When we accidentally say or do something racist, why do we focus first on whether we meant to be racist; Was it on purpose or was it a slip of the tongue? (Lets set aside those situations where white people say racist things to cause harm, to show off or to attempt to control; all of those times when white people are purposefully racist. Those people aren’t reading anything I write). When white people let some racist word slip what we want is to address the immediate harm and then focus on unlearning this form of everyday racism.
What if for an experiment, the next time something racist slips out of your mouth, you:
- Self Reflect
- Take steps to uproot the racism underneath your “accidental racism”
An apology might not be the right action to take, what is most important is that you focus immediately on addressing the harm you created and that you avoid trying to explain or excuse what you said.
Self reflection could be taking 5-10 minutes with some paper and free writing. This is not to keep or to share. Write about how you feel now, how you felt when you made the mistake, when you first heard the idea, where the word or concept is being reinforced in your life now, etc. Set a time and keep writing.
Taking steps to uproot the racism beneath your “accidental racism” is important if you want to avoid causing harm to the people of color around you. Find another white person to share your experience with, ask for their ideas and make a commitment to hold each other accountable to change. Make the same time and energy commitment to unlearning your everyday racism as you do to your other big commitments such as your spiritual life, your health, your career.
After years of trainings and spending most of my career doing racial equity work, my thinking and actions still fell short. Many of my students have had the same experience:
“Despite the work I have done on my racism, my actions don’t always align with my values”
“There is so much to do, and I don’t know when and how to do it or even if it should be me doing it”
“I don’t want to do stupid things, to cause harm to people of color”
“There is so much I don’t know, it’s not safe to be out in the world stumbling around until I know more”
Everyday racism is what happens when we try to change our behavior without uncovering, acknowledging and unlearning our beliefs and thoughts at their roots.
Unlearning everyday racism takes creativity, curiosity and courage. If you are a white person committed to working on racism and ready for some new strategies for unprooting racism in your thinking and behavior I invite you to join our free, private Facebook community and register for the next 6 week unlearning everyday racism course.
I can’t wait to meet you! Book a 15 minute phone call with me!
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