Jackie: You're listening to Diversity Beyond the Checkbox. Thank you for tuning in today. I'm speaking with Dr. Sheena Mason, and Dr. Mason is a leader and educator speaker and culture driver. And among other things, we're going to discuss her theory of raceless. Dr. Mason, thank you so much for joining us.
Sheena: Thank you for having me, Jackie. I'm glad to be here, yes.
Jackie: So before we jump into all of the many things that we're going to talk about, I want to give you an opportunity to just share a little bit more about yourself.
Sheena: Increasingly, I often don't know where to start when people ask me that question, but I guess I'll start with the more recent stuff. I'm an assistant professor at SUNY Oneonta. I'm the founder and president of a company called Theory of Racelessness. I have a doctorate in English literature. I specialize in African-American American and Caribbean literature, and I'm primarily interested in invested in this topic of anti-racism, the solution to racism, which a lot of people right now are taking up the banner of anti-racism you're either for it or you're against it, and figuring out what are alternative solutions that actually get more people closer to the outcomes that we profess that we want, but that I see people still being in the trap of that's created by race and racism.
So those are my primary interests and I do that through teaching. I have a forthcoming book called Decolonizing the Racialist Imagination, that's expected out early spring of 2022. And additionally, do teaching, obviously professionally as an assistant professor, but outside of, of the sort of official classroom space, I work with all kinds of organizations, including non-profits on how to get anti-racism right. And I view that as an extension of my teaching efforts.
Jackie: Thank you for that. And Dr. Mason, let's talk about what anti-racism is, right? Cause you know, people often say, well, I'm not racist, right. But what's the difference between not being racist and anti-racism.
Sheena: Well, if you ask Ibram X. Kendi, who officially coined the term, he would say that being anti-racism means that you're actively against racism, and you do not believe that there's any inferiority or superiority to any racial group. That's his definition. So to his mind, there's no such thing as just not being racist, because that's a sort of passive way of moving in the world. It reflects the sort of complacency or contentment with the current state of American society.
My version of anti-racism actually counters his version in a lot of ways, or at least pushes his version to its limits because I identify anti-racism as being anti-race, because for me, race and racism are one in the same thing. Racism creates race, and so as long as we're trying to operate from within the practice of race to undo racism, we will never be able to undo racism.
And that's precisely where people like Kendi and people who are calling themselves anti-racists are operating from. So in that way, my anti-racism, people should hear it as me saying anti-race, and then ism in parentheses.
Jackie: Got it, got it. And we are going to dig into that in a little bit, but I want to talk to you a little bit, Dr. Mason, about your childhood. Tell us a little about your experience growing up and how that impacted you, you know, becoming an adult and, and, and what you're doing today.
Sheena: Sure. So this is another hairy question for me, because sometimes people have a tendency, when if you say something that they initially think they disagree with, they have a tendency to dismiss what you're saying as, as being a product of your experience for better, for worse.
But that being said, I still freely share my life experiences because I'm actually working on a memoir. I actually think it's an inspirational story. I have a story to tell. it's just slightly cringy because I know that people can weaponize your experiences against you, which is just kind of a weird way of thinking and viewing humanity.
But my story is a traumatic story, a story of a lot of violence. My biological parents, two of my biological brothers died under suspicious circumstances in their care. And as a result of those deaths, they died around two and three months old, respectively, as a result of that, my two biological sisters were taken away by the state of New York and found to be severely abused and neglected.
Um, in fact, one of my birth sisters has fetal alcohol syndrome, so that's reflective of my mother's drinking excessively when she was pregnant with her. And when I was born a few years later, New York state took me away immediately, because of, of my parents' track record. Ironically, I was adopted by people who then severely abused and neglected me.
I suffered severe abuse at the hands of my adopted mother, and I turned to school as a safe haven from my life. I read voraciously. I had the good fortune, although I, I lived in a trailer park. I had the good fortune of having access to a more affluent community, which means I had a very good public library.
I had a library at my, all of my schools growing up and I really turned to reading and education as the key as the key to surviving when I was undergoing, but also as a key to my liberation as I got older. And in fact, on my 16th birthday, I moved out of my parents' household to escape the abuse because I learned I didn't have to have their permission to move out once I turned 16. And so that's what I did. And ultimately I chose homelessness over staying in that house, sleeping on park benches. I actually had to drop out of high school my senior year because I didn't have a place to stay.
