One of the beliefs I hold true is to “know thyself.” Most often I’ve thought of the concept in terms of exploring career paths, knowing what you’re good at, what you like, what skills you have and what you need to learn. All that stuff. I’ve also applied it to examining what you believe to see how those beliefs are limiting your own potential.
I hadn’t considered how important this tenet of coaching is to social justice, but in the last couple of weeks, the need to make the unconscious conscious has become critical for myself and for this country.
I am racist. Prejudiced. Biased. Privileged.
It’s not my fault.
It IS my responsibility to re-educate myself, confront those biases and dismantle prejudice in how I think and act toward others. It is a lifelong pursuit.
I was in college when I first heard people using the term “politically correct.” Because I was afraid of being labeled racist or prejudiced, I was hesitant to speak up or ask questions. I never wanted to admit that I had any prejudice. I wanted to bury it and hoped it didn’t show up to embarrass me.
I am always afraid that my whiteness — white privilege, white supremacy — will leak out and I will say something offensive and look foolish.
Here’s the thing. I am white and privileged and biased, and therefore, I AM going to say the wrong thing and have to endure the embarrassment that arises. I have a lot to learn and sometimes that will be uncomfortable.
It’s a small price to pay for starting the process of dismantling prejudice, for learning how to be anti-racist.
Having biases is a problem; what’s even more dangerous is being unwilling to look at them. I have been trying to “get by” voting for the people who I believe will uphold values of diversity, meanwhile, I’ve been living my life and just doing my best not to offend.
It’s not good enough.
Compassion alone will not undo a lifetime of living from white bias. Feeling guilty or angry won't erase it, either. This is the truth. It is time to listen and learn.
I have been doing the thing that white people do all the time: make racism about me and how I feel, and as Ijeoma Oluo explains in her article, “Confronting racism is not about the needs and feelings of white people,” that’s white supremacy.
Oh. Right. As in, "supremacy" in that I think what matters most are MY feelings. Because I’m white. Privileged. In the majority. It’s finally starting to dawn on me.
I have blind spots. That’s what unconscious bias is. I can’t see what I can’t see, which means it’s time to listen and learn. I don’t have to do this all by myself, but I do have to be teachable. I’ve begun to recognize that when I point to others as being the ones who need to change, when I blame others, I’m dis-empowering myself. I’m missing an opportunity to change the thing I have the most control and influence over: myself.
In the meantime, here is the process I’m undertaking to change the things I can.
Educate myself. There are endless resources on racism, prejudice, and systemic oppression.
Take inventory of my beliefs and biases and where they show up.
Discuss with someone(s) I trust, so those beliefs are no longer hidden.
Act. The way to cement a new belief is by acting on it.