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Reflecting Upon Difficult Conversations About Racism and Not Knowing

Reflecting Upon Difficult Conversations About Racism and Not Knowing

Tushanna Price

The true beauty of being human is the fact that we are all wonderfully different. We have our own experiences, ideas, morals and beliefs. At least I used to believe this way. These days I am finding it difficult to process this idea. Even when I try to push these negative thoughts away, they descend over me like a dark cloud, forcing me to have a difficult conversation with myself. I wrestle with the fact that as a black woman, I have lived an existence where I have always been grouped together with any and everyone who even vaguely resembles me. I recall hearing one of my dearest friends who happens to be a white person saying, “All black people do look alike, don’t they? I just can’t pick them out in a crowd. Don’t you have a hard time telling white people apart?” I was so shocked and appalled to think that someone whom I had always felt cared about me could think that way. Did I think that all white people looked alike? The answer was a strong resounding NO! I couldn’t even wrap my head around that way of thinking.

During a recent conversation, a colleague shared that, "To be white in America right now is to always feel as though I need to defend myself, to prove that I am not racist." As I listened to my colleague, I choked on my reply. I thought to myself, “This is what it is like to watch a breaking news story, and think to myself, please don’t let them be black, because that would feed into the narrative that all black people “look” alike”. For a brief moment, I angrily thought to myself, to be black in America is to always feel as though I need to defend myself, to prove that I am NOT lazy, a murderer, or a thief.

As I listened to this colleague and recognized the paralleled comparison, I decided that this moment was not a time to one-up her in order to prove my point, but to perhaps use the relationship we were building as an opportunity to join with her in solidarity. I looked into her eyes, filled with sadness, frustration, and vulnerability, and said, “That is what it’s like for me to be black in America and always feel that I have to prove myself.” My colleague agreed that even though she was starting to realize what that experience must feel like for me, she could never fully understand. I felt so much gratitude for that conversation and a renewed sense of empathy for my white colleagues and friends who are truly struggling, but try to “get it.”

My heart is simultaneously filled with gratitude and heartache for those who have been forced to sacrifice relationships with family and friends to stand up for what they believe in or simply preserve their peace. I honestly considered whether I would have the strength and courage to do the same. After facing similar conflicts with some of my veteran brothers and sisters, I received a glimpse of what it was like to be forced to alter or end relationships with people you love because you can’t agree to disagree.

I know. It’s tiring and unpleasant to keep drumming up conversations about this “racism stuff” I get it. If I could take a break from it, I would too. I can recall another fairly recent conversation with a mentor and colleague. She was pondering the thought of speaking up or asking questions about racial injustice. She asked if I thought she should bring up such questions. Was she being too forward, disrespectful, or controversial? My reply to her was, “Of course you should keep speaking up about this. Keep asking questions. If you don’t, some black or brown people may wonder whose side you’re on.” Whose side are you on? This is the difficult, gut wrenching question that many of us have avoided, but it is getting more and more difficult to ignore.

Harlene Anderson shared with me that collaborative therapy has roots dating back to the late '50s and early '60s and that it grew from practice with minority, low income and so-called disadvantaged populations. When Harlene shared this information, Michael and I were pleasantly surprised. Perhaps this new knowledge has ignited a fire in me that has given me permission to explore ways that the ideas presented to us in collaborative-dialogic practice can achieve social justice or allow space for difficult conversations.

During these trying times, I ponder about what it truly means to make our nation “great again” and how I fit into that equation. I will continue to challenge myself to see every person I meet as an individual, and remain curious without making assumptions. I will challenge myself to have those difficult conversations, even when it hurts. I think I can speak for many these days, regardless of their beliefs or political views when I say, “Not knowing is the hardest part.”

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