromantic communities. We will absolutely not gatekeep that, if you feel like you belong and you want to belong, then you belong. Other than that, we would like to make this as international as possible, and it definitely does help that this is all going to be completely online. But there are certain caveats and small drawbacks to that, because we are currently only going to be able to host discussions and moderate the Discord in english, perhaps in the future if we are able to expand our moderator team and get a really good number of people participating, perhaps that may change in the future. But the last real caveat also is just in what countries are the books published in. We can certainly by nature of the Discord allow people to participate in the conversations as they’re happening even if you haven’t read the book, because there will still be valuable conversations going on, but publishing is a weird thing and there are gonna be some countries where this book hasn’t been picked up for publishing yet. So definitely do keep that in mind. I know at the very least it is available in the US, the UK, Canada. I believe it is also available in Australia and New Zealand. Past that or in any other languages I’m honestly not sure at this point.

Royce: Speaking of countries, what about time zones?

Courtney: Time zones? Yes, that’s an important one. Which we will do our very best with. Right now this is just getting off the ground. We are small, we are all volunteers, so we’re going to be doing the best we can. But I do have three amazing people who are helping us to organize, and between the four of us, we are in three different countries. Still very Western ones, but I am very grateful for these fabulous folks. If you join our group, then I’m sure you will no doubt be seeing them floating around. And I’ll actually go ahead and put all of their information in the show notes so that you can find them. But we have Sarah, who is in the UK. Marissa is in the US with us. And then we have Justin who is in Canada. All three are fabulous members of the Ace community. All of them are doing great work, and maybe you have even seen them around.

Courtney: Sarah, you might know from the Aces In STEM Discord, as well as the Queer Cuz podcast. And Marissa, I actually met while volunteering behind the scenes together last year for the International Asexuality Conference, but in a more public sense, you might recognize Marissa from Ace Chat. And then of course, we have Justin, Justin is a member of Ace Toronto, and also writes a wonderful blog series about Asexuality and tarot, and actually just not too long ago included a fantastic entry on Race, Misogynoir, and the Asexual Community. So that is very much in line with what we are working to address here with ACAR. So again, I’ll pop all of those in the show notes, so you can find information on all of our ground level volunteer organizers.

Royce: So you mentioned earlier both wanting to lessen the strain on BIPOC individuals in our community, and also, for people coming into this group, to intentionally try to pull in more specifically white members and white activists–

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: –into this group. Is the idea here for this group to be almost entirely composed of white people, or do you expect a more diverse crowd?

Courtney: Well, ideally, I would hope that it is going to be predominantly white people. However, the book likes to say that this is for people who hold white privilege. Who for the most part is going to be white people, but it does call out that this work is also important for biracial, multiracial, or People Of Color who hold white privilege. So I know some people have an odd relationship with this phrase, I have one myself. Some people really like it because they think it’s descriptive. But if you think in terms of white passing, if there is a white passing Person Of Color, someone with a lighter skin tone, this is also work for you. The book tries to span racism issues for all minorities in your specific country by asking you to record sort of the really muddy, messy, uncomfortable stereotypes that you’re aware of in your country. Which I think is really important for keeping this international as well, because people in different countries might have different answers. Because every country has its own kind of specific flavor of racism, as it were.

Courtney: So no, I do not intend for this to be 100% only white people, but the goal is to keep this in a group amongst ourselves, so that we are not placing the burden on the members of our community who have the least racial privilege, specifically the Black Aspecs. And it’s kind of not lost on me that actually everyone who’s on the ground floor of organizing this is not completely white. Some of us are white and something else. So we actually fall into that camp. And what some of us have noticed from going through the book is that we are going to have answers to these journal entries that are vastly different from someone who is 100% white.

Courtney: So that actually might be a really good segue to talk about sort of the different channels we’ll have in our Discord and how to use it once you get in. Because we will have channels to discuss the different journal entries, that you can share as you write your own, that will be open to all members of the group. But we do want to include a BIPOC only channel for those of us who fall into the other camp, because we’ve got some really difficult nuances to talk about that we would like to be able to do so amongst our own crowd. But the reason why, at the end of the day, we feel that Discord is going to be one of the most valuable options for us is that you can take it at your own pace. The book is designed to have 28 days worth of journal entries, and if you really want to power through, you can do one chapter a day and knock it all out in a single month, or you can take it a little slower as you need to.

Courtney: So having this Discord where you can go in and post your answers, discuss and engage with other people, on your own time – especially when we do want to make this international and there will be people in different time zones – that’s going to be really, really valuable. And then of course, we’ll have a separate channel in the Discord just to share other anti-racism resources, to share books we’ve read, podcasts we’ve listened to, and even just to post other resources that are specific to the Aspec community. We also want to have some voice channels open, in case any of our community members want to organize their own time to have smaller or more frequent discussions outside of our big official book meetings, which we hope to have once a month.

Royce: And those meetings are going to be on Zoom?

Courtney: Yes on Zoom. We will be hosting meetings once a month at least to start, but our very first one is already scheduled. It will be Saturday, May 14th, at 12 noon Central Time. Completely free to attend. Although we will be taking RSVPs via Eventbrite so that we have a nice seamless way to get the link out to all people who want to join. Especially in case you want to join our video meetings but maybe aren’t a Discord sort of a person, you can still get information that way through the event page. And again, links to all of that in the show notes, links to the Discord you can go ahead and join already starting today. And our Eventbrite page will be open, in case you want to put that on your calendar and RSVP right away. And after our first meeting where we’re going to stop and reassess, we’re going to see where everybody’s at, how many people are interested in these groups, time zones, etc. So we may be sort of rotating the times and days each month, to try to get a variety of time zones, and we may even be running future polls in the Discord to see what days and times going forward are optimal for the most number of people.

