The “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” when talking about race

I spent the last week learning at a diversity seminar for independent school teachers. As someone who talks/thinks/learns about race often, this type of thing is my jam. I’m not really sure how to process all that I learned in the space I have this week, but I think writing will help. I began creating a list of how to talk and think about race. As the faculty reinforced this week, the language is essential.

It seems the hours closest to waking are often the most fitful. Today, I woke thinking about race. Thankfully, I awoke in my own bed after a week sleeping in a boarding school dorm with no AC (It was in Northern Massachusetts, but still).

Our daily awakening is an easy metaphor for what happens when we see something we have never seen before. We go from unconscious to conscious. Sometimes it is abrupt and sometimes it happens as a long progression. Learning about race and privilege has been both immediate and gradual for me. This week was like a splash of cold water during a REM cycle. 


So here are some do’s and don’t’s!

DO

  • Use the terms “white” or “European-American”; “black” or “African American”; Latino; people of color to describe people’s race

  • Be specific about what you mean when you say “Asian.” ex: Chinese American, Indian America, Korean American since the term “Asian” can refer to over sixty different ethnic groups

  • Seek to gain understanding about your unconscious biases–everyone has them

  • consider your unearned advantages if you are a member of a majority group

  • seek information and invite conversation

DON’T

  • Use the term Caucasian, Oriental, Negro, or Mulatto

  • Describe a single person as diverse. ex: “we have four diverse people in our class.” Use instead, students of color

  • Perpetuate stereotypes. Since race is socially constructed, it is inaccurate to make generalizations based on race. ex: Black women can’t drive. Even if you whisper it, it’s harmful, even if it’s a compliment it’s harmful. ex: Asians are good at math

  • Glorify colorblindness (When has the inability to see ever been positive?)

  • Remain silent “As a society we pay a price for our silence.” –Beverly Tatum

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2 responses to “The “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” when talking about race

  1. I know this is crazy, but shouldn’t even non-majorities think about their unearned advantages–even if only to decide that there aren’t any?

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