The Path to Understanding Race: Curiosity, Respect, and Humility

Tracey McKee – April 23, 2024

I have been learning about race and racism for about five years now.  Police shootings, Black Lives Matter marches, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem made me stop and wonder what was happening in our country.  I was born white in 1970 in the South, and because racism seemed better than when I was a child, I naively thought we had evolved. I now know that while openly violent racist acts have declined, less obvious racism still has strong roots in our country.  

So, five years ago, I began a journey to ask questions and understand. As luck would have it, I found my way to Brownicity’s What Lies Between Us workshop, and it was a game changer. The only things I needed to participate in the course were a curious mind, a respectful attitude, and a dose of humility.

Have a Curious Mindset

Participating in What Lies Between Us started me not only on the journey of learning about racism, but also taught me wonderful skills for considering any issue.  The first step is to ask questions – and sometimes hard questions.  When we ask those questions, it is important to have a curious mindset. Having a curious mindset means being open to new ideas and information as well as unexpected answers to our questions; it avoids quick conclusions and snap judgments. Curiosity demands a willingness to engage earnestly with people who have different thoughts, perspectives, and opinions. A truly curious mind will lead you, at the very least, to a more thorough understanding of a problem, and at most, to a new way of seeing that problem.  Either way, it is a win.

Pursue Respect and Humility

But a curious mind can’t begin to truly delve into an issue unless it is supported by a respectful attitude and humility.  One of the things I loved the most about the time I spent in the What Lies Between Us workshop was the environment in which we learned.  Within the first few minutes of our gathering together, our facilitators created a safe learning atmosphere by discussing the need for us to respect one another.  Very few people have had experience talking about race/ism openly and honestly, and to do so requires a great deal of vulnerability. However, it is by being vulnerable with one another that we facilitate deep and meaningful discussions that begin the hard work of binding wounds.  Respect flows from humility, and to approach issues like racism, which are deeply emotional and have the potential to be divisive, we must be humble. We must remind ourselves that ours is a quest to learn and understand, not to be right or to dismiss others’ perspectives and experiencesHumility reminds us that we are part of a bigger whole.

What LIES Between Us workshops

You can make a difference!

Our world is riddled with complex problems. Many of these problems are so daunting that we find ourselves at a loss for how they can be remedied, and so before we even make an attempt, we talk ourselves out of helping to bring about change. Over the past several years, long-standing issues like racism, inequality, homelessness, and human trafficking, to name a few, have risen from simmering to boiling, and it has become harder to continue turning a blind eye.  If you have found yourself ready to take a step towards helping to bring about change, I encourage you.  Armed with a curious mind and ample respect and humility, you can make a difference!

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.

Read more from Tracey McKee