When I work with schools and organizations that serve young people, particularly young people of color, I often watch staff shy away from conversations about race. And after learning more about why they shy away, I find that there is a ton of fear in saying the wrong thing which may result in confrontation.
Nationally, 80% of teachers are white, and more than 50% of students in public school classrooms are students of color. We’ve got to talk about race in America in our schools. How do we can create safe spaces for our students and staff to unpack culture in ways to help us all grow?
There are three mindsets we need in order to confidently engage in conversations about race.
First: Take a learner stance.
Prep your mind for learning. Approach the discussion as a learner and not an expert. Keep in mind that you will make mistakes. Be more open-minded, less judgemental, and seek information that you can build from when compared to your own scope of understanding.
Second: Acknowledge lived experiences.
Make space for new voices. Acknowledge someone else's stories and experiences. When listening to stories that don't connect with your experience in the world, simply listen for the purpose of learning and making new connections.
Third: Reflect and build new perspectives.
Even though you might think, Hmm, that's not ever happened to me before and I have no friends or loved ones that that’s happened to, consider how you might feel if you were in a similar situation. Consider the perspective being shared— the pain and discomfort, the fear of not feeling safe, the hiding or shame, the deep love, and commitment. Can you resonate with any of the feelings coming out of this lived experience?
Given that you’ve already taken a learner stance (and have remained open to listening and learning, right?) give yourself time and space to reflect on the lived experience alone. During your reflection time, ask yourself to consider the perspective shared, and ask yourself what resonates or what connections can be made to your own life.
Taking on these 3 mindsets creates a safe space for different voices to be heard, uplifted, and then learned from.