Some good things to remember if looking to have healthy and productive conversations about race and racism in America.
- State your intentions. Is there something in particular you are trying to communicate or understand? State what your intentions are, so that the people you are talking with can determine whether this is a conversation they are willing to join.
- Remember what your top priority in the conversation is, and don’t let your emotions override that. If your top priority is understanding racism better, or addressing an incident involving race, or righting a wrong caused by racism, don’t let the top priority suddenly become avenging your wounded pride if the conversation has you feeling defensive.
- Do your research. If you are a white person talking to a person of color, it is never their job to become your personal Google.
- Don’t make your anti-racism argument oppressive against other groups. We must be willing to fight oppression in all of its forms.
- When you start to feel defensive, stop and ask yourself why. If you are talking about race and you suddenly feel the need to defend yourself vigorously, stop and ask yourself, “What is being threatened here? What am I thinking that this conversation says about me?” and “Has my top priority shifted to preserving my ego?”
- Do not tone police. Do not require that people make their discussions on the racial oppression they face comfortable for you.
- If you are white, watch how many times you say “I” and “me.” Remember, systemic racism is about more than individuals, and it is not about your personal feelings. If you find yourself frequently referring to your feelings and your viewpoint, chances are, you are making this all about you.
- Ask yourself: Am I trying to be right, or am I trying to do better? Because your opponent isn’t a person, it’s the system of racism that often shows up in the words and actions of other people.
- Do not force people of color into discussions of race. People of color live with racism each and every day with no say over when and how it impacts their lives. It is painful and exhausting. When people of color have the rare luxury to choose to not engage in additional dialogue about race, do not deny them that. Even if this discussion is really important to you, you never have a right to demand it.
Excerpt from So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo