This is part two of “To my white friends and colleagues.” There is lots of regret going around regarding peeling back rampant, systemic racism.
Which is good. And bad.
It’s good because we are finally waking up to people of color’s horrible realities due to racism. It’s bad if regret only stays there and doesn’t move to taking action.
Last week I wrote the first part of this post: To my white friends. I talked about What do you carry (11 cabbages & a grudge against your father for never coming back?).
We’re carrying around a lot of stuff. Including misplaced beliefs that race is part of culture. Race isn’t part of culture because race is a physical characteristic.
BUT how we respond to race is definitely framed by our culture.
And culture is learned which means we can unlearn damaging lessons about race absorbed over the years.
Here are four ways to unlearn racism:
1. Enhance your perspective, your worldview
I was listening to “The Frankenstein Factor: Inventors Who Regret Their Inventions,” an Under the Influence, CBC Podcast recently and was intrigued to learn that the Wright Brothers used to have a bicycle shop where loud arguing could frequently be heard. Turns out the brothers were arguing the opposite opinion of what they believed. Considering how inventive they were, this is good advice.
Expand and enhance your perspective and worldview by turning things upside down and inside out. Look at things from all angles, even and especially the ones you don’t agree with.
2. Be aware of the invisible lenses we all wear
We all wear invisible lenses that affect what we consider ‘normal, natural, and true’… and what we believe is awkward, foreign, unusual, or unimportant. The easiest example of these invisible lenses that frame our world is physical space. Have a person stand “too far” from you while speaking, or get “too close” and you immediately know what your normal is.
Check out how I was aware of my lenses and reframed an awful situation; An unusual Happy Valentine’s Day gift for you based on a true story with a twist and then practice doing it yourself.
3. Increase your mental flexibility, self-awareness, and open-mindedness
Unlearn, relearn, and get creative about it. Use examples like this one, for increasing your ability to be mentally flexible and affect social change; How to get people to stop peeing on your walls…
4. Learning is hard
Lean in and know this is hard. But if we’re motivated, that helps pave the way. Here’s a small example of the role of motivation: Tipsy fridges that tip learning over the top
There you have it. Some grist for going against the grain of systemic racism. Enhance your perspective/ your worldview, be aware of the invisible lenses you wear, increase your mental flexibility so you can affect social change, and know it’s gonna be hard.
And practice practice practice. Stand up. Have those hard, cringy conversations. And we can and will find our way through this. We must. It will take soul-baring work and broken hearts, but together we will rise. Together.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead.
- Educate yourself with these scaffolded anti-racist resources
- Be aware of the invisible lenses we all wear. Here’s an example; An unusual Happy Valentine’s Day gift for you based on a true story with a twist
- Increase your mental flexibility, self-awareness, and open-mindedness; How to get people to stop peeing on your walls…
- Learning is hard but being motivated helps: Tipsy fridges that tip learning over the top
- Take the implicit bias test on racism
- The struggle is real folks. But with some time and practice and hard work, we’ll get there.
- Share the resources above with a friend and/or colleague.
- Support incredible work of Abhi Ahluwalia and his excellent Unlearn site, Lama Rod Owen and others
- And next time you hear a racist comment, stand up, take a stand, and take action.
(posted with permission from a reader who emailed me)
I’m glad to see that you are engaging with your network around these important issues of race, racism, and privilege. It is so important right now that all of us participate in the dialogues about where we go from here, and what our roles have been, individually and collectively, in creating and strengthening systems that privilege some over others. So, good on you for creating a space for some of that dialogue to happen!
I wanted to respond to something you wrote in your blog. I think it’s important that you are emphasizing how our response to race is framed by culture. When we see that these responses are cultural, we begin to understand that they are choices that can be made–and unmade–albeit with some difficulty. (Margaret Mead said that culture changes one death at a time; says something about how hard cultural change can be!).
However, I think it’s really important to clarify that race is NOT biological. When you wrote that race is a physical characteristic, it suggests that race is biological. The consensus of the scientific community (including anthropologists who study culture) is that race has no biological basis. To try to draw distinctions between races based on physical characteristics, is (according to the American Anthropological Association) “both arbitrary and subjective”. Here’s something from the American Anthropological Association that will make your head pop (in a good way!):
“Evidence from the analysis of genetics (e.g., DNA) indicates that most physical variation, about 94%, lies within so-called racial groups. Conventional geographic “racial” groupings differ from one another only in about 6% of their genes. This means that there is greater variation within “racial” groups than between them.”
Race is not a neutral concept. There is no scientific basis for it. It is a social construct intended to privilege some groups over others. It has been used to keep Blacks out of housing or schools, to herd Jews to death camps, and in millions of other hurtful, hateful ways.
I, too, am grappling with these issues, and having conversations with my networks, and trying to find ways to harness the momentum of the protests and marches. It’s up to each of us to keep the fires burning, so we can see our way through the darkness.
Thanks for being part of the conversation!
Carole MacNeil, Ph.D.
Principal, MacNeil & Associates Consulting
and Research Affiliate, Community Engagement, Design, and Research Center (CEDaR) at University of Colorado Boulder