By The Kinswomen: Yseult Polfliet and Hannah Summerhill
Conversations about race can feel awkward, and as a result, they’re often avoided. Conversations across race can even feel taboo. But if you’re in close proximity with people of other races, it’s important to regularly engage in conversations on race.
Here are some guidelines for making transparent and respectful cross-racial dialogue the norm:
Recognize that discomfort and “getting it wrong” are part of the process.
Whether you’re looking to start conversations at work or within your personal life, first recognize that it will feel uncomfortable to talk about race — like you’re breaking all kinds of status quos and social contracts.
Know that the discomfort and long silences are part of the process, and are no reason to give up. Mindfully choose who you engage with: if it’s a person of color, they might not feel comfortable enough to open up, or may not want to hear about your journey.
Make sure that the white point of view is not the only — nor the most important — voice in the process. Expose yourself to diverse points of view in the spaces that you occupy; one voice cannot speak for all.
Listen deeply, without defensiveness.
Sometimes it’s hard to hear people describe their lived experiences. There may be a reflex to assure people that their pain “isn’t personal,” or that “not all people are like that,” or you might even take it personally. When people are brave enough to share their experiences, we must listen, set aside the ego, and validate.
Refrain from centering yourself, even if you’re part of someone’s shared experience. Take responsibility for your own impact.
Create a respectful, intentional container.
The Kinswomen started with a monthly gathering, where we’d meet with white friends and friends of color to sit in a circle and talk about race. The goal of the group was clear: to break down the gaps between women of color and white women. When the evening would end, attendees left with a sense of relief, catharsis, and expanded awareness.
Honor the time that change takes.
Just like any relationship, creating a space for honest cross-racial dialogues requires trust, communication, consistency, and time.
Look inward and commit to life-long anti-racism learning.
Be honest with yourself about your own belief systems, and never stop learning (and un-learning), so that your impact on BIPOC can be positive.
To further engage with the Kinswomen, please join our Sun Session on 10/22 by signing up here. And for a deeper dive, the Kinswomen offer a 3-week anti-racism course called Allyship in Action — this work requires all of us!