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Conversations About Race

8 Guidelines to Having Meaningful Conversations About Race at Brophy

 

Does the Brophy community need to talk about race and racism? Yes, we do.

Why does the Brophy community need to talk about race and racism? Recent events have shown that race is a topic that has been long overdue. Communities around the world have taken to social media and the streets to protest the unlawful, unjust treatment that occurs to individuals based on race. It is time for change, for learning, and for addressing racism in all its forms. Everyone at Brophy must be a part of that effort. It is not only just, it embodies our Catholic identity.

What is Brophy asking that we do regarding race and racism? The United States has a deep history of racism and oppression, and while some progress has been made, explicit and implicit racism still exist. Angela Davis said it best when she said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be antiracist”. Deconstructing implicit biases, preconceived notions about race, and working to educate yourself on relevant matters are steps that you can take towards breaking up systemic racism in our communities.

How can members of the Brophy community engage to become anti-racists? In conversation, in protest, in advocacy, in personal commitment. Creating purposeful dialogue on race helps to be better equipped in fighting injustices whether it is an encounter or something systemic.

Doesn’t Brophy recognize how uncomfortable these conversations and efforts will be? Yes. And, that will be the best evidence that God is working on each of us to become better women and men for and with others.

 

  1. Approach the conversation with respect. 

Race, racism, and the racial inequity it breeds are topics of discussion that can polarize a space very quickly. Respecting the person you are addressing, coming from a respectful place that is open and willing to listen and learn goes a long way to diffuse potential discord before it arises, and preserves space for meaningful dialogue. 

 

  1. Put aside your preconceptions.

This doesn’t mean personal experiences aren’t valid — it simply acknowledges that personal experience can’t possibly give the complete view of such complex issues. It is important to recognize and acknowledge the validity and reality of other peoples’ experiences.

 

  1. Examine your motivation. 

When having a conversation about race, it is important to be aware of your attitude and why you choose to be in the conversation in the first place. If you are ready to be part of change, and you want to understand racism better so that you can be a part of that change, then come on!”

 

  1. Acknowledge your privilege.

Privilege, loosely defined, is any unmerited or unearned advantage. In that sense, we all have experienced privilege. Part of the privilege associated with whiteness is the luxury of not having to consider one’s own race — let alone the disadvantages faced by many people of color.  John Powell hits the nail on the head when he says, “The slick thing about whiteness is that you can reap the benefits of a racist society without personally being racist.”. Understanding this privilege may equip you to help amplify the voices of those who face racial inequality. 

 

  1. Embrace the discomfort of not knowing.

On our way to new knowledge, we have to resign from a place of comfort and embrace the discomfort of not having all the answers. We don’t know what we don’t know. This is true in life and especially true when it comes to race. Software engineer Noah Kaplan says: “Recognize that you don’t have all the sides to a story or know everything. Be comfortable with the feeling of not understanding or knowing enough yet. Be comfortable changing your mind. Don’t let it hold you back — let it push you to learn more.”. 

 

  1. Find out what you don’t know.

Developing a strong understanding of race requires a combination of individual and group learning. We can all accomplish a lot on our own through offline and online resources. Articles, white papers, books, academic studies, webinars, and video series are out there just waiting to be discovered. The effort should go beyond personal conversations; dialogue is only the starting point in the effort to become educated and understanding of the complex topic of race. 

 

  1. Listen and be open to questions.

Genuine listening takes patience and effort. Spending the least amount of time listening necessary to come up with a solution or response doesn’t work in addressing racial inequity. It is important to seek out answers to questions that you don’t know, and be willing to be educated on topics that you are uninformed about. Never be afraid of questions. They aren’t disrespectful. Asking questions shows a willingness to learn and to understand. By asking questions, you are making a conscious effort to better yourself. 

 

  1. Commit yourself to change.

One easy way to start to start and continue conversion is by identifying whatever race-based bias you might implicitly hold pushing back in prayer, thought, and action to minimize them. We all have implicit bias – what will make a difference is acknowledging these biases and working to deconstruct them.