The recent presidential election left many in this country questioning our values, ourselves, and each other. The biggest issues we face in America come down to race, including where we live, what schools we attend and what jobs we have. We dream about living in a fair and just society where everyone has equal opportunity to pursue happiness. But until we have honest conversations about our views on race, acknowledging our implicit bias and our privilege, we will continue to repeat history.
Neighborhood Connections is working to inspire conversations that move us forward, one community at a time. This nationally recognized community-building program’s mission is to ignite the power of everyday people to create together an extraordinary world right where they live. This includes hosting a series of neighborhood events aimed at bringing people together, like Let’s Get R.E.A.L. About Race.
In attending the workshop Let’s Get R.E.A.L About Race, I had the opportunity to engage in candid conversations about race with a group of strangers. The facilitators, Erica Merritt and Adele DiMarco Kious, expertly moved the discussion forward while allowing every voice to be heard. They talked about the importance of personally tracking where we are in terms of race-related issues and conversations.
Do you stay in your comfort zone, dabble in your learning zone or hide in your panic zone when it comes to race? That is the beginning of getting real about race. Next, the trainers engaged the group in some interactive exercises, forcing us to literally face a stranger and answer thought-provoking questions like “Tell your partner of a time when you encountered a racial injustice and what you did (if anything) about it.” In the discussion that followed, we emerged with a deeper understanding of one another and ourselves.[bctt tweet=”Race: Stay in your comfort zone? Dabble in your learning zone? Or hide in your panic zone? ” username=”DarleneNEnglish”]
The importance of getting real about race, as well as other issues, has broad implications. Being open-minded about one another leads to greater awareness, deeper compassion and increased humanity. Diverse communities enrich all our lives, and allow us to pursue life, liberty and happiness together.
For those interested in getting real about race, a number of events like these are happening around the city as Clevelanders strive to make our communities a better, more welcoming place for all. Neighborhood Connections will host another free Let’s Get R.E.A.L. About Race event from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM on July 11. There’s also an ongoing Craft Beer & Conversations, an event focused around a theme, like race or gender, to be discussed over a craft brew. Their next event, on July 30 will be co-sponsored by WISH Cleveland and will include a focused discussion about race relations in Cleveland (detail to be announced). For a deeper dive, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress is hosting a Racial Equity & Inclusion training by the Racial Equity Institute throughout 2017.
Challenge yourself. We have to be willing to get uncomfortable and move into to our learning zone. We must recognize and acknowledge our privilege, as well as our implicit bias where it exists. Only then will we be able to see our way through to solutions and real progress.
Track where you are. Are you in your comfort zone, learning zone or panic zone? It’s ok to question your own beliefs, stereotypes and preconceived notions about race, gender, ethnicity, class. Try to recognize your own implicit bias and work to move toward your learning zone, where you are open to diverse perspectives.
Take a deep dive. Attend the Racial Equity Institute or similar workshops. Get uncomfortable in pursuit of growth. People who have attended in the past say the program was life changing.
Learn more about organizations that pursue racial equity and understanding, such as Empowering Youth, Exploring Justice, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Black Lives Matter Cleveland, Facing History Facing Ourselves. Part of being an effective ally is learning how to speak up and advocate in a way that truly help.