Someone Said I Did A Racism; Now What? A Guide

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It’s the final day of Black History Month!
The past month has seen a number of high-profile figures being criticized for saying or doing racist things. In most cases that I saw, those in the spotlight made matters even worse by their responses. Have you wondered how you would respond in the same circumstance?
Nobody wants to think of themselves as racist. But the fact is, being raised in a racist society means that some of the time, we will all do or say some racist things, despite meaning well and often without even realizing it.
So what do you do if someone points out that what you have said or done is racist? Here is a guide.
1. First of all, hold that initial impulse to argue. Before you say anything, take a breath and pause for several seconds. If you must speak, say something like, “Okay. I need to think about this.”
2. On the emotional side, contain your defensiveness: Doing or saying a racist thing doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a bigot or a terrible person. Most people doing racist things are not bigots. It does mean that a piece of (very common!) racist conditioning has come up and it’s an opportunity to work on that and heal. If you are a person with a conscience and a heart, it will probably hurt to hear. That means your conscience and your heart are working! But try not to take this criticism as an attack. (This is hard!)
3. Recognize that your intention doesn’t excuse the outcome: If I run over your foot with my truck, it doesn’t matter whether I mean to or not. Your foot is going to be hurt–possibly broken. The same is true of racist acts and words. The vast majority of racism is unintentional, and it is injurious to others just the same.
So it’s okay if you find yourself saying “I didn’t mean to…” But recognize that is only the beginning, and only a tiny piece of the issue. It’s not an apology.
4. Try simply apologizing unconditionally and without a long explanation. It’s okay to say something like “I’m sorry. I see that was ugly.”  If this sounds hard (it is, emotionally speaking), try preparing by reviewing and practicing before this ever comes up, so you won’t be frozen or outraged if it happens. You may also want to review what not to do!
5. Manage your own feelings: This is really the hardest part.
Most of us, if not all, will feel defensive, hurt, attacked, misunderstood, guilty, sad, scared, angry, or some combination of the above. But those feelings are yours to manage, and you are strong enough to hold them.
Remember, the other person is not responsible for making you feel better for having hurt them, or to give you absolution. It’s especially important to let them have their feelings of upsetness without trying to talk them out of it or to burden them with the emotional work of reassuring you about it. That places additional work on them when they are already burdened with the hurt of racism, and it is unfair.
If you need to vent your feelings about this (which is healthy!) find someone else to talk with, preferably a racially conscious White friend or even a counselor. You may also want to journal, cry privately, read, pray, or meditate, just as you would with any other painful or uncomfortable feelings that you are processing.
6. What if they are wrong? Short answer: they’re not. Even though you didn’t mean it that way.
Think about it: if you are a White woman, haven’t you seen men doing sexism even when they didn’t realize it? Or they dismissed it? If you are a White person who is LGBT: haven’t you seen hetero people being homophobic or transphobic and then saying how much they love LGBT folks? Low-income people, haven’t you heard rich people talk about poor people like they really don’t matter at all in the ultimate equation? Yet if you asked them, they would probably say they like people generally, and had nothing against any particular poor person.
The worst judge of an -ism is the person committing it, and racism is no exception.
7. Don’t be discouraged from working on race issues: Pick it back up when you have healed. Think about your motives. Are you working on unlearning racism because it’s the right thing to do, or to get approval and recognition from people in a marginalized group? Work on race issues because you want to improve society, whether or not any specific BIPoC likes you (or you them). Unlearning is a lifelong process.
8. Develop authentic friendships: It is always more emotionally risky for a BIPoC to have a White friend than the other way around. So make yourself available, be friendly and helpful insofar as you are able, but remember that no one owes you friendship, no matter how nice you are to them. To borrow an analogy, friendship is not a vending machine.
For additional thoughts about interracial friendship, visit this thread:

PS: Whatever you do, resist the urge to do a “not all White People,” –no really, do not do a “not all White People.”

 

Civil Rights Progress: Natural Hair Finally Protected Legally

Natural hair finally accepted in 2019 as a legal right in NYC:

 

Birthday of Rosa Parks

Today is the 106th anniversary of the birth of Rosa Parks.

Dolly Chugh reviews The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks for Forbes. She describes why this should matter to your organization (and everyone’s!)

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Acceptance: Making People into Trees

Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert) expresses acceptance of self and others with a beautiful metaphor:

 

“…when you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”

Remember, emotional and cognitive skills take practice just as physical skills do. Many of us have years or decades of practice in thinking destructively and judgmentally! So practice a little self-acceptance today, and then again tomorrow, and the next day…

 

“So You Want to Talk About Race”

Discussing race: “Be Uncomfortable A Lot!”

In honor of Black History Month, I will begin livetweeting Seattle writer Ijeoma Oluo’s book, “So You Want to Talk About Race.” It will take as long as it takes, but today is a great day to start!

This is an accessible and important read. I hope you will join me in reading or follow along in reading and discussion.

Twitter thread begins here.

For more of Ijeoma Oluo’s writing, see her writing page.

For a bit of background on Ijeoma Oluo’s perspective on race, this KUOW page has a brief archived podcast and transcript.

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PHOTO CREDIT: NED AHRENS, KING COUNTY

 

Honoring Black History Month

Check out upcoming events on the Lancaster Black History Month events calendar!

 

Support Black Women’s mental health:

And watch some better entertainment!

Let’s Celebrate MLK Day 2019

The famous speech “I have a dream” is what many remember the Baptist preacher Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for, but there is more to his legacy. The activist led the civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until he was assassinated in 1968. MLK was greatly responsible for the passing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act for African Americans, both in the mid-1960s. We now celebrate his life and achievements every third week in January, just days after his actual birthday, January 15.

Today we would like you to remember and celebrate what he has done to pave the way for our future and rights. It’s not just a day off from school or work.

You can celebrate with different events today in Lancaster. United Way is encouraging you to engage with the community in acts of service (link below). The YWCA Lancaster is hosting many for children 3-12 (link below). BOTH FREE to the public. Just remember you don’t need a holiday to get out and help your community.

UNITED WAY-  https://uwlanc.galaxydigital.com/aem/general/event/?doc_id=5246&fbclid=IwAR3krkPD5dqggT22f79fyCy6l2jjDBDKLTao0OXIse7MmBgwXcj8llT359k

YWCA Lancaster- https://ywcalancaster.org/mlkday/

-Jessica Yingling, Administrative Manager