Courtney: And those video meetings by the way, you do not need to be done with the book to attend. We are doing them once a month, but we want you to be able to come regardless of what stage in the book you are at, Because the real value behind doing this as a group is, number one, to keep us all accountable to ourselves and each other. But also two, I can easily see after doing these journaling prompts myself, I was digging so deep into some just nonsense from back in school, just school sanctioned racism that I had completely forgotten about years later, and I can only imagine that when a group of people get together and actually have an open and honest conversation trying to earnestly identify our place in the white supremacist system, I have a feeling some people’s stories are going to maybe jog the memory of others.

Courtney: So we think the conversation aspect of this is going to be key. And I suppose thirdly, also just so you aren’t doing this alone because this is difficult work and I do not want to sugarcoat it. It is emotionally challenging, but it’s really important to stick through it all the way. And what we’re not going to do is dump all our feelings about how hard it is on our BIPOC friends. We’re going to lean on each other as mostly white people or people who otherwise hold white privilege. And what we really want to do at the end of the day is foster an environment of curiosity, and education, and an earnest desire to do better moving forward for ourselves and for our community. We want everyone to approach this knowing that we all have racist skeletons in our closet that we are going to be talking about rather openly. And what happens in the Discord is going to stay in the Discord. We want everyone to respect all members’ right to privacy and we’re not here to call each other out. We’re not here to yell at each other for being racist. We’re here to say as a group, we live in a white supremacist system and we are all racist. Let’s be open and honest so that we can move forward. If that is something that you are willing and able to do, then we absolutely would love to have you join us.

Royce: So before we sign off here tonight, Courtney you have now read the book twice.

Courtney: Twice.

Royce: And gone through the prompts.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: Do you want to run through a couple of examples or something to sort of set expectations? Give our listeners a better idea of what they can expect.

Courtney: Well, sure. Absolutely. I will say, first and foremost, the first and the last days are the biggest journaling days. If you are being honest with yourself and doing it right. So if you get to that very first journal and it seems a little daunting, please stick through it. They are not all quite so big and you can definitely take pauses and come back to it. Please do this at your own time, but do it. But the reason why the first day is so big is that there are five journaling prompts, and the very first one points to a list from Peggy McIntosh of 50 examples of white privilege. And they want you to read all 50 of these examples so that you can identify the ones that are true to you. It’s a lot to do all at once, but right from day one we’re looking at you and white privilege; how does this manifest for your situation. And then as the days go on the concepts get a little bit deeper, a little more specific. And every chapter, I think I mentioned before, gives you a little bit of a crash course on each concept with really good bullet prompts of how you might see it in your own story.

Courtney: So other topics that come up in this book are things that perhaps you have heard about, like white fragility and tone policing. Concepts of white apathy, white silence, white superiority. And after the first week, it takes it a step further, and in week two we start talking about anti-Blackness. It has you really dig deep about how your anti-blackness might manifest differently in Black women versus Black men. I can only imagine that in a queer community like our own, we probably have a lot to extrapolate on with non-binary genders as well that do not get touched on in this book. But I think that’s the beauty of making this a community project is that we can add additional prompts that we think are important for us to acknowledge. By week three, after we have started to identify ourselves within white supremacy, we talk about allyship. And this one is so important for going forward, because I think by nature of joining this group, we are all aspiring allies, but we also know that allyship can be performative. It can seem optical. A failed attempt to allyship can result in things like tokenism, or even white saviorism. And the book fleshes out examples of all of these, so that is not a trap that we fall into. Or if and when we do, how we’re going to continue to show up and how we’ll react if we are called out, if we’re called in, if we are told that something we have done or said is problematic. And then by week four we’re taking everything we learned in the previous weeks and we are analyzing what we need to do with this information. And how this is going to translate to our real lives, our ongoing commitment to anti-racism, and it will have you journal about your relationships, your family, your friends, your willingness to lose privileges in order to truly show up and be an ally.

Courtney: And by the very last day, day 28, we’re going to be making a commitment statement and they aren’t going to be vague. It’s not going to just be, “I commit to being anti-racist.” Which I understand is a little ironic, because that’s kind of the name of our group, Aspecs Committed to Anti-racism. But if you’re joining this group, you individually are going to get specific. Because in our journals, we are going to say exactly what we are going to do, what it is going to look like. And I think it would even be great if we can find accountability buddies in the group, so that we can share our commitments and check in with each other continuously, to make sure we are holding to them. Because I also don’t want our group to say, “Okay. Well, we breeze through this in 28 days, and now we’re done.” Because you’re not done. After making my commitment statement, I fully intend to return to this book, ideally, at least once a year, to check in with it to check in with myself. Because this is not a sprint, this is a marathon. And allyship is not an act, it is an ongoing commitment.

Courtney: So on that note, if you made it this far, thank you so much for sticking with us. We think this community project has a lot of potential, but we need the community to make it happen. So if you’re still here, please check out the show notes, join our Discord, RSVP to our first book club if you are able. And share this around, invite your friends. And of course if you are listening to this on the day it drops, if it is still April 6th, International Asexuality Day, I hope that you get to eat a lot of cake and or garlic bread. See you soon.