Politeness doesn’t move anyone towards racial equity.
If the dual pandemics of 2020 didn’t teach us anything, it taught us that it’s time for radical boldness as we move towards racial equity. We’ve had a season of polite conversations, think tanks, and listening sessions. We’ve had a season of multicultural learning and task forces. And where did that get us? In a summer of protests seen round the world. In a summer of book clubs popping up everywhere with very little guidance around what to do after you finish the book. In a summer of lots of “yup, been saying that for a while” mixed with “I never knew it was this bad” combined with “I don’t even understand systemic racism.” We’ve been so conditioned NOT to talk about race and racism, that we don’t have the skills to do it.
So, how does one gain the skills to talk about race and racism to move towards racial equity? Just like you hone other skills – study and practice. You might even hire a professional or someone who has more expertise than you in the subject. That then leads me to those of us who are racial equity practitioners. I’ve been in the field for a minute, and it’s a delicate balance as a small business owner. You’re SO EXCITED to have a new client who might actually be ready to dive into the tough conversations. However, you quickly learn that they are either (1) not ready for “tough” conversations or (2) not ready to pay a professional to facilitate those conversations. So, as a business owner, you are forced to make a decision: do we maintain the integrity of the work or do we water down the conversation? We’ve watered down the training for years because we have bills to pay and the tough conversations hurt our clients’ feelings (which means no more client). They’re uncomfortable, and no one wants to pay to be uncomfortable. So, we have polite conversations about surface-level topics that never get to the root cause of systemic racism and racial equity.
We’ve been polite for too long. Politeness doesn’t move anyone towards racial equity. Let’s boldly walk into the conversations and the actions that are long overdue. Let’s be prepared to stand firm knowing it’s always the right thing to do the right thing.