Many groups all over the world have suffered from the cruel eye of racism. The difficult reality we face today is that these racial stereotypes exist worldwide and are the clear root of the current unrest in our nation. Another painful reality to swallow is that these hurtful and inaccurate assumptions may be held by people you know: your employer, great aunt, or your son-in-law.
Some of us are blessed to have the privilege to be able to walk the streets without being questioned on why we belong there. But what does this privilege mean?
Literally, to have privilege means to have a special right, advantage, or entitlement, but today we understand it in a new light. It means that someone can walk into a store and not be followed due to the color of their skin. It means they can feel safe from verbal and physical threats out in public, while out on a run, and in their homes.
So again, what does this privilege mean, if not that we are to use our voice and the status gifted to us by the color of our skin to join the chorus of those shouting, “no more.”
Racial Injustice in the News
As many know, Minneapolis is the home of the late George Floyd, who was brutally assaulted and later killed by police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020. Floyd’s death sparked a national uproar over police brutality and human rights.
Other similar stories of racial profiling and police brutality have also plagued the news cycle. Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman, was shot eight times in her own home after three plainclothes narcotics officers forced entry. A month prior, a 25-year-old black man named Ahmaud Arbery was jogging near his South Georgia neighborhood when he was gunned down.
As protestors march on for the countless black lives lost, many cities continue to meet peaceful protestors with tear gas and rubber bullets. Many protestors have been taken to the hospital in critical condition due to countless officers using brutal force with no questions asked.
Many are wondering if and when such brutality and racial profiling will end. As more black lives are taken each month by police, the patience of the country is running thin.
How to talk about Racism
In light of all that’s happened, it is important to sit down with your friends and family and have difficult conversations, to seek opposing viewpoints, and to use conversations like these to grow and expand your understanding of the world.
It is incredibly unfortunate, however, that race and racism fit into this category, that it is not simply understood that black lives matter and that black culture is something that is meant to be celebrated not feared. In theory, a fact as simple as the color of your skin should not be hard to talk about. However, with how much racial disparity there is around the country, it’s clear that a nuanced understanding is necessary, and that this conversation should have been held long ago.
See what you can learn.
Educate yourself about the history and harmful effects of racial injustice that we still experience today. Consider this your call to action to learn about the ways our country has sought to separate (through segregation and redlining), silence (through gerrymandering and other means of keeping black people from voting), and subdue (through mass incarceration of people of color, racially-targeted drug wars, and police brutality) black people.
2. Start the conversation early.
Truly, it is important to start these conversations at a young age. After all, these hateful mentalities are learned. Start with your children. Purchase books that highlight systematic racism and the stereotypes that follow people of color. A good reading list to follow can be found on the American Library Association’s website called Unity, Kindness, and Peace.
3. Put a face to the suffering.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless others that have lost their lives to instances of racial injustice are a good place to begin when we have the conversation about race, but let’s not end there. Look to understand the everyday black experience of your neighbor, your co-worker, or your brother-in-law.
Seeking out open forums for your community, your neighborhood, at the local university, or in religious establishments may be important places where these conversations are already happening and helps to relate the experience to your everyday life.
4. Join the conversation online.
There are many ways to talk about racism and unjust acts of racial profiling. Social media is just one, simple step. If you don’t feel like you have anything to say yourself, it may be instead that you use the platform to educate yourself on various perspectives, and the latest information. Repost stories that mean something to you or that help you think about what’s happening in a new way.
As an added note, avoid needlessly playing into today’s “call-out culture” by seeking to insult, gang-up on, or ridicule those who do not hold the same views as yourself. Make no mistake, you do not help the cause if you make it a hostile and unsafe place for people to learn and grow. There is a way to educate others without shaming them outright, as rarely do others actually hear what we have to say when we back them into a corner of anger and defensiveness.
5. Lead with empathy.
We all may be affected in one way or another by what’s going on in the news. As we seek to have these conversations with others in our lives, remember that we can never truly understand the experiences of another person, but we can try. We can seek to understand why it may be offensive to call ourselves “colorblind”, or to claim that “all lives matter”, or to ask others to “stop making it about race”.
Yes, all lives do matter, but there is a longstanding history of injustice that black folks face on a daily basis. All lives will not be able to matter until black lives do.
During these crucial times of racial unjust, the time is now to dig deep into understanding the privilege that lies in the very fabric of this country.
The time is now to listen to the stories of heartache and pain of living in a broken system. Their voices have been waiting to be heard, waiting for a platform for others to listen and educate themselves.
The time is now to speak up about injustice. All it takes is one person to start the conversation. You can be that person.
If you need a safe place to work through some of your own thoughts or emotions related to your experience of the black lives matter movement, or are looking to otherwise understand your role, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today. It can be incredibly helpful to begin these conversations and insignificant as they may seem, through dialogue we can also begin to heal our nation.