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3 Ways to Unlearn Racism

February is coming to a close and another year of Black History Month is wrapping up! For my family, Black history is in our daily conversations; it’s more than something that we talk about in February, Black history is something we talk and live year round. I’m actually writing this for all my white folks out there; although I’m a white woman, my children are half Black and very much connected to their Black community.  

I teach a Diversity course and it has been my greatest pleasure to share with my white community the realities that are out there for our Black friends and loved ones. Most of my students don’t have any Black people in their life so a lot of what we end up talking about is how as white folks, we can be more aware of how we impact non-white communites. 

Here are three things we talk about in my class that help us on our unlearning journey! First things first, we have to admit what’s true!

  1. White people have the most privilege and power. We do. Whether or not you believe that to be true, it is. If that is hard to digest, that’s okay. It’s still true. Part of unlearning, is to acknowledge our discomfort and resistance to the truth. White European culture has been destroying communities of colour since they left their home countries and went off in search of other lands. Dominant (white euro) culture mentality is toxic and has cultivated an “us” versus “them” mentality. We have literally been brainwashed to believe that anyone who is not white, is a threat. Don’t believe me? Spend the next week checking in on your own reactions and feelings when you see people who are not white. You will have a whole lot of unlearning to do once you begin to notice. It’s not a bad thing, it’s the opposite - it’s a great thing. Now you can start to call yourself out on it! Do me a favor and check out Jane Elliott is a white woman who has been dismantling racism within the white community beginning as her early career as a teacher. Trust me, you want to know her!
  2. Dismantle our conditioned racism, you say? Yep! Did you check out Jane Elliott yet? If not, I can share with you some tips to begin your journey. Firstly, our brain is designed in such a way that it’s conditioned to protect us. That’s why the “us” versus “them” mentality is so dangerous when we’re unaware of it. Cave people needed to survive! Simple. If someone didn’t look like their tribe, they went into protection mode. Our brain literally craves to be around what’s familiar. That’s why when we only have white people in our lives, it’s a result of our brain being conditioned to keep things “safe”. While society has evolved and although survival can still feel questionable, this automatic conditioning has been tainted by white dominant culture. This means, it’s up to us to catch the racist thoughts and start to challenge them. Remember to do the experiment from point one: the thoughts/feelings that come up are based on stereotypes that white culture developed to keep other communities of culture oppressed. Another awesome person to check out is Shakil Choudhury who wrote “Deep Diversity: Overcoming Us Vs. Them”! Choudhury lays the framework to begin to dismantle our own conditioned racism and how to be anti-racist!
  3. Information is EVERYWHERE!!!! White friends….Black people are exhausted by us. There. I said it. Racism is in all communities, it’s true! BUT!!!!!! White people have the most power and privilege and so it’s up to us to begin to heal our own community because as that begins to happen more and more, we can start to shift the massive power imbalance. Our Black communities are literally being killed for the colour of their skin. Our Black communities are enraged by the maltreatment they receive from the police, health care professionals, those in academia, their neighbours, strangers, etc. In all of these different areas, death has been the ultimate egregious act by white folks. If you don’t believe me, check out Jane & Shakil! Or you can find out how many Black women are dying in labour and delivery because they are NOT being provided the appropriate care from their white medical practitioners. That is a startling number to see; and just one small part of the injustices happening daily. Want to learn how to be an ally? Go to your local bookstore (or check online). Instead of judging Black culture; go and learn about it! How? Netflix. Prime. Rogers On Demand...docuseries are amazing and insightful. You can watch and learn and begin to understand that white culture is not the same as Black culture; which starts to shift feeling scared of things we don’t understand or know about (remember the second point?). 

As February comes to a close, I hope that you’re able to work these three points over the eleven other months in the year. Extending compassion and empathy is not just for February. Let's do our part, white friends, to challenge ourselves and others in our circles to dismantle our conditioned racism. You will soon begin to learn about all of the wonderful things happening in this world outside of our own white faces! 

For my own family, I want my children to feel as safe as white children and adults do! I want for my white community to come together and help each other out so that we can heal the hate that has been conditioned and embrace our human race!

Photo by Simran Tamber