Many of us want to have more effective conversations on race, and struggle to know when it makes sense to talk across racial lines, and when it doesn’t.
This week, we’re continuing our conversation with Brialle Ringer, Living Room Conversation’s Racial Equity Partner, and Becca Kearl, leader of our Guide Review Team, who spearhead our Racial Equity work.
They’re here to address some the our big questions, so we can all have more meaningful, productive, and healing conversations.
Q: Some people may question the notion of having separate conversation spaces around race. If we want to build a more united society, shouldn’t we all be talking together, and not apart?
Brialle Ringer: While we want Living Room Conversations to be a space where all are welcome no matter where they are in their journey, we also don’t want to place a burden on people of color to be in conversations where someone, a White person, is just beginning to understand their racial experience.
It can be triggering, frustrating, and emotionally draining to share space and be in conversation with someone who is essentially just beginning to understand that people are treated differently because of the color of their skin.
Racism isn’t new, this isn’t a new conversation for people of color.
As a Black woman, I absolutely want and need for White people to lean into the conversation and understand their own racial experience, but I don’t necessarily want to be in the room when someone is just beginning to see something we’ve been begging them to pay attention to for centuries.
[For White Americans], as with any new skill, it’s going to take some time to feel comfortable and confident talking about race!
Being in a conversation with people that look like you and have similar racial experiences can be really great for building up your confidence talking about race.
When you feel more comfortable and open to talking to diverse racial groups, we absolutely welcome and celebrate people talking to folks of different racial backgrounds to lean in with curiosity and desire for understanding.
Q: Brialle, as a Black woman, can you help us understand how a separate conversation space matters for you, personally?
BR: It’s really healing for me to be in conversation with other Black people to have my experience validated. I can speak freely, not have to explain what I mean, and trust that I will be believed, understood, and seen because we share a cultural background.
Sometimes we need our own space to dream and heal. Away from outsiders who don’t fully understand our experience, away from folks that think it’s best we just assimilate all together in the name of unity.
Q: Becca, I understand that you partnered with an organization when creating some of these guides. What would be helpful for us to understand about that process?
Becca Kearl: The Living Room Conversations model is open source, meaning other groups can use our format with attribution.
Media Done Responsibly (MDR), who we have worked with in the past, created and piloted both Black Women Answer the Call and Unmasking: A Dialogue for Black Men before the guides went up on our website.
Shaunelle Curry, Executive Director of MDR, approached us about having the guides more widely available and we worked together closely to make sure the guide represented both of our organizations’ standards. The Being White in the Anti-Racist Movement guide was created by our Guide Review Team.
I’m so grateful to Becca and Brialle for sharing their wisdom, for their work on racial equity, and most of all, for their fearless leadership.
As we all continue to learn and grow together, please continue to tell us where you’re feeling stuck, and share stories about your “light-bulb moments” in conversations about race.