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Understand How to Talk About Racism

Personal Development

How to Be an Ally to The Black Community

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these days, the issues of race and racism are in everybody’s face.  The convergence of politics, a global pandemic and populist uprising, dedicated to the truth that black lives matter, has us all asking ourselves deep and important questions.  Yet, we still don’t know how to talk about racism.

We are being forced to come face-to-face with racism.  An abstract concept that has concrete ramifications that are dangerous and harmful to all of us.

In Understanding How Race Factors In,  I discuss how most people don’t realize that race plays a part in our everyday life.

One of the beautiful things that has surfaced during this racial reckoning, is the acknowledgment by people of all races, that a metaphorical knee to the necks of one of us, constitutes the slow death all of us.  The democratic ideal set forth by our forefathers, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” can only be realized if they are true for everyone.

 
I Don’t Know What To Do

A quick scroll through social media, and in neighborly conversations around the country, it’s clear that many white and non-black people are deeply committed to fighting racism and for black equality.  You may want to help but don’t know where to start. Here are just a few suggestions to get the conversation started and how to talk about racism.

Begin by simply listening, without judgment of them or yourself.

Listen with an open heart, with compassion and empathy. Create a safe place for your black friends to bare their souls.  Let them share their stories of racism and unfairness with the raw emotion they’ve never before felt comfortable sharing with you.

Laugh with them at the absurd stories of racism they’ve encountered, and cry together over the painful hate they’ve experienced. Embrace the fear they have about raising their black children and the pride they feel about being gloriously black, even with all the baggage it carries.

 
Ask Questions and Make Mistakes

I’ve been told by white friends and clients, that they “don’t know what to say” to their black friends because they’re “afraid to say the wrong thing.”

Don’t be.

You don’t know what you don’t know, so asking earnest questions, even the ones that may sound wrong coming out of your mouth can kick off a conversation that becomes the cornerstone of your deeper understanding.  We can only beat racism by understanding how to talk about racism in a constructive way.

Expand your knowledge of black history.  Our history is your history too, and we make you damn proud.  Don’t know where to begin?  Pick any subject that interests you—from medicine to music, cooking to cosmetics, from the military to the moon, there’s not one area where black people haven’t contributed mightily to the forward progress of this planet.  And don’t get caught up in the pain of our journey, dive into the joy as well. Finding joy where we stand is one of our specialties.

 
Be our Ally

Have a tough conversation with people in your circle. Help people understand that we aren’t looking for revenge, only equality. We don’t hate white people. We just don’t understand why you love our culture but can’t love us. That we believe that all lives matter but want you to recognize that black lives matter in equal measure.

Listen, learn, and then share what you now know with others who may or may not have the benefit of sharing love and space with black friends. Let them know what you’ve discovered, we are much more alike than we are different.

The main component of love is understanding. To know and understand us—our pain, our worries, our joys—is to love us. Be an ally and help others know us too.

One love.

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