Dear Landing: Creating Space for Conversations Around Racial Justice
As a non-Black person, I have always tried to consider my privilege in every aspect of my life. I’ve worked to educate myself, to speak up when someone makes an insensitive joke, and to generally maintain an awareness of racism in America. Over the past few weeks, I’ve realized that’s not enough. How can we open up space for impactful conversations around racial justice at home?
Working to Change
Dear Working to Change,
Thank you so much for asking this extremely poignant, and heavy question. The fight against racism and inequality hasn’t just appeared over the past few weeks, but it certainly is encouraging to see the movement gain momentum, and receive much needed support and attention from so many angles. The United States seems to be slowly waking up from a long nightmare, and you’re certainly right in thinking that much of the work to heal from that nightmare starts at home.
On his IGTV, actor and writer Brandon Kyle Goodman (@brandonkgood) discusses the importance of distinguishing between a “good ally” and an “effective ally” - highly recommend watching all of his videos, but that one feels especially relevant to this conversation. Many people hold good intentions, but the follow through, the ACTION is lacking in a lot of areas. Reading, learning, speaking, and being willing to admit the holes in your own understanding is a HUGE step in the right direction. As artist Cleo Wade (@cleowade) says “the world says to you: we need to end racism. Start by healing it in your own family.” So let’s break down how that work can start at home, in a real way.
1. Start At Your Dinner Table
When you sit down for dinner with your friends or family, or host socially distant happy hours or catch ups, there’s a huge opportunity to have conversations to accelerate your own understanding of racial inequality, and help each other learn and grow together. If you’re feeling awkward about starting those conversations, or don’t feel as though it’s “your place,” begin by un-learning that belief. If YOU - a well-intentioned, non-Black person - isn’t willing to step into that role, isn’t willing to be vulnerable, and to speak about how you can make change starting with yourself and your circle… how can we ever really move forward?
2. Intent vs. Impact
A good jumping off point for discussion is around intent vs. impact. Open up a conversation about how the intention to NOT be racist is not enough. And that intention is completely irrelevant if the impacts of your actions perpetuates and upholds a racist system. Start to consider how choices that you have made in the past may have impacted structural racism, and how you can start to change. This could be anything from the brands that you’ve chosen to support, to not really thinking the lack of diversity in your office is a problem, to a deep rooted and completely untrue belief that working hard is a sure fire path to success for anyone in America.
3. Understand The Importance of Tone
“Tone-policing” refers to the act of whitesplaining racism to people of color. It’s worth a Google, but the main idea is to make sure you aren’t telling people how they should feel about their own oppression, or assuming one Black person may feel a certain way because another Black person does. If you’re white and speaking to another white person about racism (i.e. your dinner table chat), the space is much more open for an effective discussion about what you’ve learned and how you’re going to act - just remember; much of what you are learning even now has been ingrained in the minds and souls of Black people since they were very young. It’s not your place to educate them on their own experience.
4. Reflect on And Share Your Own Experience
Talk about your privilege. Understand how your race or position has protected you. Use that information to build your empathy and compassion and teach others (your family, friends, children or your future children). Use your own life experiences to open your own eyes and the eyes of those in your circle. How has your race or position afforded you generational wealth? Admission to school? The presumption of innocence? Give it some real thought, and then talk about it.
5. Admit When You’ve Been Wrong
Reflecting on when you’ve made mistakes is another great way to learn from your own experience. Normalize personal growth when it comes to understanding racial inequality. Admitting your short-commings to friends and family will help them to feel more comfortable to admit their own, set aside the shame, and roll up their sleeves to do some real work to make change. Being vulnerable can be powerful, as long as you don’t let it get in the way of action.
6. Hold Space For Questions
Make it ok to ask questions amongst your friends and family. If you don’t know the answer, Google it. Find a book about it. Learn together.
7. Ask “Why”
Bring up an uncontested race related fact - (i.e. more Black men are in American prisons than white men), and then ask “why do you think that’s the case?” - keep asking why until the only answer left is “racism” - this will help to shed light on the roots and pervasiveness of systemic racism and structural inequality.
8. Change Perspectives
A big part of understanding racism is unlearning. Unlearning your existing understanding for something that you encounter every day is a great place to start. Start your conversation around the dinner table with ONE topic - i.e. cultural appropriation - and think about how it’s affected your life. If you find yourself saying “I’ve never thought about it that way,” you’ve succeeded in changing one of your perspectives.
9. Don’t Give Up When It’s Hard
These conversations are emotional. It’s hard to confront your own shame or shortcomings. Commit to the idea that change is possible, but also understand that it’s not possible without growth. Start by creating space for yourself, your friends, and your family to have these discussions and reflections, and then make a list of ACTIONS that you can take from these learnings. We’ve got a lot of work to do (make sure you’re registered to VOTE!)
It starts at home! We’d love to hear any feedback, reactions, ideas, and ACTION that you’re taking. Let us know @thelandinghome or via writing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yours in #CreatingSpace,
Miranda and The Landing Team