It should have been the best year of my life. I was an honor student. I was taking AP courses and college courses and I was a varsity athlete. I was sleeping on park bunches. And so fortunately, you know, God had a path for me, a plan for me. I did end up finishing high school the next year I got my undergraduate degree. I was a student commencement speaker.
So I graduated at the top of the class. Still experienced hardships in between times, domestic violence, homelessness again, was hit by a bus while walking across the street in New York City, still experienced a lot of stuff between time, between all of my academic and professional successes. But I, because I had had access to books early on.
I just always believed that there was more for my life. And so I just kept persisting, all the way to finally earning my doctorate from Howard University, as I mentioned. I passed with distinction, which is reserved for something like less than 1% of humanities PhDs worldwide, and it's already a small number of people will actually get a doctorate.
And again, always with this really passionate belief, that education is the key to liberation. And that's also why I'm here with you to, to amplify me. Absolutely.
Jackie: Absolutely. Well, I thank you for sharing that story with us and it's always interesting to me and its always part of the way that I educate people.
You just never know a person's experience, right? A lot of times you look at, you know, you would see the doctor in front of your name or, or you would see what it is that you're doing now, but not have any understanding of the journey, right. That you've had to take, or that any of us have had to take, but that in particular is just, it's such a strong thing to be able to, you know, persist, as you said.
And again, thank you for sharing that, you know, it's, it's just so important to understand, right, the progress and the journey that people make and, and where they're able to go to. And certainly it's amazing the accomplishments that you've made. But I mean, having to deal with the things that you did growing up and getting to those points is just absolutely amazing.
So again, I appreciate your sharing that.
Sheena: Thank you.
Jackie: So Dr. Mason, how did you start early on your career leading up to, you know, your dissertation and moving into you know, the theory of racelessness. Tell us a little bit more about your journey. So you, you know, you are very much into books and reading and, and you know, how did you make that professional journey?
And again, you know, getting your doctorate with distinction, how did you get
Sheena: When I was an undergrad, I initially thought I would study psychology because I had the intent of working with young people, and helping young people in that way and using my mess, my mess as a message. So the saying goes.
About a year and a half into my studies, I realized that my passion was really with literature, which made perfect sense, given my history and I viewed, I viewed literature and specifically African-American literature as a path to do what I saw myself doing, which is mostly activism and sort of fighting for a better future for more people.
And I'm sure my experiences of my childhood and the sort of traumas that I lived inspired my viewing literature in that way as a sort of framework for resistance and a framework for liberation. and so I, I threw myself into it. I did an advanced honors thesis where I've got to really delve into African-American literature.
I was really obsessed with understanding more how race comes to be, comes to be something that is viewed by many as so freeing, but historically, and traditionally remained produced in a way that puts people in these boxes, that they then spend the rest of their lives trying to get out of. So I was really interested in fascinated with learning more about that and then understanding that practice and process better.
So that when I then did my master's degree, I continued that examination. I did a lot of independent studies, and then starting my doctoral work in 2016 at Howard, I came in with that history of, of research and interests, and whereas I came in thinking a certain way, which I guess I could say is more traditionally as it pertains to race and racism.
I still was predisposed to coming down the path that I'm currently in, that I find myself at, I just didn't realize it at the time because, although I was still operating from within the same system I was critiquing, I was doing so from sort of more non-traditional views or non-traditional perspectives, sort of gray area perspectives that I, that actually resulted in my marginalization and in most spaces, which only made me more interested in understanding the irony that I saw in again, people embracing this idea of race and race ideology, but then being the same ones to marginalize and exclude voices like mine.
And I, I wasn't alone because I saw that historically happened. When I analyzed the history of literary studies. African-American literary studies, particularly, and the production of race. I saw it happening time and again, and then I would say, as I neared the time of, of writing my dissertation, I came up with what, the sort of earliest version of what I now call the theory of racelessness. And it was inspired by the literature. It was inspired by what I was seeing in the literature, sensing or knowing that people weren't ready to necessarily talk about to the point where I wasn't even ready for my ideas, because at that time it was so early, I didn't fully understand them.
So I tried to, I, I went through like a lot of heartache actually at the early stages of my thinking, because I didn't know what it all meant. I was still learning and expanding my knowledge, and so even initially I resisted. I resisted the path that my mind was taking me on, but fortunately I had faculty that encouraged me to stay with it and to keep exploring and to keep expanding and to keep growing. And I did.
