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Does talking about racism make you uncomfortable?

Tracey McKee – June 14, 2022

Does talking about racism make you uncomfortable?  If it does, you are not alone.  As a middle-aged White woman, I find it hard to talk about racism, especially with people of color POC.  For me, I worry so much about saying the wrong thing. I worry about what people will think of me if I am truthful about my biases. I worry about my lack of awareness when it comes to the inequality people of color experience.  What if my naivety leads me to offend someone?  What if, in trying to build a bridge with people of color,  I make things worse?   And so, I hesitate and stammer while the dialogue in my head runs mad, judging what I’ve said or haven’t said:  am I making a mess of things, or am I helping to make things better in at least some small way? WHAT IS THE RIGHT THING TO SAY?  Even as I write this, I worry about choosing the right words so much that it tends to keep me from getting to the heart of the matter. And the heart of the matter is that we have to overcome our discomfort and engage in sincere dialogue if we are going to continue to cripple racism in our country.

Source: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/a32734555/how-to-talk-to-friends-family-racism/

The other day, as if the universe knew I needed some direction, I came across some familiar words from Maya Angelou.  I had read these particular words many times before, but this time, I walked away with something new.  You will probably recognize these words, too:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

As Oprah Winfrey used to say, I had an ‘AHA moment!’ In those few words was the road map I needed to navigate my way through conversations about racism. The key is to focus on how I am making others feel as we discuss racial injustice and inequity.  First and foremost, am I conveying my respect for others’ thoughts, opinions, and experiences?  Am I listening with a mind that is open to listening and learning? When I speak, am I offering something beneficial to the conversation?  Am I willing to be vulnerable about my personal truths, some of which disappoint me, so that what I share is meaningful?  While my words may be jumbled and lacking, do people walk away and trust that I am sincere in wanting things to change for the better?

Talking about racism is not easy.  It makes us face hard, ugly truths.  Most people like me find themselves genuinely understanding for the first time how alive and well racism is today – that its tentacles are fierce and its roots run deep.  Our only way to win against racism’s hold on us is to come together and have these tough conversations because that is where change begins.  What may be uncomfortable for a bit is worth the reward. Can you imagine how good it would be to feel closer to people rather than at odds with them?  Can you imagine what it would be like to see our country pulling for one another rather than against one another?

If you find yourself wanting to help end racism but struggle to talk about it, or if you find yourself wanting to learn more about racism, consider participating in Brownicity’s What Lies Between Us workshop. The workshop offers a wonderful atmosphere to learn and grow and talk about how we end racism.   And, yes, there may be awkward moments when we face our own biases or when we struggle to find the right words to express ourselves, but at the end of every session, we say this phrase to remind ourselves why it is worth it:  MAY WE BE PEOPLE OF PEACE, WITH VOICES OF HOPE, WHO ARE WILLING TO DO THE HARD WORK OF LOVE.  

What LIES Between Us is offered three ways:

  1. On-demand, self-paced. Simply enroll
  2. Live, in-person or Zoom. Subscribe to Brownicity’s newsletter to know when live offerings are available. Go to Brownicity.com, scroll down to CONNECT, and subscribe.
  3. Individual study. Purchase the book and access the WLBU Resources (Free)
https://join.brownicity.com/collections/what-lies-between-us. Choose the option that works best for your learning style and schedule.

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Tracey is a blog contributor for Brownicity. Her background includes training and organizational development, employee relations, and corporate recruiting in Charlotte’s banking industry.  A wife and mother of two daughters, Tracey began her racial healing journey when she participated in What Lies Between Us in 2018.  She was moved to participate in the workshop as her concern grew about the number of police shootings where unarmed black men were killed.  Colin Kaepernick’s  kneeling during the singing of the national anthem solidified her desire to learn and do more about ending racism.