It will help you gain insight, awareness, and conscientiousness.
A pandemic is a disease that spreads across countries and affects a large number of people. We know it all too well with Covid-19 which is devastating the world. Racism shares similar elements as how destructive and pervasive it is in our society. It damages not only those people affected by it but society as a whole. It is sad that it took a cluster of public injustices and travesties in the US to bring it back to the forefront. It needs to stay there.
The discomfort of facing these inequities is visceral but necessary. We must feel, face it, and take action to change and heal. Fully facing ourselves and having difficult conversations with ourselves and others is hard and is likely to bring up uncomfortable feelings. This requires us to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. We don’t have any other choice. The integrity of life in our society depends on it.
Facing Ourselves is the Most Important Step to Take
The first and most important step to take to eradicate racism is facing ourselves and noticing our personal part in it. It is easy to deny something we are unaware or shameful of, but realistically, based on our sociocultural and neurocognitive development, we all come with personal biases and prejudices. It makes sense, as how we were raised and how are mind functions impacts directly on our perceptions and assumptions.
Our mind feverishly works to help provide safety and ward off discomfort. “Other” people can be perceived as dissimilar, unfamiliar, unpredictable, and frightening. The messages we hear and learn societally reinforces our ingrained reluctance to accept “others” who are different.
Our mind naturally categorizes and classifies. We justify why we think and feel something because it easily fits our negativity bias. It gives us a false sense of security because we “know” what to expect and provides us with a template for how to think, feel and behave. These are 400 years of deeply rooted false and habituated beliefs and behaviors.
Looking to Make Changes at the Systemic, Structural, Institutional, and Individual Levels
The change needs to be seen at the systemic, structural, institutional, and individual levels. A good place to start is to look deep within ourselves to understand our insight and awareness and how we behave based on our beliefs. This needs to be different or we are at risk of getting stymied and perpetuating our destructive behaviors. There is no room for that. Let us start here at assessing our insight, awareness, and behaviors.
Insight & Awareness:
- Do you value diversity and human difference as positive or negative? Why?
- Do you have a clear sense of your own ethnic, cultural, and racial identity? If yes, what is it? If no, what gets in the way?
- Does your identity have intersecting identities drawn from your race, sex, religion, ethnicity, etc. and what is the importance to you of each of these identities?
- Is there any secrecy, shame or guilt attached to your identity? If yes or no, what contributes to this?
- Is there discomfort or avoidance in discussing your identity? If yes or no, what contributes to this?
- Is there discomfort when encountering, communicating or being with individuals or groups of different races, colors, religions, sexual orientation, language, and ethnicities, etc.? If yes, what type of discomfort (e.g., physical, emotional, etc.)?
- What are the thoughts, feelings, and assumptions (i.e., may be habituated because of the way in which you were taught, socialized, and led to believe) that get evoked, and how do you behave on behalf of those thoughts, feelings, and assumptions? What is your understanding of why you may have that reaction?
- Do you generalize about a specific behavior presented by an individual to their entire cultural community? For which group? If yes, what generalizations do you make? Why do you think that is?
- Are there within-group differences that you observe and experience in a group you are affiliated with, one you know of, or one that you are aware of or observed? What are your thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and assumptions regarding the differences? Have you or are you open to inquiring and understanding the differences? How have you or will you seek to accomplish this?
- When thinking about yourself and interacting with others, do you understand and exercise sensitivity regarding the impact of culture on your and others lives (e.g., family roles, child-rearing, healthcare and healthcare practices, perception of time, eye contact, etc.)? How do you understand and extend yourself due to this understanding?
- How has your cultural perspectives influence your point of reference and/or judgment about what’s “appropriate,” “normal,” or “superior” behaviors, values, and communication styles?
- In your lifetime and in the past, can you recall incidences where stereotypical attitudes and discriminatory actions dehumanized, and/or encouraged violence against individuals because of their membership in a certain group? How did you think or feel about it? Did it compel you to take action in any particular way? What do you retrospectively think or feel about it? Would you behave any differently?
- Are you aware of your biases/stereotypes as they arise and have developed personal strategies for challenging them?
- Do you have knowledge and reflect on how your culture and identity informs your judgment and decision making?
- How open and curious are you at accepting uncertainty, ambiguity, and unfamiliarity? If this is relatively challenging for you, how do you directly and proactively work on this?
- How readily do you challenge generalizations made by you or others regarding an individual or wider cultural community? Why do you think that is? How do you think you could challenge these assumptions and beliefs?
