Dan Berry • August 15, 2023
Having a productive conversation with anyone about any subject will only happen if you have a basic understanding of the terminology that is included in said subject.
Here at Brownicity we have identified 43 different terms and their definitions that will help us all get on the same page when it comes to race related dialogue.
One term that has helped me grow in my journey is:
Just imagine a picture frame with no backing. As we journey through life we view our experiences through a frame that has been created over time. It’s how we see and understand things when they happen.
In this context, frame is an unconscious lens through which we view an issue or problem. Frames help us quickly make sense of complex information and then make individual and collective decisions on that basis.
Simply put, our life experiences create a frame through which we view and relate to life around us.
For example, when I grew up, I was told my whole life that if I worked hard and didn’t give up, my life would prosper and I would be able to do anything I wanted.
This became my frame! But the problem with that is, it’s not always true. What happens when you work hard and things don’t turn out the way you anticipated? I begin to think that I must not be working hard enough. Another thing that happens is we begin to make judgments about others that are struggling, tell ourselves, “Well if they just worked harder, their lives would be different!”
Can I say that working hard is not the only variable?
Our experiences create frames through which we view life.
Another example is I am a white male who was raised in a middle class home with a patriarchal hierarchy. I thought that was how everyone was raised. When I married a strong independent woman, everything began to change and my frame started to fall apart. I spent all my time trying to impose my frame on her instead of opening my heart to the fact that her frame was different from mine.
Not everybody’s frame is the same. In our diverse world, we have all come from different places and if we ever hope to embrace each other, we have to open our hearts and understanding to people’s experiences who are outside of our own. We can learn from each other if we allow our own frames to be challenged and expanded.
When it comes to race related conversations, maybe we would be better off if we stopped trying to impose our frame on others and just learn and listen.
Let’s get out of judgment and into curiosity
Gaining an appreciation and acceptance of others’ experiences will move us forward in this much needed healing process.
Dan Berry is the author of Navigating Diversity In Our Most Segregated Hour, a Certified Instructor for the What LIES Between Us and Confronting Whiteness courses, and advises individuals and organizations on how to take first steps toward racial healing through Bridge Building Solutions.
He has pastored for forty years in Iowa. After pastoring in predominantly white spaces for several years, he began to realize the need to bring about racial healing in the body of Christ. For the last 30 years he has worked to bridge ethnic and cultural divides, a work that has led him into confronting the churches complicity in upholding systems of racism.