Necessary Conversations: Talking Candidly About Race

By reframing our history, Hannah-Jones opens the door to action. “What I find helpful is a sense of anger at the choices we make every day that some people are valuable and others are not,” she says. “I don’t want us to be hopeful that one day we will change it. I want us to do something about it now.”

“Having a conversation about race is not about blaming all whites for slavery and its consequences, but rather about recognizing the existence of slavery and its consequences.” —Benet Burt

Sharing authentic stories about racism is vital in helping white people recognize their own privilege and making people of color feel heard and respected. At the Mississippi Urban League, Beneta Burt facilitates dialogue in safe spaces “where people in the room may feel uncomfortable,” and then work through their discomfort together. And at the University of South Carolina, the Welcome Table uses storytelling to facilitate intimate conversations that build trust, expose hidden prejudices, and encourage honest, face-to-face exchanges about race.

“To move forward, this nation must heal the wounds of our past and learn to cooperate with politeness, and indeed, with love … We must build the ability to see ourselves in the face of another.” —Gail Christopher

Gail Christopher believes that empathy and compassion are skills that can be learned – and that hearts and minds must be changed before it is possible to change attitudes. Her Rx Racial Healing Circlesbring small groups together to foster appreciation, belonging and consciousness shifting, assets she believes are necessary to move beyond “being different” and empower people to recognize their shared humanity.

The health damage of racial injustice is reflected in maternal mortality, the experience of incarceration, immigrant health, climate change and much more.

Stories and data on specific populations reveal the harsh consequences of racial inequalities. In her shocking New York Times lead story, “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis, Linda Villarosa follows the tragedy of black maternal and infant mortality across class lines. She places much of the blame on the structural racism embedded “in the lived experience of a black woman in America,” coupled with the often unconscious but ubiquitous racial bias of a medical system still dominated by white physicians. .

Likewise, the impact of serving time in prison or incarceration hits blacks the hardest. In Mississippi, 75 percent of those serving prison terms of 20 years or more are black men. Alesha Judkins describes barbaric conditions at Parchman, the infamous state prison, including black mold, food contaminated with rat feces and bed shortages that force inmates to sleep on the floor. Hopefully, she’ll also talk about the efforts of her advocacy group, FWD.us, to end bail, reduce extreme sentences, restore family ties and redirect investment from criminal justice to community development.

The power to re-engineer social structures to enhance rather than undermine justice rests with all of us.

Informed by historical and contemporary realities, Necessary Calls concludes hopefully, emphasizing the power to end structural racism through narrative change, innovative approaches to knowledge building, inclusive decision-making and coalition building.

Our contributors remind us that centering actionable research on justice allows us to think more broadly about how we measure what works, gives prominence to community engagement, and respects complexity in research design. By recognizing that our beliefs, assumptions, and values ​​affect what data we collect and how we use it, we can move beyond what Jara Dean-Coffey calls the traditional “Western, white-dominant frame.” Dean-Coffey offers the Equitable Evaluation Framework as an alternative tool to rethink the purpose and practice of evaluation.

“Too much is at stake that evaluation should not be an instrument of change and that it should be in the service of justice and liberation.” —Jara Dean-Coffey

Read Necessary Calls† Together we can eradicate structural racism at the root and work towards equality.

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