We had the good fortune of connecting with Misasha Suzuki Graham and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Misasha, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
The idea really came out of conversations that we were having about our kids. We’ve been best friends for 25 years now (!!) and, like all friendships do over time, our topics of conversation changed as we changed and moved through stages of life. We both had kids, and immediately conversation topics shifted to our hopes, dreams, and fears for our kids. But when I had two boys who were half Black, one quarter Japanese, and one quarter White, we realized that the fears that I was having for my sons were not the same fears that Sara was having for her daughters. My biggest fear was that my boys – or my husband, who is Black – would walk out of our house and not come home simply based on the color of their skin. That’s a crushing fear to have, but one that I knew was rooted in the reality of who we are as a nation. Trayvon Martin was killed when I was pregnant with my first one; I was holding my second son as a baby in my arms when Tamir Rice was murdered. As a mother of Black children, you live with a catalog in your head of ways that your kids may be taken from you – and each incident that you hear about, you add to that list. It’s terrible. But it’s real. Out of those conversations, and the desire for no mother to ever have to feel those fears, we came up with the podcast. We started Dear White Women as a way to have these conversations in spaces where they weren’t being had, or even thought about, so that we could help White women use their privilege to uproot systemic racism and make change in their small spheres of influence – through conversation, through practical tips for action, and through constant, intentional focus on humanity and empathy. We have a heart-led approach to focusing on our commonalities, so that all of us can at some point be safe – and not only safe, but thriving.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
It’s not every day that you go from a BigLaw intellectual property attorney to the co-host of an award-winning social justice podcast dedicated to helping White women use their privilege to uproot systemic racism, but it’s been a journey that I wouldn’t change. My legal background and time spent studying and understanding legal precedent and challenges provide a legal and historical framework for the work that Sara and I do together on the podcast and in our upcoming book. I’ve also had extensive experience in organizational DEI through not only leadership roles, but through being part of professional organizations focused on championing all voices. But mostly I learn from doing – from being a mother to two boys who I love so dearly and protect so fiercely, because the world will see them as Black men soon enough, from being a wife to a husband that is so strong in his own convictions about lifting others who need that opportunity, from being a daughter to a Japanese immigrant father and a White mother who taught me to be proud of being biracial and challenge the status quo, from being friends with so many others who enrich my life through their different experiences. It’s not an easy path – many days I doubt myself, or ask myself if I’m doing enough, or asking the right questions. But then I come back to my why: my boys, my family, our collective future. And I keep intentionally moving forward. We are heart-led on the podcast, and it’s with that focus on empathy and our humanity that I lean into fighting for all of us.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
SUCH a tough question! I was born and raised in Pasadena so I have a very soft spot for that area… assuming this is a non-COVID world, the Rose Bowl Flea Market, and a good brunch, would be on that list. I also have always loved the ocean – I have missed it whenever I’m not near it – so finding a great spot for drinks is also key (Shutters on the Beach, anyone?). But what I really love? The neighborhoods. Walking around and just getting lost in small stores, cafes, and spending lazy days doing that is my idea of perfection. I’ve got kids now so I’m not sure where the coolest places are, but one of my favorite areas is always Abbot Kinney. Finally, when I was little, every weekend I would go with my dad to Little Tokyo – to the downtown plaza, and then to other plazas, for shopping and lunch (and if I was amazingly lucky, a trip to People’s Place for clothes or Sanrio for something cute. I just totally dated myself, I know). I still am convinced that some of the very best food in Los Angeles is in Little Tokyo – I’ve been dying to go to Daikokuya Ramen.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
This is a special Shoutout to all of those people who have trusted us with their stories over the years – through the podcast, in our upcoming book (Dear White Women: Let’s Get (Un)comfortable Talking About Racism), and in our everyday lives. You are helping us challenge the dominant narrative in American society, and we thank you so much for letting us share your stories.