f you are a white ally, you listen to the messaging and you go back to your people, your company, your institution, your father and you share what you learned and heard. I don’t need you to feel my pain I need you to have influence with those who are responsible for my pain to help address the issues.” -Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of African and African American Studies at Duke University
I need you to have influence with those who are responsible for my pain. People, processes, and technology are the foundation of successful organizations. However, for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), encounters with pain originate from people, processes, and technology. BIPOC are often subject to microaggressions and overt racism that occur while visiting doctors, attending school, walking, driving, scrolling on social media, and more.
The burden of education and action cannot solely fall on the shoulders of the traumatized, who already carry a great weight. As allies, we can learn, we can unlearn, we can teach, and we can challenge in solidarity with other communities of color.
After building confidence with self-education and conversation skills, the next step is to determine who to engage with and in what way. A successful conversation depends on a number of factors, including those detailed below using the acronym VERDICT. The framework below can help you determine your approach to engaging an individual in a conversation about racism.
Venue | Is this the right location for a productive conversation? Are you in a private space, or surrounded by others? Are the surroundings more conducive to a shorter or longer conversation? Location can help set the tone for the conversation. A conversation in a public local coffee shop may be better suited for a shorter conversation compared to a conversation in a private living room.
Emotion | Do both parties have the mental/emotional capacity to engage? If either conversation partner has reached their mental or emotional limit, it is more difficult to evoke empathy and active listening from one another.
Furthermore, it is vital to evaluate your emotions with intersectionality. As an Asian-American woman with a post-secondary education, I recognize I have privileges that others do not. However, I also have been harmed by misogyny and racism. Intersectional emotional awareness can help me determine how I sustainably execute on these conversations without burning out.
Receptivity | How open is the person to discussion? Will they immediately push back, or are they open to new ideas? Will they respond better to a discussion filled with data or personal anecdotes? Set realistic expectations and have a contingency plan if they’re more closed off than anticipated.
Difficulty | Where is the person in their journey of understanding? Consider meeting people where they are at. Speaking the same language, literally and figuratively, will enable success in the conversation. Letters for Black Lives is a collective resource with translations of a letter directed towards non-English speakers. Defining terminology such as Model Minority, systemic racism, institutional racism, liberation, and more may need to be incorporated into your approach.
Intent | What is your goal? Is the purpose to win or to educate? Identifying the intent can help determine whether it’s best to call in vs. call out the individual for a particular conversation. Unless you are reacting to a racist remark by shutting it down, your intent should not be to win, but to understand, empathize, and educate. Furthermore, knowing your specific goal can help you determine length and tone for the conversation.
Closeness | What is your relationship to the person? What values does this person have, and how does it differ from yours? If you have a closer relationship with a person, you may have the opportunity to delve into an in-depth, serious conversation. In contrast, a conversation with a family member could be more prickly than a conversation with a friend. Use what you know about the person to your advantage to find common ground and breakthrough moments.
Time | Is the need immediate? Are there opportunities in the future? Urgency is the consideration here. If you have a relative who makes racist comments regularly, is it better to initiate the conversation immediately after their comment or schedule time to correct them in the future? How long will the conversation be? Finally, are you approaching these conversations with a sense of urgency? Holding off on a conversation to maximize effectiveness is one thing; holding off on a conversation because of discomfort or fear is another.
No matter how, when, or where you decided to engage; the most important thing is TO engage. We believe in spotlighting community experts. Below are resources to better prepare in having this conversation with family and friends. 1) Courageous Conversations About Race by Glenn E. Singleton 2) Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters By Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen, Roger Fisher 3) So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo 4) Want to Have Better Conversations About Racism With Your Parents? Here’s How 5) Letters for Black Lives See links for the resources on the original post for this article at: coredei.com/2021/02/22/make-a-verdict-engaging- in-anti-racist-conversations-with-your-loved-ones
CORE created the VERDICT framework to help you analyze and strategize in preparation for having conversations about race with family and friends. Their training called Courageous Conversations helps participants feel confident in preparing, strategizing, and executing these conversations.
Communities in Solidarity
The past year, there has been a continuous uptick in Anti-Asian hate crimes across the United States. Not only has this kept Asian communities on edge, but when the crime is committed by other People of Color, it worsens tensions between differ- ent minority groups. It’s an unfortunate fact that people of color can and have harmed one another.
However, we must also keep perspective, that the actions of a few do not speak for an entire group. We must remain diligent to not fall into this dispiriting viewpoint as we collectively mourn, heal, and advocate for our Asian communities.
Speaking more plainly, we cannot denigrate the continuous work that Asian and Black folx have done in solidarity with one another for the advocacy of both of our collective communities. Looking back historically, the Black community heavily opposed American intervention during the 1899 Philippine-American War, which eventually led to the dissolution of the First Philippine Republic.
As a matter of fact, a number of Black newspapers and community leaders felt it was wrong for the United States to undermine Filipino independence. We see this solidarity occurring again in the mid twentieth century when Black-led anti-war movements opposed the Vietnam War. In both instances, the Black community opposed these wars for the unfair and barbaric damage it cast upon both Black and Asian communities. And while this is only a drop in the bucket, there is a rich history of Asian and Black community solidarity that has occurred, and will continue to occur.
Historically, while the traumas both communities faced in the United States have been unique, they are in- extricably intertwined. For example, when we think of the phrase “Yellow Peril Supports Black Power”, we have to look back to the 1800s when this term was first coined when Chinese migrants were brought to the United States to replace Black slaves as a cheap source of labor. In fact, a number of Asian migrations to North America stemmed from the fact that white slave-owners could no longer use Black slave labor. And while Asian people were exploited and ill-treated from this pernicious system change, we have to look at the root cause of both of these ills—white supremacy and systemic racism.
For many of our communities, especially the Asian communities on the West Coast, we may remember the 1992 LA Riots and the interracial tensions that arose as Asian communities and businesses were caught in the cross-hairs of anti-police riots. While this was a dark and traumatic moment in history for both communities, we have to once again, keep perspective that the actions of a few, do not represent an entire group.
Instead, now more, than ever, we need to come together and reflect on our shared community goals of healing and liberation from white supremacy, tyranny, and system- ic racism that aims to torment the communities of color at large.
Community Organizing for Radical Empathy (CORE) offers inclusive, accessible, and engag- ing services including workshops, community outreach and marketing, healing circles, orga- nization analysis and strategic planning. The organization, founded by all women of color, works collaboratively with a community-oriented framework to educate and equip individ- uals and organizations with accessible tools and techniques to strive for and sustain an eq- uitable lifestyle/workplace environment. Learn more about CORE and connect with them fo customize a workshop for your organization at: coredei.com.