by Guest Contributor Jen Chau, originally published at The Time is Always Right
In my years of diversity work, I am pretty sure about one thing. The people who are “good” at talking about race issues are those who have practiced.
As a participant in discussions about race, I have heard certain white individuals (not all) lament, “I just don’t know how to talk about this stuff.” And then I have heard some people of color (not all) in turn, say, “I am tired of talking about this stuff every day.”
Part of the disparity in who is comfortable talking about it and who is not, stems from our different experiences with race growing up. If it was a present topic at the dinner table, getting ready for school as our breakfast was eaten and our shoelaces tied, or on the walk home after the bell rang, then we probably grew into adults who were comfortable with the topic of race. It was a part of everday life and our consciousness. It was an issue that was freely discussed, so it didn’t come with the fear and hang-ups others might feel when approaching the subject.
On the flip side, if race was never mentioned growing up, or if difference was brought up in a very passive or subtle way; and as a child, you had the feeling that such issues would not be welcomed at the dinner table because you never saw the adults in your life discuss such matters, then you grew up to be an adult without years of practice. Maybe you are uncomfortable with these discussions now; maybe you have figured out how to get practiced as an adult.
Due to our experiences growing up, we either became practiced in talking about matters of race, or we didn’t.
This is important because it means that practice gets you there. It’s not something that you are born knowing how to do (though you might argue, it’s something you are born into depending on your family’s orientation toward race/culture), it’s something that you practice. And practice now, or at any point, really, will get anyone more comfortable with the subject. Once more of us are comfortable (or just willing to come to the table), I am confident that we will make progress when it comes to how we address issues of race and identity in this country. Continue reading