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📌 A quick disclaimer
This forms part of our ‘How to be antiracist’ pathway in our Inclusion Works programme. For this pathway, we’ve made a conscious decision to focus on racism directed at Black people, given the current climate and Black Lives Matter movement.

We appreciate that racism is a major issue for other groups in America and around the world, and we’d love to do that justice in future content.

For now, we’d welcome your views and experiences on all forms of racism — please join the conversation here.

We also appreciate that people have different experiences of racism and are at different points in their journey learning about what they can do to combat it. This learning pathway is best suited to white people and non-Black people of colour that consider themselves at a beginner or intermediate level of their antiracism education.

🤔 Poll
Imagine standing up and admitting something that you’ve done and believed in for years (a way of screening candidates for final interviews, for example) is racist.

What does that make you feel? (Nobody can see who voted)

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Racism That’s Racist by @IntoAction.

🎧 Listen to this (1:40)
Hear Dr Ibram X. Kendi talk about how he worked towards his own development as an antiracist so he could write his book How to be an Antiracist.

Dr Ibram X. Kendi on Unlocking Us — clip



You can listen to the full episode of Unlocking Us here.

Do internal work to unpick denial, especially if you are white
Robin DiAngelo, a scholar, educator and author, calls the emotions that accompany the denial of systemic and individual-level racism white fragility.

The process below is distilled from DiAngelo’s book White Fragility. Use it when you confront yourself — or are confronted — about a racist behaviour or attitude to unpick the denial that Kendi calls, “the heartbeat of racism”.

1️⃣ Accept the ‘racist pattern’ comes from the way society socialised you

2️⃣ Process emotions with a person that will hold you accountable or through a solitary exercise like journalling (if you are white, we recommend debriefing with a white colleague or friend that is also interested in antiracism)

3️⃣ Identify your emotions in the moment (hot tip: stop and breathe)

4️⃣ Identify how you reinforced racism

5️⃣ Meet to apologise with anyone you offended or harmed. Do not focus on intentions, focus on your behaviour and the impact.

This may only seem right when you are called out, but consider when an apology might be due when you call yourself out.

⚠️ Be careful not to ask people of colour to validate or exonerate you. That can put them in a tricky and exhausting position.

6️⃣ Ask what you have missed from anyone that you discuss this with

7️⃣ Accept feedback and be grateful for the opportunity for growth

8️⃣ Take what you have learned, use it to drive a new curiosity and feed it back into your self-education.

When you confront yourself about a racist attitude, policy, action or simply inaction at work, speak to your team and engage them in that piece of your learning journey.

But why? Why must we start conversations that might make ourselves and others uncomfortable?

Many think that the uncomfortable feelings that stop us examining systemic racism are the “defensive moves” of white supremacy. A preference for comfort is a big part of how racism has become so covert and so taboo. Silence means systemic racism continues.

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis Protest by Andy Witchger via Wikimedia Commons.

You can’t switch your feelings off, but you can prepare
Shame, guilt, fear and even feeling tired, bored or like this isn’t your job? These are all feelings that will shut down earnest antiracist intentions if you don’t feel equipped to keep going and push through towards productive change.

We appreciate that people will feel different emotions when talking about racism. Your comfort level will depend on your journey with antiracism and your own race and culture as well as who you are speaking to and in what context.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all-script, we’ve sourced the best tips to help you through difficult, vulnerable or just totally new and untested conversations.

Frame it clearly

Be humble and acknowledge that you may get the conversation wrong.

e.g. “I’m nervous to talk about this because I don’t want to mess up. I’m going to take that risk because voicing this is more important.”

Be specific. Position your starting point, your intention and your learning experience. This is YSC’s top tip for leaders having difficult conversations.

e.g. “I’m new to the idea of ______ so I set out to understand better by ______. I want to talk about my new understanding about how ______ is relevant in our workplace/team.”

Animation Loop by @rafaeldearaujo.

Build trust
✅ Acknowledge, admit and take accountability.

⚠️ Be warned: phrases like, “I never intended to” are empty and deflective. Instead, make like Kendi and meaningfully ‘confess’. Share what you want to do moving forward.

💡 Some team members might be worried about the hard work and shame attached to antiracist work (remember the first card in this pathway?). Pledge to equip the whole team with better actions, practices and policies and make clear what you are asking of them, if anything.

Align it to your values. Connect back to your values throughout to make it clear why what you’re saying is important to you.

💡 This will make others identify with your motivations (even if they have another perspective) and will also help you weather any uncomfortable emotions since your “why” will ground you.

Explain your commitment to continuing to put your comfort on the line, to have important conversations like this one and to seek fitting antiracism actions or countermeasures. For any actions that come up, give yourself a deadline and share it.

Sticker by @lidiaontheroad.

Demonstrate your respect for all
✅ Express your gratitude to others for listening and responding

Respect different reactions. Don’t shut anyone down and don’t force a consensus

Be curious. Get others involved in the conversation and make it clear you want to listen more than speak

💡 Ask small questions to coax others to contribute their thoughts. Explain no one is obliged to respond. Avoid big, confounding questions or questions that ask someone to speak on behalf of their race.

🗝️ Your key takeaway
Starting conversations about things that are covertly (or overtly!) racist can be really tough. Lean into a process of digesting and accepting any thought patterns or behaviours of your own. To talk to others about racism, remember a few conversational tools to help you be vulnerable, clear and sincere.

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