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Tough Discussion Surrounding Racism

Originally posted on July 7, 2019.

Recently I read the book, “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.”

The topic surrounding race & racism can be hard…But needs to be discussed. These are the main points of the book, directly quoted by the author, Robin Diangelo, that I believe are most important. The entire book is important but these stuck out. Let’s start a discussion…

· One of the opening paragraphs by Diangelo: “I am a white woman. I am standing beside a black woman. We are facing a group of white people seated in front of us. We are in their workplace and have been hired by their employer to lead them in a dialogue about race. The room is filled with tension and charged with hostility. I have just presented a definition of racism that includes the acknowledgment that whites hold social and institutional power over people of color. A white man is pounding his fist on the table. As he pounds, he yells, “a white person can’t get a job anymore!” I look around the room and see forty employees, thirty-eight of whom are white. Why is this white man so angry? Why is he being so careless about the impact of his anger? Why doesn’t he notice the effect this outburst is having on the few people of color in the room? Why are all the other white people either sitting in silent agreement with him or tuning out? I have, after all, only articulated a definition of racism.”

· “How can I say that if you are white, your opinions on racism are most likely ignorant, when I don’t even know you? I can say so because nothing in mainstream US culture gives us the information we need to have the nuanced understanding of arguably the most complex and enduring social dynamic of the last several hundred years.”

· “To understand racism, we need to first distinguish it from mere prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice is pre-judgment about another person based on the social groups to which that person belongs…All humans have prejudice; we cannot avoid it.”

· “All systems of oppression are adaptive; they can withstand and adjust to challenges and still maintain inequality…These milestones – such as the recognition of same-sex marriage, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title 9, the election of Barack Obama – are, of course, significant and worthy of celebration. But systems of oppression are deeply rooted and not overcome with the simple passage of legislation…”.

· “Color-blind ideology makes it difficult for us to address these unconscious beliefs. While the idea of color blindness may have started out as a well-intentioned strategy for interrupting racism, in practice it has served to deny the reality of racism and thus hold it in place.”

· “I repeat: stopping our racist patterns must be more important than working to convince others that we don’t have them. We do have them, and people of color already know we have them; our efforts to prove otherwise are not convincing. An honest accounting of these patterns is no small task given the power of white fragility and white solidarity, but it is necessary.”

Diangelo’s book is very powerful. I highly suggest reading her book. The topic around race and racism is an urgent matter that needs to be discussed. The discussion needs to be real & authentic. No more sugar coating it. It has to happen soon, real soon!

Here are a few suggestions where to start (not in any particular order):

  • Set limits

  • Discuss shared values

  • Acknowledge the progress we have made (but also that there is still progress to be made)

  • Listen carefully

  • Agree to disagree

  • Embrace & communicate our racial, ethnic diversity

  • When communicating, be your authentic self

This is just a starting point and one that can be elaborated on. Remember that this is a very tough topic & one that we are finally starting to discuss truthfully, honestly, & out in the open. This will certainly be new to many people. But, by open and honest communication, we can start moving the needle surrounding the conversation about race and racism in the right direction.

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