What to Leave Out in Conversations about Race

by | Jul 22, 2020 | 4 comments

Law, custom, and even religion are intertwined with racism. It’s so pervasive that it’s not always easy to identify, let alone dismantle. We must approach Constructive conversations about racism with emotional intelligence.

I have written about arriving at workable definitions of racism and the surprising impact of emotional intelligence on racism

Now, let’s talk about what to leave out in conversations about race. Knowing what to leave out is just as important as what to include.

When people are passionate about a topic—whether passionately for or passionately against—unbridled emotion can easily lead to destructive responses. Destructive responses such as belittling, defensiveness, dismissing opinions, and passive-aggressive behavior strip others’ humanity. While these kinds of reactions may feel satisfying, they don’t advance the conversation. Because they don’t dignify people, hard as it may be, it’s best to leave them out.

Using Emotional Intelligence in Constructive Conversations about Race

On the other hand, while perhaps not immediately satisfying, productive responses will get you farther in the conversation. Apologizing, determining the root of the problem, and taking ownership of your part in a situation will help. Giving people space and time, acknowledging others’ feelings, and seeking active resolution will help. Separating emotions from facts, communicating respectfully, listening, and being aware of your senses will help. These are the kinds of behavior that create space for change.

Effective responses can be harder to live than knee-jerk destructive reactions. However, responding in these ways will grant dignity to yourself and the other parties involved. At the heart of it, acknowledging others’ humanity is one of Christian life’s deep values.

Uncomfortable Conversations

Racism is not easy to identify, let alone dismantle. Approach constructive conversations about racism with emotional intelligence. Click To Tweet

Gloria Browne-Marshall, my guest on the Uncomfortable Conversations series, writes in Race, Law, and American Society that “Justice is an ongoing quest. Freedom for people of color in America began as a fight for physical liberty. It continued as a struggle for constitutional protections and remains a battle against forces that would relegate people to a perpetual underclass based on color and tradition.”

Together, let’s weather that battle for Justice with dignity intact. We do this by fine-tuning what kind of behavior to include and what to leave out. Doing the work of transforming racism is too important not to get right.

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  1. Jonathan Parker

    Great wisdom and insight into the continuing issues on race! Thanks for sharing,

  2. Todd Anderson

    Thank you for leading us to consider the importance of EQ in the most important of conversations. Discernment is not a gift, it is a learned behavior. -Todd

  3. Lee Strawhun

    Have you read Peter Block’s book on Community, The Structure of Belonging. Great stuff about engaging and creating a way of discovering what everyone has to offer.

  4. Ginny Biglow

    Thank you for good ideas of how to best work with this most important issue now at the forefront of all of our lives! I appreciate ,a


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