As the topic of racial reconciliation continues to prevail through our media, the necessity for healthy racial discussion becomes more and more obvious. These conversations can be challenging, controversial topics to host, making them generally avoided because we’ve never been taught how they should be conducted. Unfortunately, there is no perfect blueprint to lead these conversations. However, if you’re seeking guidance, there are certainly good signs and bad signs to look for when you begin these discussions. Some of these signs can be spotted by honestly reflecting on the following questions:
1. What role do I play in this conversation?
Reflecting on your role previously prepares you for what can be an intimidating discussion and can help guide your conduct.
Am I hosting or am I in the position of being educated?
As the conversation host you hold a responsibility to listen respectfully, have patience, and ensure the conversation continues to be productive. On the other hand, perhaps you are less versed in the unique facets of racial history and you’re in the position of a student. In this role, it is your job to acknowledge areas of ignorance, ask questions, and of course, learn.
If you are the host, I ask you to reflect:
Is the person opposite of me as educated in racial facets?
Though learning will occur in any position you happen to play, you may know more than the person opposite of you. If you do, it is important to know the other person’s range of knowledge and be able to lead the conversation without sounding like you are preaching to them.
Am I in an emotional position to calmly talk about my racial worldview with another person whose views might differ from my own?
Can you hear something you might disagree with and handle it with love? If the person opposite to you says something that doesn’t sit right, are you capable of pointing out the inaccuracy without attacking them? Will you continue to be able to teach with love and patience? Being a host requires continual calmness and emotional maturity. It’s not easy, but I promise it’s possible!
What parts of my racial narrative are painful? If these wounds are reopened, am I emotionally mature enough to not transfer that pain to the other person?
In our vigor to see racial reconciliation, sometimes instead of acknowledging and treating the hurt racism has caused, we can end up transferring our pain to others. It is important to recognize our pain in order to healthily express it.
Is the person I’m talking to willing to learn?
If the answer to this question is no, you can answer any questions, have conversations, but if they are unwilling to learn, it is your responsibility to wipe the dust off and move on. It is not worth sharing our deep values with ears that aren’t ready to learn.
What more do I have to learn?
Sometimes, when we take the role of teacher, we can easily convince ourselves that we know it all. But we do not. Racial reconciliation is based upon learning and embracing others’ unique perspectives and requires an openness to learn. Humbleness is also equally important because we do not want to alienate those opposite of us and thus lose our opportunities.
If you are the student:
Am I willing for my views, my comforts, to be challenged?
If your answer is no, then this conversation won’t go very far. If you’re not willing to be challenged, for your views to be called into question, it simply means that this makes you uncomfortable. And that’s completely totally normal. It takes time, but if you’re willing, soon your answer to this question will change, and that’s your green light!
Does the person I’m having this conversation with have a healthy racial worldview?
As a learner, it is important to learn from someone healthy! Ask yourself:
Does this person openly admit to their limited perspectives and biases?
Do they seek mutual growth during these conversations?
Do they have a diverse social circle?
Do they use respectful terms that reinforce a person's/group’s value?
If these all sound like your person, then they sound quite healthy! The biggest most important quality of a healthy teacher is that they do not leave you feeling ashamed for your developing racial journey. If they do, please do not continue these types of conversations with that person.
What previous experiences in my life have shaped some of the mindsets I hold?
Reflecting on what has shaped our mindsets is powerful - what has shaped what you believe? Knowing the roots of your mindsets allows you to better communicate why you hold a certain view, and discussions will allow you to reflect on if that association is healthy or not.
How has racism hurt me personally?
Everyone has been hurt by racism. Everyone. We carry deep, inflicted wounds from the racial injustice that have influenced our lives. Knowing how racism has hurt you personally allows you room for both empathy and healing.
The topic of racial reconciliation isn’t an easy one - the discussions aren’t always going to be comfortable and they require a willingness to let go of previous mindsets. But, in learning how to have these discussions, we cultivate a healthier racial worldview and perhaps in turn, can share this growth with others. My friends, there is so much healing to be had in this topic, and I hope your reflections help you pursue the beauty and the growth that discussion on racial reconciliation can provide.