And, and I sit here today, very comfortable with my ideas, and very confident that my assertions are correct if you will. but it also, that experience also helps me empathize with other people who my ideas are going to be new for them. Right. And so it can be, it can be a journey for some folks.
Jackie: Absolutely. And I wanted to take a moment before we jump into the theory of racelessness and talk about listening to understand, right? So just for our listeners, as we go into this next part of the conversation, you know, very often we listen to respond. Right. And what I encourage you to do is, you know, with this being a new topic for a lot of people, listen to understand.
What are the things that make sense to you? What are the things that are new and then listen thoroughly to really try to understand where those topics are coming from? Certainly they are very well-researched for our listeners and really try to understand from our perspective of being open. You know, be embracing something new that you've never maybe heard, never may be considered.
So I just want to take a moment for that as we get into this next part, because it's just so interesting and that's why I wanted to definitely have you on our podcast and share this with, with our listeners. But again, listen to understand. And that's, that's my note, as we move into this next topic.
So Dr. Mason, let's jump in and talk about the theory of racelessness.
Sheena: Sure. So to your point, I'd love what you just said, and I just want to sort of emphasize that because as I see it, when I'm sharing these ideas, I'm doing it to educate as opposed to convince, right? Like I'm literally just sharing information. And so yeah, it does take a certain amount of active participation for people to receive any of it, right.
So the theory of racelessness reflects two philosophical positions. One that speaks to what I think race is. And one that speaks to what I argue should be done with race. And these philosophical positions are lesser-known if known at all in American society. We're really taught to operate from two traditional philosophies of race, of which there are six. So I'll name the philosophies, and then I'll explain what theory of where theory of racism, this fits in this.
So there are three philosophies that speak to what a person thinks should be done with race. The first is called naturalism. Naturalist believe that race is biological. It is of nature. It's natural. This has been disproven for over a century, since the 20th century to be precise. And it's interesting to me because a lot of people still express this idea that race is indeed of nature. It is not. Now ethnicity, which gets conflated with race is of nature. But race itself is not.
There's a second category called Constructionism. Constructionists and this is a sort of default position in American society, believe that race isn't biological, but it is socially constructed in a way that makes it real. And, and this way, some people might compare it to gender. We talk about gender as a social construction, right? The problem with a constructionist position as it has played out across time is primarily that most, if not all social constructionist, talk about the construction of race in very fixed and naturalized ways that then unintentionally helps support and elevate the idea of race itself.
And if you are a racial skeptic, skepticism being the third and last category, you would recognize this as a problem because my skepticism tells me that what people call race or identify as racial, it's actually culture or it's ethnicity, as I said earlier, might be nationality, or its racism camouflaging itself as race, and thereby the upholding of the idea of race is a problem for me as a skeptic that I identify because we are then unintentionally upholding racism itself.
And then there are three categories as speak to what a person thinks should be done with race. So the first category is conservationism, which is, as it sounds, if you're a naturalist, you're going to be a conservationist, which means you believe that the category of race should be kept. After all, if it's natural, it makes sense that one would keep it right.
The second category is the default position in American society, and that is reconstructionist. Reconstructionists tend to be social constructionists and they tend to argue that the category of race for whatever reason should be and can be reconstructed. Now, reconstruction has been happening since the creation of the word race in the first place.
If we do a historical analysis, the word race comes from early modern Europe. Initially it had nothing to do with race as we think of it now, it had more to do with the class system, and early modern European society had to do with how much money and wealth and notoriety people had had to do with family status had to do with things like that.
And then they started bringing in threads of, okay, this is this idea of races speaking to nationalities. And then in the late 16 hundreds, the US soil before the US really was actually independent from England, then it starts to get codified and spoken about and understood in ways that ring truer to us today.
Right. In terms of white, black, person of color, et cetera. but that was a process that was a reconstructionist process of the word race, and nowadays we're taught to be reconstructionist, but if we do a historical analysis, we'll see that we've been reconstructing it for centuries, which to me, I think is an important acknowledgement because it indicates the impractical nature of thinking that we can continue to try to reconstruct it to mean anything other than what it means, which is racism really hiding its face.
