Black History Month – Let’s Talk About Us/Race

As the end of Black History Month approaches, it is important that we discuss the elephant in the room. Race. As often as it is attempted to be ignored, the topic of race is, and must be, addressed. No matter where you’re from, what your major is, or what you want to do with your career, there is always going to be differences between the people you work with and in a lot of cases, the color of your skin is the easiest to point out. Thanks to the Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity, there are tips out on how to talk about race appropriately. In this blog, I will discuss three tips that really stood out to me as someone who plans to be in the professional workplace and is African-American.

TIP #1: Be mindful of your own assumptions, thoughts, and emotions: According to the handout, “It’s also important to be aware of your personal connection to the issue and understand that others may have different or no perceived personal connection to the topic.” I found this idea important because people today must understand that not everyone has lived the same life. Whether it’s words, actions, or beliefs, there may or may not be a connection and that is okay. Personally, I’d rather own up to our differences than force trying to be the same because, in the end, it creates a learning experience.

TIP #2: Understand how race and class impact experience: The advice given in the article states, “People of color from economically advantaged families may not have experienced economic disparities and hardships, yet may still share the experience of being targeted, discriminated against, and subjected to various microaggressions.” I really want to stress this topic because it happens so often in today’s society. It’s always the worst when discrimination happens in front of those who may not understand because it can then escalate the issue. I always remind my friends that are white that regardless of what we are doing and if we share the same level of experience, people are going to look at me differently than you. It’s sad that it has to be that way, but it is more comforting when a person who isn’t a minority realizes it rather than pretending like it doesn’t happen.

TIP #3: Use inclusive language: The handout mentions, “It’s easy to fall into the trap of “us vs. them,” but doing so usually causes others to react defensively and eventually results in an explosion or shutdown.” Please, please, please… do not refer to anyone as “you people”. The level of disrespect that creates is beyond measure. We all have a goal here and that is to create unity within our community. If we continue to separate ourselves out of habit, then that goal will never be reached. I cannot wait for the day when the color of your skin doesn’t affect your level of success. Just imagine success being success! No white, Black, Latinx, Asian classifications, just triumph.

For more information and tips about discussing race effectively, please visit the Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity’s website and look over the helpful handouts.