- How often do you take opportunities to put yourself in situations where you can learn about people different than yourself? Is it as often as you would like to? If not, what gets in the way following through? If you do, how do you specifically carry it out?
- How often do you take time to create relationships with people who are different than yourself? Is it as often as you would like to? What gets in the way of facilitating this?
- How open and willing are you to committing to learning about difference, biases, stereotypes, discrimination, the “ism’s” (racism, sexism, etc.), etc. as it is an evolving lifetime commitment? If it is limited, what gets in the way of your openness? Do you want to change that or not? How would you go about doing that?
- Have you effectively intervened or have confidence that you would intervene if others were behaving in a racist or discriminatory manner? Why or why not? How might you go about getting involved?
- Have you or are you willing to accommodate or demonstrate respect for other individuals needs based on their identity (e.g., food preferences/needs, traditions, style of communication, etc.)? If yes, how have you done that and what would you need to do in order to assure that continually?
- Do you seek out people who challenge you to increase the cross-cultural awareness and skills you have? If not, what keeps you from doing so? If yes, how do you do this?
- Are you engaged to any extent with advocacy initiatives that promote awareness, understanding, or facilitation of progress or change for marginalized or discriminated against individuals and/or groups? If yes, what compels it? If not, what keeps that from happening? What further would you like to be involved in? How are you going to initiate this?
We can never truly get someone else’s plight, because each and every one’s experience is unique and personal. If we can tap into our compassion and empathy for ourselves, we’ll be more equipped to offer it to others who need and fundamentally deserve it.
This is just a start. We additionally need to work toward not “tolerating,” but valuing and appreciating cultural diversity and differences at the gut level. We must educate our children from the onset about validating and valuing ALL others. Fairness, justice, inclusivity, and mutual respect must be the new norm.
If we have a challenging time reprogramming our habitual perceptions, assumptions, and behaviors, we must find ways to look within, educate ourselves (see the plethora of resources below), and proactively work toward conducting ourselves differently. Like any fundamental systemic, institutional, and individual changes that occur, it requires collectivism, unwavering effort, and unrelenting persistence.
Every person has the right to be seen, heard, and their needs addressed. We all breathe the same and bleed the same. Sadly, it is our mind that divides us. We must make the choice to take direct immediate action. It entails that every person be proactive, as a threat to anyone’s rights, is a threat to all our rights.
Please See Below for an Eradicating Racism and Honoring Dr Martin Luther King Jr Guided Meditation and A Comprehensive List of Anti-Racism Resources.
Blog as posted in Psychology Today.
Various Resources on Racism:
Resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children:
Articles to Read:
America’s Racial Contract Is Killing Us” by Adam Serwer | Atlantic (May 8, 2020)
My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant by Jose Antonio Vargas | NYT Mag (June 22, 2011)
The 1619 Project (all the articles) | The New York Times Magazine
The Intersectionality Wars by Jane Coaston | Vox (May 28, 2019)
Who Gets to Be Afraid in America? by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi | Atlantic (May 12, 2020)
Videos to Watch:
How Studying Privilege Systems Can Strengthen Compassion | Peggy McIntosh at TEDxTimberlaneSchools (18:26)
Podcasts to Subscribe to:
Books to Read:
Black Americans by Alphonso Pinkney
Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins
Black Wealth/White Wealth by Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro
Code of the Street by Elijah Anderson
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Dr. Brittney Cooper
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
How to Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
How to be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal M. Fleming
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington
Race and Racisms: A Critical Approach by Tanya Maria Golash-Boza
Racism without Racists by Eduaerdo Bonilla-Silva
Racist America by Joe R. Feagin
Raising Our Hands by Jenna Arnold
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Ethnic Project by Vilna Bashi Treitler
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
The Hollywood Jim Crow by Maryann Erigha
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander
The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century
by Grace Lee Boggs
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color by Cherríe Moraga
Two-Faced Racism by Leslie Houts Picca and Joe R. Feagin
When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America by Ira Katznelson
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, PhD
White Rage by Carol Anderson
Films and TV Series to Watch:
13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 — Available to rent
Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu) — Available to rent
Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix
Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent
I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy
If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu
Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to rent
King in The Wilderness — HBO
See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol) — Netflix
Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Available to rent
The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
Organizations to Follow on Social Media:
Antiracism Center: Twitter
Audre Lorde Project: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
Black Women’s Blueprint: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
Color of Change: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook