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Day 2: 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge

Welcome to Day 2.  Please be sure to read about the challenge here before posting comments.  
 
Today watch the Jay Smooth TED Talk - “How I learned to stop worrying and love discussing race.” On a scale of 0-5, rate how comfortable you are talking about race and racism.
 
0 = I would rather not talk about race/racism.
1 = I am very uncomfortable talking about race/racism.
2 = I am usually uncomfortable talking about race/racism.
3 = I am sometimes uncomfortable talking about race/racism.
4 = I am usually comfortable talking about race/racism.
5 = I am very comfortable talking about race/racism.
 
How might you and others become more comfortable talking about race and racism?  
 
This is also a good time to write your own autobiography of racial awareness and look at our own history through the "race" lense.  What stands out?  What are the implications?  You can share as much of this discovery as you feel comfortable.
 
Jay Smooth Ted Talk:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU

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Comments

Talking about race

I have learned over the years to be very comfortable talking about racism because I tend to be the only non-white in the room. I work in a profession that is dominated by whites although it has seen some improvement in diversity it's still sitting at less than 25%. As such, everyone turns to me to see if something is racist or not. It can be very uncomfortable to be pulled out as the "expert" just because you are different.

I may know what it's like to be Latina but I have no idea what it's like to be Black, or Native American, or Chinese, or White. I can't be an expert on other people but I have often been forced to be. It's quite difficult at times to explain why a supposed compliment is actually offensive. Or to explain why serving fried chicken and watermelon to celebrate Black History Month might be a bad idea.

Maybe if more people stopped to think about how uncomfortable it is to be the only person like you in a room, they might realize how uncomfortable it is to be the person educating everyone else in the room about themselves. It's like being a circus animal performing tricks for the audience.

Writing this out, I realize there is some deep-seated resentment still in me. I think I know what my next meditation sessions may need to focus on.

Of course, there is another side to this. Yes, it's annoying that people of color have to educate others about racism, but how can anyone really learn about or understand it without the perspective of the people on the receiving end of it. It must be difficult to be white, to grow up around mostly or only white people and then try to learn about something so very removed from your own experience and then of course you would feel the need to reach out to people of color to explain it. It's a real catch-22 for people who want to learn about racism and learn if they are being racist or how to help stop it. Something else to add to my meditations.

Starting to be more comfortable talking about race.

I am newly more comfortable talking about race. After spending some time in good conversations with fellow teachers and with students at my school, I'm learning that it is important to talk about my whiteness, my privilege, and my lack of awareness - and then to educate myself. Talking about race was difficult at first because I was told to be colorblind while growing up, and I thought I needed to learn from POC, but now I realize the folly of colorblindness and that it is not the job of POC to be educating me.
I just finished a class for seniors in my area called "Conversations About White Privilege" which was wonderful not only for the books we read and the discussions, but for the chance to meet other 60-plus year olds in my town who are interested in learning about how we participate in racism and taking steps to dismantle that.
I find it interesting (and sometimes difficult) when talking with other white people about colorblindness. Many are still very convinced that being kind and respectful to everyone is all that is necessary. I am aware that some of these friends and family members may be starting to think of me (as Renee wrote) as someone who is often pointing out privilege and I wonder if they will back away from me. This is an interesting journey.

Day 2: Talking About Race

First off, Renee, thank you so much for all you shared! I found it so helpful. I would say that, like Kim, how comfortable I am talking about race depends on who I'm with to an extent. Online I am probably most comfortable, and with most of my friends and my immediate family, I can be very open about it as well - I would say a 4 in both those areas. As you mentioned Renee, I've also experienced certain people distancing themselves or expressing discomfort at me talking about it often. But with the space of online, it doesn't bother me so much and I often can have a kind of "good riddance" attitude towards those people. However, with more distant family, my boyfriend's family (who I see often, more than my own,) and acquaintances or coworkers, I find it more difficult, maybe a 0-2. I find that I am unwilling to talk about it when I think the other person won't be receptive to what I have to say. It's been something I've experienced, having a discussion with someone about prejudice/privilege, and it being like talking to a brick wall because you just aren't getting through. But, I also recognize that this is a big presumption on my part and shuts down conversations that could possibly be productive or positive before they even begin.

 

I was fired from a job about a year ago because I complained about my boss being racist on Twitter (I was actually looking for advice on how to deal with it after witnessing it multiple times; afraid that he would fire me if I confronted him, I had no other ideas.) Someone screenshotted it and sent it to him and I was instantly fired by his wife, the co-owner of the business. This event really came back to me while watching this TedX talk, especially when he's discussing how people will take it so deeply and personally when you suggest they made a mistake. My boss' wife was crying when she handed me the letter stating I was fired. She couldn't even say it to my face because she was so upset, and it was obvious in her face that she felt so betrayed. I remember getting angry at this reaction; wondering how she could possibly see her and her racist husband as the victims in this situation! I realize now, looking back on it with some more space, that I definitely was looking at my boss with the good/bad person duality, and perhaps I would have acted more carefully if I'd thought I could find a way to skillfully talk to him. It seemed like a lost cause to me so I didn't care about the ramifications of putting Tweets about him into the public sphere.

talking about race

Thanks for your comments, Renee.

