Do you ever have conversations with yourself? I’m not talking about a quick “don’t do that!” or “what’s wrong?” I’m talking full on conversations.
A conversation where you end up in an argument and find yourself in a corner.
I have. When my best friend called to tell me she was getting married, I had a complete “deprogramming” argument with myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I was happy for her. She was marrying a great guy. But, I was sad for myself, mad at my situation and questioning everything.
I was thirty two years old and she was the last of my single friends. I was about to become a lone wolf and that scared me. So the questioning began:
- What’s wrong with you?
- What are you waiting for?
- Why do you feel sad?
- Do you believe there’s something wrong with you?
There were a lot of questions and emotions as I grappled with conflicting ideas. You see, as a woman, I’d been programmed and socialized to believe that I should already be married at my age. I should at least have prospects.
So as I confronted each ingrained precept, I had to change the narrative. I had to tell myself a new story over and over again so I could replace the old, useless story I’d been socialized to believe.
Dismantling a racist system starts with personal conversations and arguments. Only those who are willing to admit to a certain programming can start the process of deprogramming. Which is why I’ve created this list of “Self-Conversation Starters” as a guide to becoming the change you want to be a part of in this world.
Use these introspective questions as journal prompts, group conversation starters or as a personal coaching tool to start conversations about your feelings pertaining to race.
Question #1 – Do you think of yourself as a race?
If you’re White chances are you don’t. Consider why not. Consider what you’ve encountered socially that makes it so you don’t think of yourself as White.
Question #2 – Does talking about race make you uncomfortable?
Think about the reasons you feel uncomfortable when someone brings up race in any situation. Think about why you may or may not bring up race in any situation.
Question #3 – Have you ever called out another person on a situation you knew was racially charged?
This is a tough one because if you’re not sensitive to race, meaning, if you’re not tuned into how race plays a part in everyday encounters, you probably didn’t realize a situation was racially charged. . . which brings us to
Question #4 – What are you doing to learn more about race in America?
Think about the books you’re reading, the shows you’re watching and the podcasts you’re listening to. Think about the conversations you’re having with other and the courses you’re taking. Think about the restaurants you go to and the communities you travel in. Think about your friendship circle and the people you work with.
Question #5 – Have you ever been the only one of your race in any situation?
Think about how it felt to be in that situation and examine the feelings that come up. Think about your reaction to the people around you. Think about what you said, did or did not do. Think about the questions you asked or didn’t ask.
Question #6 – Do you believe that everyone’s human experience is the same?
Think about how you treat others that don’t look like you. Think about how you refer to foods, books, communities, music, traditions of others. Think about how many shades of people work at your company. Think about how you react to art, expression and nuance of differing cultures.
Question #7 – What are you taking for granted?
Think about the privileges you hold, the place you live and the opportunities you enjoy. Think about how comfortable you are calling for police assistance, moving to any part of the country or where you shop.
Question #8 – What do I need to change about my thinking?
This is one of the most profound questions you can ask yourself because it means you need to stay open to new ideas and ways of thinking. It means you need to consider other points of view that may not be in line with what you’ve been socialized to think (remember my story above). This is the beginning of real growth.
Question #9 – How would changing my thinking change my life?
Think about the outcome of changing your thinking. Think about what you will gain and what you’ll lose in changing your thinking. Think about the changes you’ll need to make personally when you’re thinking changes.
Question #10 – What difference am I making in this world?
If you look at what your ultimate personal goals are, think about how they’l impact the world. Think about the friends you’ll make, the food, music and art you’ll enjoy. Think about the impact you’ll have on everyone who comes in contact with you. Think about how you’ll feel at the end of each day, week, month, year.
The conversations we have with ourselves are the most profound. No one knows our thoughts better than we do. No one understands how we see or process the world better than we do. That’s why starting with internal conversations is the best place to begin dismantling the racist system we’ve been socialized with.
This isn’t the place to let guilt run wild. It’s also not a good idea to wallow in shame when the answers start to surface.
This is where empowerment begins. The more you learn about yourself and how you react to situations, people, places, things etc. the better you are at noticing what’s going on around you.
Step into your power and use it to do better. Always remember: we’re always growing and things are always changing. Being the change, just like life, is a marathon. Give yourself time to ingest, process and rest before jumping back into the ring and making change.
Everything grows in steps.