And so then the last category is eliminativism, eliminativists argue for whatever reason that the idea of race, a concept of race should be eliminated. Racelessness then speaks to skepticism, as in we're already raceless, it's an, it's an actual reality, but many people believe in the unicorn of race. Right, but unicorns still don't exist, don't actually exist, they just exist in our imagination. So we're already raceless, but then it also speaks to the acknowledgement that, okay, most people view race as existing. And in that way, there is something to eliminate, to undo to make racelessness the goal. Right?
So the theory of racist ness speaks from these two alternative philosophies of race that have historically been swept under the rug, or just not known at all.
I know that was a lot.
Jackie: That's really interesting. Thank you. it's really interesting to think about, you know, how we think of race because very often the majority of us don't think about it very deeply, right. It just is something that's part of our society.
And then what do you recommend Dr. Mason? What do we do with this information? Right, as a society, what is your recommendation on how we react to this and what do we do?
Sheena: If we're able to come to recognize and acknowledge the ways in which racism created race and continues to create race, then it makes sense, it makes logical sense to decide that the goal shouldn't be reconstruction any longer, the goal should be eliminativism Now the word itself is sort of a misnomer. It gives people the impression that one believes that we can 100% eradicate racism from the face of the earth or from American society.
And I know for myself being as practical and pragmatic as I am, I don't actually believe that that can happen. However I do believe that it's just a matter of having the statistical majority of Americans come to see themselves and other people in these other more freeing ways outside of racism. And that means that more of us than not have to be crazy enough, like Nelson Mandela to imagine a non-apartheid South Africa or Martin Luther king Jr. and Malcolm X to imagine, and non-segregated and integrated American society, to which they up to that point had no reason or no context to believe in those potential futures, but they were crazy enough and bold enough to believe in those futures.
I hope to inspire people to be bold enough, to believe in a future that is yes, very different from our current time and is very different from our historical past. A future in which people are not defined in any way for better, for worse by racism, hear the word race in there, that people see their individual power as just as important and critical toward resisting racism as that, of the community and societal power, because we are racialized two ways. We racialize ourselves and then society racializes us, just because society does something to us need a mean that we just accept it without recognizing our own power and agency and say in the matter.
And I want to inspire people to know in other places outside of the United States, there are places that, but for all intents and purposes are already raceless in the ways I'm describing and they are not paradises, they are not utopias. They still have their own problems, their own hierarchies, hierarchies would still exist outside of racism just as they do now.
But that is not a reason for us to limit ourselves to a future where racism still exists in persist. We can make a decision for something different. And the really ironic thing for me is because I'm racialized as Black in American society, people tend to focus on this idea of elimination as me wanting to eliminate Blackness, but it's important to consider that in eliminating Blackness, I'm only advocating for the elimination of racism, the violence that created and creates Blackness in the first place, not anything meaningful, like we could say about culture or ethnicity, but literally the violence of racism and in eliminating race, white and whiteness is a race too, that would be eliminated. Right, and probably it should go first.
Doesn't exist if you ask me that's my skepticism speaking, but people think it does. So we need to eliminate the idea from the fabric of our imaginations, and if we can do that then we can finally make headway as it pertains to racism in this country that are currently, we prevent ourselves from being able to make that progress because we're still insisting on an upholding race ideology.
Jackie: So Dr. Mason. Do you describe yourself as a Black woman? And do you check Black on the census? Would you not check race on your census?
Sheena: I don't identify as a Black woman because I see and understand myself as being raceless and outside of the confines of racism, and because I tend not to be hypocritical, I'm not saying one thing, but then practicing something else. My, my beliefs and my knowledge don't allow me to do that. And so I don't check the box on the census. There's usually an option that says, like I declined to respond or something like that. I would choose that box. And it's not just the census, right? It's like, if you go to a new doctor, we just moved to a new state. And so we have to fill out all this new paperwork, even for my employer. I don't check the box.
And for my children, I have two-year-old triplets, we don't check the box. They have all kinds of, you know, when they started school, they try to ask us like, what race are they, is like, we don't, we don't subscribe to race ideology and people kind of, they don't necessarily know what that means, but if they have questions and I would be happy to answer and explain what it is that I'm saying.
Right. But no, I'm raceless and I will not racialize my children and put them in the box as society says, they have to be, period. And I will raise them to view themselves and other
people through this skeptical eliminate of this type of lens, with the hope that the alternative method of raising children, right, is to pass on this sort of intergenerational traumas of racism to pass on race ideology for better, for worse. To have the infamous talk with young boys, especially about how police are going to persecute them.
