When you can't figure out what to say next in a conversation about race

Photo credit: AOP Photography

Photo credit: AOP Photography


Conversations about race don’t have to follow one specific script. The words we speak don’t have to unfold in a particular sequence, nor do we have to be able to anticipate every word each person in the conversation might say before we can have a productive dialogue.

When we can’t figure out what to say in a conversation about race, often it’s a result of the pressure we’re putting on ourselves to have all of the answers. The race conversation is one of the conversations that exists in our culture where we seem to believe that in order to participate we must first be in possession of encyclopedic knowledge, endless experience, and an effortless ability to argue our points.

But this pressure isn’t a given. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can choose to set our own terms for how we show up in this dialogue. Sure, you can make your standard for engagement absolute perfection. Or you can shift focus and make your goal connection. Creating belonging. Or perhaps learning how to listen in ways that help you understand the stories and experiences you’ve previously missed.

When you can’t figure out what to say next in a conversation about race, the answer isn’t to add more pressure into the mix. Instead, give yourself permission to choose a different focus - a focus that supports the deeper underlying reasons you’re in the conversation in the first place.