A client reminded me this week that the United Nations was concerned about increasing acts of racism in the United States and Europe back in 2017. I was the Main Representative to the UN for a non-governmental organization at the time, and I remembered that another country accused of serious human rights violations raised the issue. It was largely overlooked.
three years later, here we are again, having these same tired and worn discussions that minorities have endured for hundreds of years. I don’t understand why we can’t get this right. Not just white people, people in positions of power, educators, journalists, and Americans. Why can’t we get this right as human beings on this planet in this moment?
I am on a mission to co-create the resolution–with you–so I naturally turned to the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process. I still have some self-exploration to do, and I will likely have to re-make the Seven Choices at times throughout the process, but here’s one conflict we can potentially resolve right now.
DEFINE THE CONFLICT
I disagree with people who say I should shut up, dismiss my own grief, and do only what I am told by people of color after an incident of racial injustice or murder.
IDENTIFY THE INTERESTS
I understand, to some degree, the pain of being unheard and in fear for my life and the lives of my loved ones. It’s nowhere near the same. It never is, but I can relate and empathize.
I think you might assume I have power that I do not.
I want us to work together in a mutually beneficial partnership toward one human race.
I need education, compassion, patience, understanding, love, and opportunities, just like you do.
PLAY WITH THE POSSIBILITIES
If I could have this conflict resolve in any way possible, we would each have a voice in the resolution process. We would help each other heal our pains and lift people around us. We would hold accountable people in positions of authority, each other, and ourselves. We would create sustainable peace and opportunities through the liberty and justice for all that was promised, but that has yet to be delivered.
CREATE THE FUTURE
It begins with the listening and continues through the healing.
- Before engaging anyone else directly, go on a hunt for your own hidden (implicit) biases. Too often, we humans jump at the opportunity to point out what other people need to do before we have ourselves in order. I am deeply engaged in that process through my work, but I am making a conscious effort to go deeper right now. I see this being a lot like the coronavirus. I have tremendous ability to spread a harmful bias that I’m not even aware that I have.
- Once identified, challenge what you think you know about “others”. It’s highly unlikely that the millions of people in any race are exactly alike. Learn more about the full range of individuals and their stories. Read biographies of or books by people in the race you fear or dislike. Watch shows and movies with characters in that race. View art and listen to music from artists of that race. Immerse yourself so you can have new ideas and well-informed conversations with people in another race. Yet be careful not to assume that anything you read, watch, view, or hear reflects the experience of everyone in the race. There are too many other variables, such as gender, economic status, and geographical location.
- Engage with the intent to understand. Even if you’re being yelled at and blamed for things you didn’t do or situations you don’t know how to correct either, just listen. This will take a lot of self-restraint at times. You will want to defend and justify yourself. When possible, don’t. Trust yourself and your record. Just listen. Ask questions. Let people free their emotions. Listen for the hurts you can heal. And heal the ones you can.
STAY ON PARR
We have our work cut out for us. Racism has arguably been common among humans since the time of Aristotle. However, we do not live in the conditions of our ancestors. We are not them, no matter how much we might have in common. We have access to tools, understanding, opportunities, and each other in ways that they did not. Please do not give up. Keep planning, action, revising, and repeating until racism is as uncommon as tuberculosis or polio.
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Nance L. Schick, Esq. is an attorney, mediator, and conflict resolution coach based in New York City. Her goal is to keep people out of court and build their conflict resolution skills. She helps managers and business owners have difficult conversations about topics like race and gender. Her holistic, integrative approach draws from her experience as a business owner, crime victim, employer, human resources supervisor, minor league sports agent, and United Nations representative.