Let’s Keep Talking About Racism: Here’s 10 Tips for How To Do That
Talking about racism in our current political climate has become more explosive and confrontational than ever before. That’s all the more reason why we have to meet the challenge, keep the conversation going, and work toward turning us and them into we. Yet, having conversations that are forward-moving and that position us as effective antiracists are not easy.
Here are some tips for fostering forward-moving conversations about racism:
- Don’t back away from difficult conversations: When baffled or completely gobsmacked about something someone has said, simply pause and with the most inviting tone you can muster, ask the person to “Say more about…” or “Tell me what informs your thinking…”
- Remain curious about another’s reality: Try these phrases… “I’m genuinely trying to understand where you are coming from…” or “I’m curious about this part of what you just said…”
- Share your truth: Own your reality with these sentence starters. “My experience has been…” “My stake in this is…” “From my window it looks like…” “My want for the outcome is…”
- Challenge firmly and respectfully: Focus on areas of disagreement in an inviting manner. Some examples to state your position… “What stands out for me is…” “Help me understand how…”
- Confront falsehoods and lies: Use the broken record technique and just keep repeating “That is not true.” “That is a lie.” “That has been proven to be false.” “This is not a matter of perspective. It’s a fact.”
- Break down false equivalencies: Related behaviors do not have equal weight when it comes to human rights. “Comparing apples to oranges” is not acceptable. They are both fruit, yet they are so different that the comparison is invalid. For example, the Black Lives Matter protests are based on the enduring truth of systemic racism. The Stop the Steal riots are based on the big lie that there wasn’t a free and fair election in the United States.
- Manage tone and volume: Use words that demonstrate intensity and passion instead of foul language and shouting that generally distracts from your intended message and puts the focus on you as the messenger. Try using “I’m committed to…” “I have no tolerance for…” “That is despicable…” “I strongly believe…” “I’m not at all confused about…”. “I find that statement offensive…”
- Honor any points of agreement: When the conversation is forward moving and headed toward mutual understanding, keep it going by statements such as “I appreciate that…” “We are both on the same page about…” “Let’s continue from this value that we both share…”
- Challenge your own assumptions: Avoid righteousness by acknowledging your experiences without judgment on their worth as a person. Simple statements like “Correct me if I am wrong…” “This may be an and/also conversation…” help to bridge a divide.
- Practice self-care: Evaluate if the squeeze is worth the juice. Is this the right person, time, or situation for this conversation? When there is dysfunctional thinking, a lack of openness, or inflexibility, sometimes you just have to give that person a silent blessing and move on.