(Please note, this episode and show notes are focused on doing racism thought work to prepare for conversations with people do disagree with the fact that Black Lives Matter. This should be taken as a rallying cry for white people to educate other white people that continue to choose racism. However, these tips can also be used by ANYONE for other forms of communication, debates, or heated conversations. This episode will be a part of a series dedicated to having these types of conversations.)
As a white woman myself, I know part of my work is to speak to other white people and inspire them into action. In addition to taking these same steps I’m going to share with you here, I’m using my skills as a coach to help you have effective and meaningful conversations with people who have different opinions than you.
This episode is part of a series of episodes that I will do as a resource to help you navigate difficult conversations like Race with your family, circle of friends, co-workers, and especially those sympathetic to institutionalized racism
This episode in particular is about doing the thought work needed around racism within yourself before having these conversations with anyone else.
1)Process your current emotions and think about what feeling will lead you to take INTENTIONAL ACTION.
After a few days of getting completely lost in the scroll-hole of social media, it became apparent that there was A LOT of emotions going on. And if you’re white and want to participate in Anti Racism, there’s probably a good chance that you’ve been experiencing a lot of shame, guilt, and other intense (but ultimately unhelpful) emotions that don’t serve you or anyone else around you. So let’s start there.
Are you feeling shame and guilt as you learn about Anti Racism?
I was stuck in a scroll hole, making this mean all the things that I was secretly scared of: That I am racist — that I don’t know what I’m doing — anything I say/do will be wrong. I took actions that strengthened thoughts like these that ARE NOT HELPFUL.
I unconsciously looked for evidence of how these thoughts were true, and sinking further and further into guilt. Until I started snapping out of it by asking myself, “Is this thought/feeling what I want to be experiencing right now? Do these serve me (or the cause) in any way?”
What actions do you take when you feel shame and guilt?
I’m going to guess probably something like overeating, scrolling social media incessantly, avoiding talking to people… the list goes on. What is it for you? Get real with yourself and figure out what that is, so you can move through it.
Fear won’t lead to a result you want.
If you’re reading this post or listening to the Monica Chats podcast, you’re hopefully horrified by racial injustice happening in America and want to be a part of the solution as well.
But being frozen in fear, shame, or any emotion that keeps you stuck won’t help you, people of color, or anyone else. So the work here is to find what will.
If you’re trying to find an emotion that serves you in times like these (and ANY other time), you’ve got to see the thought that will bring that emotion on. Which we’ll talk about later on.
For now, think about your thoughts that have lead to your fear.
Write any of these thoughts that come to mind. Take a piece of paper and write each thought that comes to your mind as a separate sentence.
Be sure it doesn’t become a narrative, like writing in a diary. Instead, after you write one thought as it comes to mind, write the next directly under it. This way, they become distinct from each other. Aftward put these to the side; we’ll come back to them.
Start thinking about how you would need to feel to help you speak in a way that will make an impact.
If you’re in fear, your brain will want to keep you from taking action. It will naturally come up with thoughts that will make you want to stop, like, “There’s no reasoning with them.” Find thoughts like these that don’t lead you into an action that will get the result (for this episode is talking to others about race).
Are you feeling resistant?
Question why that is, over and over until you get to the bottom.
An example is, “Why do I feel the urge to resist this work?” then follow up with “why does that matter?”. Continue on and on until you reach the bottom, the real root reason why you’re resistant.
Once you have practice doing this on yourself, you’ll see how powerful and shifting that is. You can use it on the person you’re talking to in the future to help them see for THEMSELVES the shift they need.
Self-realization is extremely powerful, but the only way it works is through digging deep within yourself.
Name the emotion that will serve you.
When you imagine yourself having conversations with people who don’t agree with you on Race or that Black Lives Matter, how do you think you’d be feeling?
Maybe it’s determined? Courageous? Curious? Certain?
Imagine having that emotion right now. Figure out how this FEELS in your body. You can do this by thinking about the last time you felt it in your body.
What was happening when you did? What thoughts were going on in your mind?
When you find the thought that led you to feel that emotion. Write it down — word for word. We’re going to come back to it and strengthen it.
2) Jumping into action without processing thoughts is not intentional action; it’s a reaction.
