Are cross-racial dynamics that different than any other interpersonal dynamics?
Yes. In fact they are flat out loaded with history. Since the invention of racism, people of color have been taught not to share their frustrations and pain with white people. Meanwhile, white people have been taught that talking about race is rude, or even racist. The result is unimaginable stored frustration and pain for people of color, matched by unimaginable lack of knowlege and awareness for white people. You know that elephant in the room feeling in cross-racial settings? It's pretty much always about this dynamic.
Really? Can you give (white) me an example of what it is I'm not being told?
Yes, click on the below photo of Norma Johnson to hear
A Poem for My White Friends: I Didn't Tell You
Holy cow! I had NO idea that this is what's going on or that I was part of the problem! What can I, as a white person, do to earn the trust of people of color so that I can be a more authentic friend and colleague?
Here are 3 resources (in addition to Norma Johnson's poem) that were hugely helpful to me.
1) GET PREPARED AND PLAN TO FOLLOW UP
At the last few conferences I attended, I asked conference attendees of color to consider and respond to the question: What would you like your white peers to do to prepare for and follow up after a gathering focused on racial inequity? Be it a three-day conference, a one-hour gathering, or an ongoing relationship, this advice is invaluable. Thank you to all who shared their thoughts.
- Research the history of the gathering/organizing group. Know why it exists and what its goals and methods are.
- Come prepared with a few questions about your racial privilege to explore.
- Talk to white peers who you know have been doing this work and get their advice.
- Get ready to listen. Get ready for and open to feeling questioned.
- Organize a get together to share with your white peers what you learned.
- Begin and continue authentic, challenging conversations with your white peers no matter how uncomfortable.
- Practice being the voice that names the elephant in the room so people of color don't have to stress out deciding if they are going to (once again) name it or save their energy for the next elephant.
- Be willing to help educate your white peers without thinking you are better than them.
- Be willing to open up to other white people and lead discussions that lead to action and tangible progress.
I don't think the people of color I know are that frustrated. Could you be making a bigger deal out of this than is necessary?
Possilby. And probably not. Why not err on the side of equity and assume you might have some work to do?