• If I talk about race, I’m labeled the angry person
and nobody listens.
• Talking about race means talking about black folks
and white folks. I’m neither! Why should I care?
• When will white people take responsibility for their
collective impact on other races?
• I don’t want to keep educating white people about
race. They need to do this for themselves.
• I don’t need to be friends with white people. I just
want them to stop getting in my way and stop
How do we understand these standoffs and this
dread, even with people who willingly want to change?
How do we transform these habits of harm? We can’t
heal if we can’t talk to each other, and we can’t talk to
each other until we understand why we can’t talk to
We must dive below our knee-jerk responses to
examine our conditioning. We must be willing to be
uncomfortable. In fact, we might consider discomfort a
wake-up call inviting us to inspect the ways we have been
programmed to blame or distrust each other and, in so
doing, how we have learned to live with a heart disease.
Questions for Self-Reflection
Here are 11 questions to check your inner experience
prior to talking about race:
1. What old traumas or wounds have
been activated? Acknowledge and
take care of them. You don’t have to be
trauma-free before you have a difficult
conversation, but you do want to enter
with clarity and stability.
2. How is your view influenced by your
racial group identity? For example, is
your upset inflamed by your dominant or
subordinated group membership?
3. Is your grievance addressing the
individual, group, or institutional level?
Clarify your voice.
4. What characteristics can you
acknowledge as good or neutral? Can you
see aspects of yourself, past or present, in
this person or situation?
5. What thoughts, emotions, or beliefs do you
overly identify with?
6. Are you taking this disturbance personally?
Is this absolutely true?
7. Do you believe this situation has always
been or will always be this way? Is that
8. Do you believe this situation should be other
than it actually is right now? Is that possible?
9. Do you feel clear enough to confront this
disturbance without causing harm to others
10. What is your intention—do you want to
be right, to better understand, to bridge
separation, to reach agreement, or something
else? Be clear about your intention without
being attached to the outcome.
11. Are you open to learning?
These reflections are meant to support you in staying
centered and in your integrity without “bypassing” what
is difficult to talk about.
Once you have completed the reflections, clarify one
concern you want to address. Initiate contact with the
person you want to speak to and talk for 15 minutes as
a start. Keeping the time short will help you focus and
avoids overwhelm. When you take on one issue at a time,
you can experience incremental relief, which builds inner
confidence and stability.
Prior to meeting, center yourself by taking three
deep breaths. Remind yourself that nothing is personal,
permanent, or perfect. Keep 50 percent of your awareness
on your body and breath throughout the conversation.
When you meet, sit face to face, making gentle eye
contact and observing body posture and subtle shifts.
You may want to request that the person not interrupt
for the first several moments. Use a tone, pace, and pitch
of sincere kindness and curiosity, and remind yourself of
your deepest intention.
Adapted from Mindful
of Race: Transforming
Racism From the Inside
Out by Ruth King.
Copyright © Ruth King.
Published by Sounds True
in June 2018.