While 2020 brought a lot of pain and frustration, it also brought a lot of necessary change. One of the best examples of this is the Black Lives Matter movement that spread across the globe after the murder of George Floyd. It’s really important to note that racial injustice is not a new occurrence; racial injustice has been around forever and it affects all of us one way or another. Quarantine gave us the perfect opportunity to educate ourselves on topics like white privilege, systemic racism, and police brutality. This Black History Month, we need to use our newfound knowledge to start conversations about racial justice and to stand up against our friends and family when they say something problematic. Here are some tips for talking about racial justice and for having successful conversations about it.
Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up
Racial justice has always been a touchy topic, but why is that? Because it’s uncomfortable to talk about? Because it’s easy to disagree on? If we avoid topics like this in order to avoid disagreement, we will never truly be able to address these issues as a society. Starting these conversations can be nerve-wracking and awkward, especially when you’re afraid your friends or family will disagree. However, disagreement is how we come about change; if everyone always agreed on everything, we would never hear different opinions or perspectives, and we wouldn’t have a holistic view of life. So, don’t be scared to start these conversations about racial justice! Your friends and family should value your opinion enough to listen to what you have to say, so if they say something you disagree with, speak up! Your voice deserves to be heard!
As we’ve seen in the BLM protests, the news, and political debates, discussions about racial justice can get really heated really quickly. When we let our emotions take control in a conversation, we often stop actively listening to the other person and get too focused on their flaws and our own anger. Personally, I’ve noticed that sometimes when I hear something I disagree with in a conversation, I’ll immediately start planning what I’m going to say in response instead of listening to the rest of the other person’s point. This takes away from the conversation because we are no longer able to listen to everything they have to say; we may miss out on important points the other person makes or different perspectives we’ve never thought of before. Therefore, it’s important to listen actively to the other person, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing. Listening actively will give you a better understanding of other views and will help you determine a better way to convey your point.
When we hear others’ opinions, we’ll often analyze them as if the speaker is coming from the same circumstances as ourselves. For example, when a grandparent complains about how difficult technology is, their grandchild might scoff because they think technology is super easy to use, but the grandparent and grandchild were raised in two completely different time periods under two completely different circumstances. These differences in our upbringings and surroundings contribute to the differences in our opinions. Therefore, when talking about racial justice, it’s really important to consider how the other person’s life might affect their perspectives. This can range from their involvement in social media to where they were raised. These factors are really important to take into consideration because they allow us to better understand other viewpoints and see where the other person is coming from. However, it’s important to note that someone should not use their circumstances as an excuse for their beliefs. In racial justice conversations, it’s important to give valid reasons and explanations as to why we believe certain things because without these solid backings, we cannot learn from the other person.
It’s most important to educate others during conversations about racial justice. Education is power, so it’s incredibly important that we learn from each other during these conversations. Social media has been a powerful tool for educating people all over the world about the Black Lives Matter movement and racial justice, but it’s important to check and vary your sources. It’s really easy for people to upload false information on social media nowadays, so make sure you are not getting all of your information from just one source in case they are actually incorrect. It’s also important to vary your sources because it makes you less susceptible to bias. You should educate yourself using left-leaning, right-leaning, and nonpartisan sources (even if you only find yourself agreeing with one set of beliefs) because you’ll be able to see how different perspectives present the same information. Sometimes sources might exclude certain details or portray facts in a certain way to align with their beliefs, so it’s important to view sources from different perspectives to get all the facts straight and then come to your own conclusions from that. By educating yourself with a variety of sources, you can draw on different sources based on the other person’s beliefs and provide a more holistic argument.
Black History Month is the perfect opportunity to get these conversations about racial justice started – whether that be by posting your thoughts online, sparking conversations with your friends, or disagreeing with something a relative says at dinner. I hope these tips help you with starting these conversations and having a successful discussion! But don’t forget that talking about racial justice is only one part of the process; actions speak louder than words! Continue to educate yourself, sign petitions, and attend protests and rallies (when safe to do so and while social-distancing), but most importantly, don’t isolate these efforts only to Black History Month. Keep pushing for change and don’t let the Black Lives Matter movement burn out!