Understanding Race: 20 Things Everyone Should Know About Race and Racism
By now we know that race isn’t real, but it still remains our deepest divide. It is time to take a closer look at race, begin redemptive conversations, cultivate deep healing and choose right or compassionate action.
It is important to understand the difference between racial bias and systemic and institutional racism. Racial bias, whether conscious or unconscious, often results in discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity. Xenophobia and anti-immigration are examples of prejudice, bias and hate, but systemic racism is something different.
Parents often avoid talking about race or racism to their children because they do not know what to say, or they believe it would be too painful or complicated for them. For many Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) talking about race is not an option, its essential in helping our children move through the world. There is a necessary and important conversation that parents of black children must have with their children about how to talk, dress, and act in the world, such a conversation may be a matter of life and death. ”…as a black person you can be killed for simply being black: no hands in your pockets, no playing music, no sudden movements, no driving your car, no walking at night, no walking in the day, no turning onto this street, no entering this building, no standing your ground, no standing here, no standing there, no talking back, no playing with toy guns, no living while black.” -Claudia Rankine
Racial bias is not learned by talking about race or racism. In fact, conversations about racism will help your child to unlearn racial bias that is systemic in our society. Similarly, talking about the LGBTQ community will not make your child gay. It will teach them love and acceptance.
Help your children develop respect, acceptance and appreciation for others from different backgrounds. Guide them in cultivating pride in their own identity and teach them how to combat injustices when they witness it. Expand the conversation beyond their own identity, so the conversation becomes about compassion and mutual respect for others. Teach them how to become a “we” community and not an “I” community.
If you wait too long to talk to your children, it just might be too late. The conversations are already happening. My 6 year old daughter has already experienced one of her peers at school telling her that she is ugly, her hair looks weird and her locs look like black cheetos. My 9 year old son was disappointed and hurt when one of his friends at school told him that his Golden State Warriors NBA basketball jersey that said, “The Town” on it, should say, “The Hood” because he is black.
We don’t want our children to internalize the messages that some people are more valuable than others.
“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist -- we must be anti-racist.”
We live in a profoundly separate and unequal world. White supremacy is built into the foundation of this country, as well as the world. It’s not enough to be non-racist, white supremacy will continue even without individual racists. To overcome oppression and create a more just world, there needs to be mass participation in transforming basic systems in ways that will distribute power differently. However, there is important individual healing work to be done before many are able to contribute to an anti-racist movement. Integrating anti-racism practice into our yoga practice is an essential component for achieving equality, justice and liberation.