I titled this piece “The Conversation” – that which is impending for some or already happening for others. The conversation concerning race which must be had and cannot be avoided.
Let me first introduce myself in a way that suggests my influence and approach on the matter of “The Conversation”. I am a black woman, born and raised in Ghana. I moved to Canada with my family as a teenager. I am a Christian; my views and approach to all things concerning life are influenced by my faith.
With attention being brought to the urgent problem of racial discrimination and injustice (for the ‘i-don’t-know-anymore’th time), black people are done staying quiet, and non-black people are navigating through the reality of the part they play in perpetuating it. This is what leads then to “The Conversation”.
Having found that working through emotions is a better course of action for my mental health, I decided to deal with my anger rather than sit on it and let it stew. I turned to past interviews, documentaries, and audios that focused on the matter of race; not going to lie, some had my blood boiling more while others really had me reflecting and thinking about what I can contribute, in my corner, towards change.
It has occurred to me that my biggest contribution would be my voice. In order to affect a solution, in a society like this, between blacks and non-blacks; there is going to have to be some meaningful dialogue.
I’d like to suggest a number of considerations to blacks and non-blacks in our approach to the matter of “The Conversation”:
I would suggest you approach “The Conversation” with this attitude:
· Recognize the complexity of racism as an interconnected system. Your view of racism as a bad thing solely based on individual actions or perceptions rather than systematic barriers does not exempt you from your contribution to racism. You have, in one way or another, invested in a system that serves the best interest of one people over another.
· Understand the meaning of “white fragility” and do not bring it to the conversations. Definition:
The inability to tolerate racial stress when the positions, perspectives, or advantages of white people are challenged. White fragility functions to block the challenge and regain white racial equilibrium. - Dr Robin DiAngelo
· Understand and respect that black people have first-hand knowledge when we speak about racism. We know what we are talking about because we live with it every day.
· Refrain from bringing questions like this to the table:
Why can’t we just focus on other things in a positive way and go forward, instead of remembering the things that are negative?
We could never close the gap created by systemic racism on a physical, mental, and economic level if we started right now without taking any action.
If the world does not remember, it is likely to repeat itself. It is important to remember and take steps towards improvement.· Recognize your lack of understanding on racism as being a result of your subconscious (or in some cases conscious) effort. Lacking understanding puts you in a position of not recognizing the existence of the problem.
· Take steps to educate yourself and be exposed to the accomplishments of black people in your information consumption (be it through social media, education, arts or other interests you might have).
Representation of black people in the media, books, schools, etc. is important. If the proper education were given to all races on the valuable contributions that black people have made towards the advancement of civilization, we could come away with a healthy respect and appreciation for one another.
· Seek permission from a black person before engaging in “The Conversation”. Understand blacks and non-blacks are coming into “The Conversation” at different stages. Life is still happening even with this heavy burden that black people have been made to bear for years. Please don’t interrupt our plans for the day without permission for a conversation as heavy as this.
When I say I fall into the bracket of black people who are not here for doing the homework of non-black people on the matter of racial discrimination... I am not here for it. In order to have “The Conversation” non-blacks need to do the homework of educating themselves and be properly informed on the problem of racism. That being said, I think it is important for us to go into discussion with this in mind:
Relinquish yourself of any self-righteousness if you are to call others to abandon their own destructive self-justifications of their bias (both active and implicit).
“I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me” - Terence (Publius Terentius Afer), Heauton Timorumenos, Act 1, scene 1, line 77
This does not mean diminishing the big and small contributions of non-black people to the problem, but rather realizing that because we are human, we are capable of the same faults.
I have in me all the components that are in her/him. I intend to use my energies constructively as opposed to destructively…If a human being dares to be bigger than the condition into which she/he was born, it means so can you. - Maya Angelou
“The Conversation” will be uncomfortable and awkward but let's get talking!! Let me know how it goes.
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