Diversity advocate Vernā Myers presents a powerful, eloquent call to action. Her discussion of racial bias and the violence it feeds carries timely lessons and three practicable, unifying steps for social change. getAbstract recommends her talk to those who seek to spark cultural progress – and that, Myers emphasizes, should be everyone.
- In the United States, violence against black people endures from the days of lynching and immolation. The problem is cultural and rooted in the American psyche.
- Every American is responsible for preventing further violence against black people by doing the hard work of introspection and self-transformation.
- Seek out your individual biases and challenge them – for example, by doing exercises to retrain your brain’s automatic associations with race.
- Stop avoiding black individuals. Instead, broaden and diversify your social network and friendships. This will expand your notion of family and your self-concept.
- Denounce racist words, even when the speaker is a friend or family member, and especially in the presence of children.
In her book The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson follows the 1915–1970 diaspora of six million black people from the American South. These brave men and women fled brutality, immolation and lynching. Though some details have changed, the violence against the black community endures. Consider the many shootings of unarmed black men in the United States. Such racially motivated violence is rooted in the “national psyche,” a mind-set that nudges people to cross the street or lock their doors when a young black man appears. Every American has a duty to prevent further violence against black people by doing the hard work of introspection and self-change. For the good of all, the country must be inclusive and offer a future to black individuals. Three strategies will help initiate change:
- Find your biases – Americans determined to be “good people” sometimes fail to be “real people.” Examine whom you trust and whom you fear. A study on unconscious bias called the “implicit association test” showed that 70% of white subjects associate images of white faces with a positive word and connect black faces with a negative word. Half of the black subjects in this study likewise showed a preference for white faces. Becoming “color-blind” is not the solution; in fact, this can cause you to miss significant disparities in the lives of black people. Instead, retrain your brain using this exercise: Gaze at images of inspiring, great black individuals. This will help you form new automatic associations.
- Step toward black men, not away from them – Set an intention to change how you respond to seeing young black men. Broaden and diversify your social network. Don’t let your fear of feeling awkward or uncomfortable hinder you; these feelings are an inevitable part of a necessary process. And if you are a young black man, embrace the outreach and goodwill. Authentic friendships that transcend race enable all people to see beyond stereotypes, attain understanding and compassion, broaden their self-concept and notion of family, and grow from “bystanders” into “allies.”
- Speak out against racism – When someone voices racism, don’t remain silent, even if the speaker is a relative or a friend. This is especially important when children are present. Remember that unlike white families, black families don’t have the option to shield their children from the “ugliness of racism.” Keep racism from spreading to new generations by telling children that the nation has made great progress toward racial equality but has more work to do. Today’s youth need to know that they are a crucial part of continued progress and the fight against racial injustice.
About the Speaker
Vernā Myers brings her background in law to her roles as diversity consultant and advocate.
This document is restricted to personal use only.