I'm freeing my children from all of that, because part of the problem of racialist ideology in the first place is the fact that it puts in more of our imaginations and not that racism is a problem in ways that it's not actually a problem, which then prevents us from solving the real-life problems caused by racism.
And what, what I mean to say is there's this narrative that police are murdering racialized Black people in the streets, just hunting and murdering them right. That's a common narrative that's accepted and an upheld as the truth and rarely questioned, but if we do our own research, if we are skeptics, if we do our own research and ask questions about everything that seems objective, we would come to find that that is so far from the actual reality of racism. And if it's not the actual reality of racism, then it becomes a distraction away from how racism actually does manifest and cause huge problems for racialized black people and racialized people of color.
Jackie: That's such an interesting way to think about it, and I'll just give a second for people to just catch up, right. That's a lot of information, but you know, I, one of the reasons, again, just to restate that I wanted to have you on the podcast is because this theory is so interesting, right? And it, it forces us to move outside of how we naturally think into some new information and, you know, practice, how to process, you know, new information. So I, I think it's such a great conversation.
Now, Dr. Mason, let's talk about race from, you know, this is a topic that's difficult for people to discuss in general, right? And people often don't have this conversation or they're stumbling over it a little. As we talk about topics like this or topics around race or racelessness, can you share with us some strategies around having those conversations? Where do we start with those?
Sheena: The primary reason why this remains a difficult and indeed tense topic for most Americans is because we are still insisting on operating within the framework of race ideology. If you are operating from a position of believing and seeing yourself as being racialized white or racialized Black or racialized Asian, you are automatically bringing with that, all that that race supposedly exemplifies, right?
So whiteness has become a metaphor for being racist. Blackness has become a metaphor for being a victim of racism. There's something called the so-called Black experience, which is really people saying the experience of people in a racist society, right. Like the way that we talk about race has become coded and really metaphors for our way of speaking about racism.
And this is why it's so hard to talk about it for people because we are, we are accepting the concept and applying it to ourselves and applying it to other people. And then, you know, we can be in our feelings about it. So an alternative to that that would actually create more meaningful and generative dialogue would be to create a space where you teach people about all the philosophies of race. You talk about them, right? You try to get a sense, get people to self-reflect and see themselves in whatever categories, because even without having the names of the philosophies, all of us holds at least two of those positions, period, every single one of us.
So help people self-reflect and figure out where they currently stand. And then you say, okay, for the purposes of this conversation, of this workshop of this conference, of this class, we are going to operate from a skeptical position. That means that in this space, you are not racialized in any way. So you are not part of a race in quotation marks, and encouraging people to see themselves outside of the category with the express purpose of analyzing and talking about racism, which is the actual problem.
You help people avoid upholding the, the categories first and foremost for better, for worse. And you help people work from a place that does inspire more logic and slightly less, you know, feelings of defensiveness or offensiveness, like you create a space where it's safer for people to actually talk about their, how they think and what they think and the problem.
Whereas right now we're creating a space where people are almost automatically on guard because they're see themselves in the category. Hopefully even just saying that can inspire people to, to think about what does that look like? And in what ways could that create a more productive conversation? Because even if people leave the space without changing their philosophies of race, they will be forever changed. And I I've had students, so I've been teaching college now for a while, and I've had students across the country in California and Virginia and DC, and now in New York and many of my students express number one, how they're not learning these philosophies or different ways of thinking or seeing themselves or the world anywhere else, which is unfortunate because there's only one of me, right.
They're not learning in anywhere else. In other classes they'll learn, what's being called, you know, liberalism, progressive, and social justice stuff, right. But they're not taught that alternatives even exist. So of course they take up the banner of Constructionism and Reconstructionism because they don't know that there there's something else. And once they know there's something else they've told me, it's actually impossible for them to go back to, to seeing the world in the ways that they did.
And because of that shift, they are then able to see racism more clearly. They're able to, to they share their ideas. You know, even at the risk of looking crazy to friends and family, they share their ideas, which I love, and definitely some of them have been called crazy, right, for being bold enough to, to think differently.
But it's like I've heard time and time again from my students and from my clients that this has liberated them 100% from how we do anti-racism and how we practice race. And not for nothing, the removal of race ideology from oneself inspires oneself to see themselves as who they are without restrictions and it inspires us to see other people for who they are, because as it operates in society, The idea of race actually washes over our differences and prioritizes differences that are otherwise superficial, like skin color and who your parents are and things like that.
