Why Ignoring White People’s Discomfort In Discussing Race Will Being Justice Forward!
I am concerned with society’s desire not to make non-Black people, particularly White people, uncomfortable when discussing race. This silence only hurts Black people, yet those who benefit from racism emotions are centered. The goal is not to this blog post be a guilt trip, nor am I expecting feelings of guilt. It’s about having necessary conversations that are long overdue.
That claim that there is no room for discussing race in today’s world is dangerous. Especially for those so often harmed based on their race. Remember we have a society whose very structure is predicated on race. So let’s talk about it.
Google describes the word discomfort as ‘a feeling of irritation, soreness, or pain that, though not severe, is annoying. The noun discomfort is good for describing situations when you aren’t quite in pain, but you don’t feel very good. Things that cause discomfort include a dull toothache, a blister on your foot, and having to discuss racism or things to do with racial injustices (my own emphasis).’
Acknowledging that a problem exists is the first step in dealing with it. Then taking ACTION, no matter how uncomfortable that is, is an important next step. Guilt is not the next step, because it does not lead to action.
Actions that are often uncomfortable are usually transformative and lead to sustainable change. Ask yourself, in wake of the 2020 protest following George Floyd’s murder, what meaningful change has taken place? This is ample proof that the status quo cannot continue any longer just to protect White fragility.
If you are still uncomfortable then understand this, you’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution. Like Dr. Kendi mentioned “not being racist” is not the goal. The objective is to dismantle white supremacy and disrupt systems of oppression.
For White people deciding or rather choosing not to talk about racism is in fact another privilege they have that is not afforded to Black people. It’s one thing to make a decision on whether to talk or not talk about it, but if it’s your lived experience and your daily reality, then you have no choice BUT to be uncomfortable LIVING that reality every day. That is what Black people have had to, and still continue to, live with without the option of opting out. This is not said to request pity. Pity does nothing for bringing justice forward.
White privilege means you can choose to distance yourself and change the subject to a more comfortable discourse that doesn’t leave you with a negative experience. You can even pretend it doesn’t exist but Black people don’t have that luxury regardless of how much they don’t want it or how uncomfortable it makes them feel.
I totally understand that it is difficult to notice your privilege. But it’s better to admit that you do not know what it is like to walk in a Black person’s shoes rather than deny their reality or completely ignore it. Realize the need to have the conversation and seek to understand rather than to be understood.
If You’re Not Willing To Get Uncomfortable, Forget About Change
We’ve all heard the saying, “the only constant in life is change”, and “change is oftentimes difficult and uncomfortable”, however, the fruits of its labor are often immeasurable. Similarly, caterpillars go through an extreme change to become the butterflies we so admire and diamonds are formed under extreme pressure and heat to turn coal into the beautiful gems that they are. We can and should have the conversations that will help us build a better society for ALL!
There are clearly some serious issues that need a lot of discomforts to be dealt with successfully! Racism in America is one of those. We cannot continue to protect those who want to avoid a little discomfort when Black people are experiencing tremendous harm. Also, the avoidance of discomfort is to the detriment of society and at the same time willingly denies change to those who would love to see progress.
What needs to be done instead is for us to keep educating and informing one another through open and honest dialogue. This way we will avoid the untold suffering and irreparable damage at a deep psychological level that is caused by the choice to remain silent in the face of adversity.
Please remember that just because you don’t see it or experience it yourself does not mean it is non-existent or not a problem.
While it is possible that White people can be anxious and hesitant to address racism because they do not know what to say, withdrawing from the conversation altogether is not the answer either. It impedes necessary progress and allows history to keep repeating itself with unabated vigor.
Dr. Martin Luther King’s words ring so true at this moment in time. He said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”.
So here’s the thing, you’re probably not going to change if you’re not uncomfortable in some way or the other. So if you’re really serious about being part of the solution then get ready to be uncomfortable!