Understanding the Implications of Race

Understanding the implications of race presents challenges.
Understanding the implications of race can be a source of struggle.
“Understanding the implications of race” is a typical phrase I might use to introduce the topic of race in a non-threatening way.
What if I tried out something a little closer to home like:
I don’t always understand the implications of race.
I would rather look the other way than understand the implications of race.
I am tired of wrestling with understanding the implications of race.

And yet race is always there. If you can see me. If you can only hear my voice, you might assume something different, as I was told in my youth: “you don’t sound black.” (from a white perspective) and “You talk like a white girl.” (From the black perspective)
Yeah. The implications of race.

Fond of academic expression as I am, I like to use my big, “book words” when I write and speak. Growing up I learned that this was largely the privilege of white people and that to employ such language as black girl meant that I was special somehow, an exception, and at times even laudable. I speak this truth now at 50 and not before. Because understanding the implications of race may cause tension.

What if everyone I dealt with understood the implications of race?

How much of my education dealt with understanding the implications of race?

To what degree am I equipping my sons with an understanding of the implications of race?

The more I use the phrase, the more distant and academic and impersonal it becomes, “understanding the implications of race.” It becomes a construct, a full-on abstract; something to be studied, codified, standardized and shelved.

Perhaps an admission would serve well:

I’m not sure I understand what the implications of race actually are.

Or a disclaimer:

Until we clarify what is meant by “understanding the implications of race” our conversation can go no further. So let’s hold off for the time being.

Meanwhile, my implicit understanding of the implications of race keeps bubbling up in my reactions to the reports I read, the newscasts I see, the social media streams I follow.

When I recently read Nicole Callahan’s post, “Friendship and Race and Knowing Your Place” I was struck by how well she captured aspects from my own undisclosed racial playbook, like here:

Rules for getting along with white people, practiced (sometimes consciously, but often not) from early childhood until my twenties:

Always sound reasonable.

Never sound bitter.

If they ask whether you think something they said, thought, or did is racist, the answer they’re looking for is No.

Don’t remind them that you’re different.

If differences happen to come up, act like they don’t matter.

If they seem to accept you, feel grateful.

Read more at http://the-toast.net/2015/01/26/friendship-race/#Pdzq0mS2tH6ltXcI.99

Nicole Callahan writes expertly about understanding the implications of race. And my own understanding flourishes in response.
Whatever you do to further your understanding of the implications of race, practice listening and observing and questioning. Resist giving yourself the benefit of the doubt.
Challenge your assumptions about how well you understand the implications of race and I believe this is how we will move our thinking and feeling on race from “out there” to “in here,” from the “neighbors’ stuff” to “all our stuff.”
Understanding the implications of race presents us with a challenge. It presents us with a calling to activate and empower our best selves to action.
The implications of race call for our collective and individual understanding.
What is your response?

3 thoughts on “Understanding the Implications of Race

  1. Hi Sherri,
    I have tried numerous times to respond but it didn’t take. I just got and IES Vienna update with your blog and I wanted to connect. This posting about race came with lots of memories of you in Vienna because you were the first person I knew who was so open to discussion and it really opened my eyes. I hope to reconnect.
    So great to see your posts and I look forward to more

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, Larcia. And I am honored to know that you remember me. If you’re on linkedin or twitter maybe we can also connect that way. In the meantime, I glad if you’ve found stuff of interest here.
      Be well,

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