It doesn't actually speak to your cultural inclinations. It doesn't speak to your politics or how you think, or what do you think it doesn't speak to any of those things, but we uphold it as like that's diversity. No, if you remove the race, then we can get closer to having an understanding of what diversity is, and importantly what our similarities are. As it operates now, race actually prevents people from seeing themselves in other people who are racialized in other ways.
And that to me is a danger I wish people would stop ignoring. That is a danger we need people to see the humanity across the aisle, right across the metaphorical aisle or the, the metaphorical color line, the race line. Like we need people to see themselves in other people. That's how we reconcile. That's how we move forward.
Jackie: That's so incredible. Thank you for sharing that. I mean, that's a lot to take in right as new information, but for those of us who, you know, subscribe to anti-racism or wanting to make the world better and more connected, right. If we think about eliminating race as the construct, how much closer to does that bring us right, just right away, right. So that's, that's fantastic.
Dr. Mason, let's talk about your organization. What does your company do and what kinds of clients do you work with?
Sheena: So at Theory of Racelessness, we call ourselves an educational consulting business because we're really about the life of just educating people.
And the happy outcome of that is often that people do feel compelled and do you feel like they've transformed how they view themselves and other people, which I think is a good thing, but we do this through conferences. I do speaking events. I do workshops for various organizations anywhere from municipality to a tech company to a university we don't limit ourselves in terms of where we go or who we work with. Additionally, I have a podcast which is open to the general public. So if you search Sheena Mason on YouTube, you'll find me there. Where I just have conversations with people just anyone and everyone, I recently had a conversation with somebody in Nigeria who was talking about how people in Africa, on the continent actually view themselves as raceless.
And we were talking about the different ways in which race and racism by extension don't travel or do travel, or if it does travel, how's it different. And how, if more people look outside of the United States to places like Nigeria, where most Americans would automatically presume that those people are Black and view themselves as Black.
We could learn a tremendous amount from stepping outside of this context because we would come to find that that's actually inaccurate. That's not true. and if it's not true, and other places, it doesn't have to be true in the United States, which I think would give us some hope. So we do that.
I do that kind of work through those means, and we really work with anyone and everyone right now, I'm really hoping to get the attention of some school boards and some things, because I believe sincerely that theory of racelessness offers an alternative and a solution to a lot of the pushback people are, are speaking out against what's being called CRT, but people generally seem to know that it's not actually CRT.
but that's going to be the next step and our next focus, because we, we think that this gives people what they want. More, you know, people, people who leave. They really just tend to want an acknowledgement of the problem, right, and acknowledgement that racism is a thing. It happened in the past and it happens today, and people on the right from what they say anyway, they tend to want to not be put in a box of race because ironically they see themselves as being now the victims of racism, right, and they're actually not wrong because if we're teaching race, then that's exactly what's happening.
And so there's a way in which theory of racelessness gives more people what they actually want while also no longer continuing the practice of racism, because what sense does it make to teach our children racism by teaching them race, to try to help them understand racism, and then as they get older, we have to teach them to not be racist. It's like we have to undo the work that we did. So that's our, that's our current mission right now is like let's be imaginative, let's be creative. Let's try something that we haven't tried in, in America before, because we know it's going to take us a lot closer to the American ideals that helps all of us really.
Jackie: That's true. That's very true. So, Dr. Mason, you, you talked to us about your podcast, thanks for that. You mentioned at the beginning of the show about a book that you have coming out in 2022. Can we talk a little bit more about that?
Sheena: Yeah. So Decolonizing the Racialist Imagination: an Examination and Critique of Anti-racist Discourse is looking primarily at African-American literary studies, and as a sort of case study, as an example for how this theory of racists, this can be applied and, and the product that would come of that type of effort as well as of course making the case and illustrating why race ideology, even within African-American literary studies has been and continues to be a problem in terms of unintentionally upholding racism, which is the same thing that most African-American specialists are fighting against.
I first show how it's a problem and how race has been reconstructed across time. And then I, I apply the theory of racist list to many books, I can't even count or tell you how many books, many books, that one chapter focuses primarily on building the theory. One chapter focuses on a representative writer of racist, Toni Morrison, who traditionally, and folks out there have heard her name I'm sure, traditionally she's upheld as a sort of race pride type of way that actually counters her own thinking and writing on race and racelessness. So I bring to the surface, the other part of her philosophies, and then I give a representative pedagogy or a representative syllabus for what a class could look like that would help students out of the pitfalls of race ideology to better grapple with all of the philosophies of race.
