How to Have Conversations About Racism and BLM

Today on the blog, Stacey Lu is talking about how to have a conversation about Racism and BLM.

Note: Throughout this blog, we will also be highlighting different black artist for photos and you can follow them directly to support their creative journey.

With the Black Lives Matter movement in full swing, many of us have taken to social media and beyond to voice our opinions, spread as much awareness for the cause as possible, went out to protests, raised money or donated to organizations. It has not only been a time of trying to make systemic change, but it has also been a time where we are learning how to be better people. Fighting for social justice might not come as naturally or as easily to most people, I, myself, included. When the protests first began after the death of George Floyd, I knew I needed to take action somehow, but did not know how to help. Eventually with research, educating myself, and reading on the different ways to help, I was able find steps I could take to join the fight for justice. 

black owned business, nyane, black creative, blm
Black owned business and creator @nyane / photo from Nyanes Insta

One of the ways to help is to have conversations. As allies, we are perfectly positioned to have conversations about racial justice with the people around us, for example, our family members, friends, and co-workers. Oftentimes, these will be quite uncomfortable conversations and can become quite heated if not approached in an open manner. It might be awkward, confrontational, and could even create division in relationships. However, do not let these reasons hold you back from having these very important conversations, as staying silent is no longer an option. While it is smart to pick your battles, in times like this, we can not afford to back away from racist remarks and/or actions. Silence is racism, because when we let slide a racist comment, we become complicit in racism. It is time to call people in, and let them know that racism is no longer being tolerated and it is NOT okay. 

Buzzfeed producer + creative @destiny_rayvon | photo from Destiny’s Insta

We will be encountering a lot of ignorant and misguided people out there, who disagree on various levels. It is important to know how to talk to them to get them to see and understand why they’re thinking is hurtful and harmful, and maybe even get them to change their views. These can be incredibly difficult conversations, especially if they are with people you love and care for. Here are some tools to take with you to navigate these conversations, so that you can set your boundaries, stick to your truth, and not get emotionally and mentally burnt out. 

Black creative @salty.simmone | photo from Simmone’s Insta
  1. Use “I” statements to sound less accusatory. While our blood may be boiling from a completely ignorant comment made by a friend saying “All Lives Matter”, refrain from immediately attacking them outright. Calling them “racist”, “uninformed”, and launching into a lecture, may embarrass and trigger them into defensive mode. Once they’re on the defense, as true and as helpful your comments may be, they will fall upon deaf ears, because the friend’s willingness to listen is entirely gone. Instead, try to talk about how the comment made you feel and how it is impacting you.
  2. Call them in instead of calling them out. While it might be really tempting to call an individual out publicly for something racist they said, shaming them and putting them on blast will not solve anything. It might be better to pull them aside later, or privately message them to have a conversation. People are more willing to listen in intimate conversations, and you would also be giving them an opportunity to learn and understand that what they said was wrong or simply ignorant. Oftentimes, stereotypical racist comments stem from ignorance, and by calling them in privately will give them a chance to educate themselves and understand where they went wrong. 
  3. Listen to their side. While this may seem impossible sometimes, immensely frustrating, and take up most of your patience, at the end of the day we all just want to be heard, no matter what side we are on. One of the biggest problems that causes our political divide today, is that nobody is actually listening to one another. We are talking at each other, or attacking each other, and nothing changes, because neither side is willing to give. Not saying you have to agree with them, but when a person feels seen and understood, they become more receptive to what others have to say. 
  4. Use common language and shared values. At the end of the day, everyone is just trying to live in peace and prosperity, there just seems to be a rift in how we get there. Help them understand that what we are fighting for right now is not just for one group of people, but a systemic change so that everyone can live and thrive. Make it clear to them that racial bias and discrimination hold all of us back, as everyone has probably felt “on the outside” at one or more points in their lives. Try to ask them to imagine themselves in the shoes of whoever they are discriminating against. Sometimes you literally have to ask, “What if that was you/your parent/your child/your loved one?”, to induce that level of empathy. 
  5. Be solution-oriented and forward-thinking. Some people might counter-argue with, “racism will always exist, there’s nothing we can do about it.” In cases of “compassion fatigue” like these, it is likely that the person wants the same changes you do, however, they feel helpless and hopeless to the point of apathy. Have resources readily available to these people, such as infographics, a list of action-steps, and/or articles, pointing out clear solutions to specific problems that are clear-cut and easy to do. 
  6. Set your boundaries. Know when to disengage from a conversation, especially when you can tell you are not making any headway after a while. You did your best to have an open and honest conversation, and if they persist to engage, set your boundaries with them by letting them know you will no longer talk about this with them.
  7. Practice post-conversational self-care. Conversations like these are draining and can create immense emotional upheaval. Not only are you being firm and practicing patience with someone who might have just said something very triggering, most likely, the person you are talking to might also be someone you care about a lot. It is easy to get burnt out with repeated encounters and conversations like these. As with any battle, we must retreat and recharge in order to continue fighting. Take a nap, log off of social media/media outlets for a while, get your mind off of the current matter and do something you enjoy for a bit. Do not feel guilty that you are not active in the fight for justice 24/7. Rest and recharge so that you are not running on empty and so you can be ready for your next mission. 

Social justice activism is difficult and demanding work, but with these tools and armed with a good list of resources, anyone can step up and help make change. This is going to be a long and arduous fight, but we must not give up and we must not let up! 

Small business owner @sonthiasanctuary | photo from Sonthia’s Insta

List of resources to have when talking about how to have a conversation about Racism and BLM: 

  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  • How to Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

A compilation of movies to watch to educate yourself on Black Lives Matter on Netflix

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