“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.” – Ijeoma Oluo

Have you ever been bullied or picked on because of the color of your skin, your religion or accent?

Did it result in you holding back, never fully participating, because you fear expressing your thoughts or opinions may lead to further ridicule?

At a time when it’s evident that change is necessary to address the racial injustice that currently prevails in America, we are in a time where each of us are going to be called to speak. 

Why? The dynamics of racism impact all of us! Watch my deeply candid and relevant interview, hosted by Social Media Strategist Turiya Hodge.  Join us as I share the journey that allowed me to get past my fear and eventually gain the courage to speak. Learn why I decided to tell my story to highlight what occurs when we choose to remain silent when witnessing someone being unjustly treated.  Discover why we each must understand the responsibility that comes with power and the privileges it affords us.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

This is a conversation about race. True. However, it could also be about religion, sexual orientation, gender or a host of other issues.  The bigger conversation is about humanity, our willingness to move beyond our stereotypes and bias to see the humanity of every individual. To do otherwise opens the door for the potential abuse of those who we see as different.

Stereotypes and bias, when combined with power, gives rise to racism and the oppression of individuals.   However, when the same beliefs that give an individual the power to abuse another become the culture of the institutions of a society it gives rise to privilege and the belief that certain groups have more value and in turn more human rights than another. 

The burning question is what can be done? I believe we must give up the need to point the finger as it results in people feeling blamed, judged, shamed or filled with guilt.   We then get caught in polarization discussions, we go to our perspective corners, and we say they got to change, they got to change, and groups become defensive, and no meaningful change occurs.  While there is no simple answer we can begin by taking personal responsibility for how we act upon our bias, stereotypes and most importantly what we do when we find ourselves in a position of power or experiencing privilege.  

The best advice one of my mentors gave me as a young woman is, “be vigilant, compassionate and self aware because we all have been oppressed and we all have the potential to be oppressor.”

During my interview Turiya asked me to share some steps I believe we all can use in an effort to deal with bias and internalized racism.  This is what I have challenged myself to do over the years.

1- Re Educate Yourself.  Having self worth and a healthy self image is vital because we can not give another person more love, compassion or consideration than we are able to give ourselves.   Fill yourself with information that fortifies a healthy definition of who you are. Understanding your personal history and that of your ancestors is vital. When you have a strong sense of who you are you are less likely to be threatened by differences you see in others.

2- Develop Critical Thinking. This is the capacity for independent thought. It is asking yourself,  ”does what’s going on align with my values and beliefs?” and then taking personal responsibility for your actions.  Education is also key for critical thinking.  Challenge yourself to learn the history and contribution of other races and cultures rather than depending on what you see in the media or learn in school.

3- Economics. Power. Privilege. This is to begin to understand how our institutions and social structures knowingly and unknowingly perpetuate the oppression and marginalization of individuals that might be different.  Change will begin to occur if when you see something you courageously say something.

4- Embrace Humanity. We live in a rich and culturally diverse world. In order to fully appreciate this diversity, we are required to learn about and embrace the PEOPLE who represent and have blessed us with the diversity we love.  It is to move beyond skin color, religion or other differences and to learn about the responsibilities, roles, ambitions, hopes and dreams of that person who may not look like you.

As the protests and riots end, I understand they can only serve as a wake up call.  Real change will occur if the events of the past few weeks do not fade away as a distant memory, rather they become a daily reminder for each of us to take responsibility to effect change.