And then that's that from in its entirety is a theory of racelessness, and I make the case primarily in that introduction and conclusion that what we can learn from this application of the theory is that it's applicable across the board because of the problems that happen in the field mirror the problems that are happening in society across time. And if that's the case, then our solutions can look very similar to what the solutions are that I pose in the book.
Jackie: Awesome. Also earlier you talked about, you have two-year-old triplets. I want to talk about that. Tell me about your triplets. That's amazing. And I, you know, I have a friend that has triplets and, and wow. Like, you know, congratulations and there's a lot to do at one time.
Sheena: Yes, thank you. So my wife and I have triplets. Our boys are identical twins, and then we have a baby girl. They are my joys, my hearts, my worlds. They are everything. We don't have anything to compare it to because we don't have a Singleton.
So we just know life with triplet. So other people, especially those who do have children are like, oh my goodness, like, how do you do it? But we don't have anything to compare it to. So we just do it, you know, we just do it and we find so much joy. Their story, they have a testimony too, because I had them at only 25 weeks gestation.
So they were born almost four months early. My daughter weighed only a pound 13 ounces, and my boys were two pounds, four and two pounds, six ounces. And by all accounts, they shouldn't have even survived, but they not only survive. They thrive. They're there two now, they weigh 30 pounds, are running around doing all toddler things.
Occasionally throwing tantrums was really not that bad. and just, ugh, I can't even, everything I do. I do it for them, with them in mind, because I am bold enough to, to imagine a different and better future for them. And there's no better time than today to actually have the conversation that you and I are having because given the climate and given our history and track record, I think, I think more people than not are frustrated and kind of, you know, over how things are going.
And I think people want more, but few people have actually figured out, like, what is an alternative? What is a solution, you know, and very well-intended people? And so when you present people with this information, it can go a long way toward helping people be the change that they want to see in our society. And I don't think there's a better time than today to do it.
Jackie: You know, I love what you said about your triplets didn't just survive, they thrived. And certainly they got that from their mom, right?
Jackie: That's awesome. Dr. Mason, tell us, this is my favorite question to ask. I ask every guest, tell us something about you that not a lot of people know.
Sheena: So I was a bodybuilder. Between all of the degrees I've earned, I was working for 24-hour fitness. I started there with them in Houston, Texas. I lived in five different states working with them because I kept getting promoted and recruited to save or recover clubs that were kind of floundering. And I ended up in San Jose, California with the team of just under a hundred team members as a general manager.
And I was doing figure competitions, natural figure competitions. If you saw pictures of me now, you know, after having my triplets, understandably, compared to where I was before, it's, I'm a completely different person. Like my body fat percentage was crazy low. Like something like 5% at my leanest, which is very low for a woman, especially.
And I took to fitness and I take to fitness in the same way that I take to education, primarily because as child, sports and athletics also helped me survive and indeed thrive. And so it was my passion to help people. It was a sort of side road between degrees, but because I didn't have the privilege of just getting degree after degree, I had to work in between times.
And so I took full advantage of it. And I, that was how I helped people at the time. That was my activism at the time was helping people live healthier and fitter lives. So I'm very, very passionate about health and fitness.
Jackie: Thanks for sharing that, Dr. Mason, how can people connect with.
Sheena: I'm everywhere, you can find me. You can go to my website, theoryofracelessness.org. You can find me on YouTube, just search Sheena Mason, like the jar and like Sheena Easton, Sheena queen of the jungle, all the Sheena's. you can also find me on Twitter, so I'm kind of new to Twitter. I'm still learning it, but I I'm kind of loving it. So find me there. @SheenaMasonPhD, or @racelessness, I have two accounts. I'm on LinkedIn, like literally you can find me if you're trying to find me, you will find me.
Jackie: Dr. Mason. Thank you so much for taking some time with us today. This was such an interesting conversation and one that certainly makes us think right about how we're thinking about race or raceless, right?
Jackie: So thank you so much for taking some time and I really appreciate it and I'll hope, I hope we stay in touch.
Sheena: Yes, of course. Jackie, thank you again for having me.