I ask myself this question whenever I am faced with difficulty or conflict. The answer I give points to where my control lies.
Here lately, I’ve been asking myself the question, “What part of eliminating racism is my responsibility?” As a result of this self-evaluation, I am developing the following habits.
- I actively pursue friendships with people outside my ethnic group. I do this in a number of ways, including
- Purposefully sitting with people of color at meetings, in classes, or in workshops.
- Seeking out and attending events attended by people of color.
- I actively work to project confidence in African American people in the workplace. Some ways I attempt to accomplish this are
- If I am in a place of business and have a question for an authority, and I am faced with two employees of different ethnicities, I always direct my question to the person of color.
- I address all people, regardless of race, with terms considered to be respectful. I’m from the south, so I say, “Yes Ma’am and Yes Sir,” to people in authority, regardless of position, race, or age. To the cashier at CVS who asks me if this is all I need today, I respond, “Yes, Sir.” To the doctor in the ER who asks if I have been seen yet, I say, “No Ma’am.”
- I consciously refrain from prejudging people. I know very well that a well-dressed elderly white man can be every bit as threatening or as innocent as a teenager dressed like a juvenile delinquent. I am equally respectful and equally suspicious of both.
Those are just a few of the things I do in my life to help make a difference in the race problem in America. Here’s what I don’t do. I don’t list things African American people can or should do differently to reduce racial tension. As a white woman married to a white man and the mother of three white children, I really can’t participate in this method of eliminating racism. I just can’t.
So I do what I can do, what I should do, the things that fall within my scope of responsibility. What about you? What do you do to help eliminate racism?