by Lauryn Bray
White People Work (WPW), a podcast hosted by diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) trainer, educator, and consultant Scott Hall, just concluded its second season.
In his description for Episode 1 of the first season, Hall states that the podcast is meant to help “white folks understand ourselves and take responsibility for our presence in the world.”
Some titles from the 10-episode first season include: What is whiteness and where does it come from? How do we get out from underneath whiteness? Why are white progressives sometimes the worst?
The second season features interviews with Hall’s friends of color exploring their perspectives on whiteness, their experience “getting out from under it,” and sharing what they need whites to understand and work on.
Available on Apple Podcasts, Audacy, and Hall’s official website, WPW travels through time to provide listeners with a road map for deconstructing racism. Hall, who majored in African American Studies and has a master’s degree in intercultural studies, works as a justice learning director and chaplain for incarcerated youth in King County and Washington State.
“White people have been cultivated to have an internalized sense of racial superiority,” said Hall. “I feel like if white people can’t swallow that pill and take responsibility for that, we’re not going to get anywhere.”
Hall grew up in the hills of Oakland, California, but he traces the genesis of his work back to his sophomore year in college at the University of California, Los Angeles. Hall states that he became interested in African American studies during the 1992 L.A. riots.
“I was learning more from my peers than I was from my professor,” explained Hall. “Nineteen years living in cross-cultural spaces, and I’ve never heard honest conversation like this.”
The riots, spanning over six days, were the result of collective outrage toward the beating of Rodney King, which was filmed and broadcast for the entire nation to see, a forerunner of today’s use of cellphones to document police abuse.
“I recognized what happens when white people put themselves as the minority voice in the room. I recognized there’s so much I have to learn from that perspective about my whole life, my citizenship, and the country I’ve grown up in,” explained Hall. “It just opened my eyes to what has become a lifelong experience of putting myself as the minority in the room to listen.”
Hall says that another huge motivator behind his podcast comes from the fact that he understands there are many white people in the United States who are frustrated by the present discourse surrounding race.
In South Carolina, schoolteacher Mary Wood was reprimanded by school officials for teaching her students about racism. After two students wrote emails claiming that Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me — a book about anti-Blackness Coates wrote for his son — made them ashamed to be white, a violation of the state’s Bill 246, Section 59-101-440, Article A.
According to the article in The Washington Post, one student wrote that the book made him feel like he was “reading hate propaganda towards white people.” At least two parents also complained to the school, and administrators documented the incident in a formal letter of reprimand, stating that Wood may continue to teach “without discussing this issue with your students.”
“Every white person [does not] want to be seen as a racist, and so folks get in this focus of being dubbed as one of the good ones, rather than actually [wanting to] listen and do the work,” explained Hall.
Hall talks about the first time he realized how well other white people are able to perform anti-racism. “I was with a friend of a friend going for a run at 5 a.m. [with a group of] card-carrying progressive white people.
“At the end of the run, these men — who are all cis, straight men — are walking back toward the place where the run started and they’re talking about all of their frustrations with the EDI work happening at their places of employment. And essentially their posture is, ‘We know what they want us to say, and we know how to say it. But really, we’re angry that it feels like diversity work just means beating white people up.’”
Hall says that as he listened to the men talk and understood that he was the only one out of the group who disagreed, he came to a shocking realization: “I realized this is how white people talk when they’re just with other white people,” said Hall. “I have found that when white people are interacting with folks of color in public spaces, 99% of the time — especially on the West Coast or in a more progressive community like Seattle — they’re getting white people on their best behavior. I need to enter a space that’s white people talking to white people in the language they use behind closed doors,” explained Hall.
It’s because of this fact that Hall is so passionate about this work. “My primary job is to cultivate a conversation with white people that helps us really start to learn. But a secondary job felt like, ‘I’m gonna help my friends of color recognize [that] you’re being gaslighted and you’re not crazy.’ These white people are secretly protecting the power that they have, and I need to try to play my part in helping that not be the case.”
After 20 episodes and almost eight months, Hall makes it clear that his philosophy, his podcast, and the work he does with other white folks does not extend beyond what he understands as basic human decency. Rather, Hall argues it is part of his larger responsibility to humanity.
“I don’t think I’m out here doing anything special. I’m trying to be a basic human being that recognizes we all want to be treated with respect. We all have dignity,” explained Hall. “I think there’s an opportunity for us to choose [to create] that beloved community where everyone has a voice, everyone’s needs are met, and everyone gets looked out for. I don’t think it’s noble to pursue that.”
Lauryn Bray is a writer and reporter for the South Seattle Emerald. She has a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from CUNY Hunter College. She is from Sacramento, California, and has been living in King County since June 2022.
📸 Featured Image: A close-up of a Scott Hall’s “Timeline of the History of Race and Whiteness,” which stretches from 700 B.C. to 2000, a project he’s been working on for three years. (Photo courtesy of Scott Hall.)
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