Talking about race makes me uncomfortable. I literally write, speak, train, and facilitate conversations about race that generate connection for a living. You’d think that I’d have gotten past the discomfort by now.
Not even close.
I still feel a deep ripple of nausea when I talk or write about race publicly. (It’s happening right now as I type this words to you.) What will they think about my approach? What will they think about my framework and techniques? What if I say something accidentally offensive? Can I tell the truth about how painful it is to live in the body I’m in? Will people be ticked off by my storytelling?
I feel this fear every time. Every. Single. Time. When I do a speaking event, when I submit another draft of my book manuscript, when I send out my weekly braveletter, when I host my podcast or do a podcast interview, when I consult with organizations and coach my clients. Even when I sit in one-on-one conversations with friends.
The fear of saying the wrong thing never leaves me.
I spend a lot of time wondering why this is. Am I a people-pleaser? Am I more invested in how I appear than in living the truth of who I am? Am I worried about being judged?
After sitting with this agony (and trying unsuccessfully to run from it), I’ve discovered something that seems to always helps me when I’m writing, facilitating, or leading a conversation about race:
News flash: I don’t have all the answers.
Because the truth is that conversations about race are conversations about human pain. They’re conversations about connection and belonging. About the agony of feeling discarded. Forgotten. Left behind. Misinformed. About asking questions that none of us truly knows the answers to: Why are we doing this to each other? When did we start believing that in order to feel valuable, seen, and heard we needed to elevate one human being over another based on something neither human being had any choice in before entering the world? Why won’t we listen to each other’s pain? Stand witness to one another’s stories? How are we even supposed to begin to change the systems and relationships that keep it all going?
Why is it that we keep ignoring the reality that action without listening = fixing?
No human being wants to be fixed by another human being.
We want to be listened to.
We want to be understood.
We want to be treated with respect and dignity.
We want to be the decider in the story of our lives.
We want to be heard.
We want to be seen.
We want to belong.
It’s a wild thing to say, but I hope I’m never comfortable in conversations about race. Because I want to choose to listen. I want to choose to reach for unfamiliar stories. I want to wrestle with the dynamic relationship between systemic inequity and individual relationships and resist the urge to pick a side. I’m in deep and I want to dive deeper. I want to stay uncomfortable because I want to see you, all of you, and I want to learn how to let you see me.
I want to transform you versus me into WE.