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How To Talk About Race

By Dustin Washington
June 24, 2020
how to start a conversation about race

Racism. 

For many, the word conjures feelings of unease, anxiety, pain, and suffering. Despite the negative emotions associated with racism, it’s important that we understand racism, how it works, and why it remains pervasive in order to address it. We’re often asked, “how do I talk about race?” To have a productive conversation on racism, we first have to understand what racism is.

What is Racism?

Racism is more than a slur or poor treatment based on the color of someone’s skin. Racism is more complex. It is a social construct designed to undermine and interrupt human solidarity

Racist ideology was originally constructed to control labor and has been sustained through a belief system that is rooted in false superiority and inferiority. This belief system resides in our subconscious, having been passed down between multiple generations.

What does racism affect?

Racism affects everyone.

All people of color, especially black and indigenous people, are affected by systemic violence, inequitable access to systems and institutions, and constant psychological and emotional trauma.

The effects of racism, however, aren’t limited to people of color.

Although white people may not suffer the same systemic abuse and psychological trauma, they are not immune to the ills of racism. Racism creates within white people a false sense of superiority which ultimately separates them from the human family.

Unable to connect fully with the human family, racism limits emotional, spiritual, and even economic development.

How Does Racism Shape Our Experience?

why have a conversation about race

Racism primarily shapes our relationship with ourselves. Victims of racism may suffer from self-doubt or even question their worth. Since racism inhibits our ability to develop full and healthy relationships with ourselves, victims of racism may engage in self- and collectively-destructive behaviors.

Racism isn’t limited to individuals, but rather, it has a significant impact on communities. Racism impacts every facet of our lives from healthcare to economic status.

Victims of racism may suffer from lower life expectancy, while children who are born victims of racism may have higher infant mortality rates. Communities that are derived from a racist society often suffer from conditions that contribute to poor health outcomes.

For instance, marginalized communities are more likely to be food deserts where its residents lack access to affordable, nutritious food. Even more, marginalized communities may also lack access to basic resources such as clean air and water.

Why should we talk about racism?

why talk about race

We should discuss racism so that we can develop stronger connections to the human community. Since racism disempowers both its victims and purveyors, it limits our ability to become our fullest selves. So, talking about racism is necessary for us to advance and develop a healthier society.

When we begin to have a sober conversation about racism, we break the first of many fibers that keep us from creating a new society that embodies our human values.

how do we talk about racism?

Beginning the discussion about racism is about self-discovery. In order to have a productive discussion about racism, we must commit to identifying our blindspots and being open to learning without judgment. Although racism causes pain and suffering, it’s important that we discuss racism through a connection to our spiritual power.

By channeling our spiritual power, discussing racism can help us mend damage done to the human community through generations of racism and assume a new level of responsibility for creating a society that is based in love, healing, and equity for all.

Do the work!

1) Your family is the institution with which you’re most closely connected. Start there. Become familiar with your family’s history as it relates to race and racism. Explore how that history has shaped your family’s connection to the broader human community. Have an honest discussion with your family and friends about what you learned.

2) Revisit the messages you received about race and racism from the media, education system, religion, and your family. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Whose humanity was inflated or diminished through those messages?
  • How have I normalized these toxic messages?
  • How do these messages impact my humanity today?

3) Work with others to develop a solution that helps eradicate racism and oppression from the human family.


Ready to take the first step? Learn how you can have a responsible conversation about race and racism.


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