I was fortunate as a white kid growing up in the 50s and 60s to be raised in a progressive household, with both parents active in the civil rights movement. Although we talked a lot about actions to take, both political and personal, we didn’t talk much about the subtle racism that can affect people with good intentions. As we have seen in the recent election, the many gains in civil rights that have been achieved have not erased racist attitudes which persist in various degrees of intensity and self-awareness.

I appreciated Jay Smooth’s Tedx talk about having conversations about race, especially with people who think of themselves as non-racist: “The belief that you must be perfect in order to be good is an obstacle to being as good as you can be.” It’s so important that white people really listen to black voices without feeling threatened. I know that I would initially feel a bit uncomfortable having my own insensitivities pointed out, but we need to engage more, even if it means listening to criticism. I currently live in an overwhelmingly white community and have very few black friends or even acquaintances. I need to correct this imbalance if I am to "be as good as I can be."

I hope that this blog conversation expands to include more diverse contributions, especially from people of color.

Will

thoughts

I think about the diverse contributions and that is a really hard question and again I would say that I do not have the answer here and wrestle with this question quite a bit.  From some of the POC people that I have talked to, they are tired of having to participate in what was represented to me as something that privileged people need to figure out.  They were tired of having the same conversation over and over again, or even being the token POC friend because a white person was trying to diversify.    What would interest a POC person in this conversation?  They already know about systemic racism, white privilege, white bias, white fragility....what would they gain?  

I can relate this to the idea of misogyny because it is my own experience of not being part of the primary power group - white males. In my view, women talking about men not respecting women has not changed much at all.  Yes, it has brought some awareness but systemic change has not been seen by me and I am a little tired of telling men that they need to treat women as equals.  I kind of feel like "how do you not get this already?" and want men to start driving change with other men.  I want men to call out men when they see microaggressions and blatant misogyny and do not feel like my voice can be heard in the same way.  But this example is not meant to take away from the race discussion, but only to use my own personal lens to understand perhaps why POC would not participate in this specific topic.

Again I strive and long for discussions that include diverse contributions, but I wonder what those discussions should be.  I think it is perhaps not becoming aware of the racism and implicit bias, but instead working together to drive change within my own community.  I also have to learn to take the lead from POC who have the experience rather than try to drive in as the savior with all the solutions to the problem.

These are my thoughts with an open heart to learning more and am always open to learning different views.

 

Day 2 - Talking About Race

How comfortable I am talking about race and racism depends on with whom I'm talking. Here in this forum and with others who are educating themselves about racism, I feel about a 3. With others, like bigoted family members, I'm not going to talk about race with them at all, except to disagree with their views so that would be about a 0.

Talking Race and where I am from

I grew up in a primarily white neighborhood and never had any POC friends and do not even remember any in my schools. The POC I interacted with most were people in the service industry.

There is a stat that 75 percent of white people had no nonwhite friends and I used to be one. Now that is not the case but I am still pretty limited. I have to continually keep working on expanded what I do and where because I feel like it only limits me as a person. Surrounded by people that share only my bias does not help me grow as a person but it needs to be authentic and not just checking my POC liberal box.

How do I feel about talking about racism? I feel very vulnerable and exposed. I worry about how people are judging me and know that some people have backed off and are not as close because of all my "racism and white stuff talk."

Yesterday at a MLK event there was a white woman who stood up and railed against the organization for only talking about bias and all the good things they are doing rather than the obvious and blatant systemic racism that exists. You could feel the white liberal crowd get tense and ruffle and some started to yell at her to sit down. I felt the same uncomfortableness. She could have delivered it better, less aggressive, better articulated but you could sense her frustration. She said she had tried and no one would listen.

Will had brought this up in yesterday's blog about the March on DC where some POC have said their voices have not been heard and then some white women allegedly won't go because they feel like they are being attacked. We are all so afraid and defensive about talking about racism and privilege. The only way we get through it - in my view - is by talking about it so much that we desensitize ourselves from the defensive posture to the opening of how do we change this. I would like us to acknowledge, understand and move to make it better instead of spending our energy in denial

As hard as it is for me to talk about and openly become one of these people that "always makes a big deal about white privilege and racism", I feel like I have to because my discomfort pails in comparison to those that have these offenses leveled at them every day.

A man from the ALCU stood up and said that he noticed that it was a very white crowd. He said until the Lion tells gets to tell the story the story will always glorify the hunter. I want to be part of the solution that allows for equity and equality so I have to be uncomfortable for awhile.

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