Taking action from an unhelpful thought and emotion that doesn’t serve you doesn’t create a positive result. Our thoughts lead to our emotions, which drive our actions and lead to results in our lives.
Jumping into action without taking time to process emotions and thoughts is not an intentional action; it’s a REaction.
If you’re an action taker like I am, then it’s easy to want to take a ton of action to avoid how you feel.
It’s the same as someone overeating or overdrinking when they experience thoughts and emotions they don’t want to. This doesn’t make the negative feeling go away.
Starting with action will not create the result you want if you still have thoughts that won’t allow you to create them.
You can’t become anti-racist without examining deep-seated thoughts and beliefs in your own mind. As you fully explore these, it’ll be easier to communicate with people of the opposite opinion.
I’ll give you a personal example.
As the news of George Floyd’s murder broke, I was horrified. I looked to social media to see how other’s were handling this news, as well. The conversation on social media quickly turned to anti-racism, white privilege, and systemic racism. I didn’t process my thoughts around what was happening, so my emotions turned to a mixture of shame, guilt, and fear.
After a while, I saw other white coaches getting negative reactions in their Facebook Groups, social media, etc. about their actions (or lack thereof) and that fear intensified.
I didn’t do thought work to figure out the root of WHY these things intensified my fear. Instead, I had knee jerk reactions and tried to alleviate that fear.
Like, follow a ton of black content creators social media channels at once simply because someone mentioned them (and without getting to know them — like I usually would when I INTENTIONALLY follow someone). This didn’t help them OR me in any way.
At the same time, none of these actions addressed the ROOT of WHY I felt the fear: I’m scared of offending someone and them thinking negatively of me. Afraid of them telling me that and that changing how *I* look at me.
Since I hadn’t done any thought work, I stuck with the first reason my brain came up with. “I was scared of doing something wrong.” Which, at face value, was true, it wasn’t the root of what was happening.
Since I had that thought I didn’t work though, I reposted a ton, followed a ton, and didn’t come up with my own thoughts and views about what was happening logically like I normally would. So the result? Doing something wrong anyway.
Here’s a quick snapshot of what that looks like:
- What happened: Seeing negative reactions of peers
- My thought: “I’m scared of doing something wrong.“
- My emotion: Fear
- My Actions: – Blindly follow multiple accounts because they were black (and recommended by other accounts) without taking time to become familiar with their work, hastily reposted their content, etc
- My result: Continue to have a fear of “doing something wrong”.
Take time to fill in the blanks for what that looks like for you so you can clearly understand your line of thinking:
- What happened: __________________________
- My Thought: ______________________________
- My Emotion: ______________________________
- My Actions: _______________________________
- My Result: ________________________________
Feel free to use this PDF, when you’re exploring your own thoughts.
3)Pinpoint unhelpful thoughts
One of the most important things to do right now is to create distance from you and your thoughts so you can dig deeper. This work mainly involves reminding yourself not to get wrapped up in your thoughts. I like to think of this, like creating actual space between you and your thoughts. Like you’re a fly on the wall, looking at the inside of your head.
Realize that every thought in your head does not have to be the truth.
Just because you thought it, doesn’t mean it’s set in stone, or even true. So often, we tell ourselves lies that feel true, especially when it comes to self-limiting beliefs.
Keep a special eye out for thoughts that have words or phrases like these:
- “What if”
- “That means”
- “I can’t”
- “I don’t know”
- “There’s no point”
- “Why bother?”
Find and debunk the untrue thoughts.
There is nothing that is less helpful than an unhelpful thought that doesn’t serve you, and that ISN’T true. But it’s not always easy to recognize these because they feel so true.
When it comes to learning about something like systematic racism, becoming an anti-racist or something like that is a lot bigger than just you, it’s hard to be able to pull thoughts that you have about yourself with these big topics that are untrue.
Let’s use “I’m a bad person” as an example. (But feel free to insert a similar thought that is personal to you.)
If you’re horrified by innocent people dying from police, and you realize that your skin tone (white) is what is the culprit of this, it’s all too easy to believe an insidious thought like, “I’m a bad person because I’m white” or something similar.
This thought is:
- Not helpful (to you, the Black Lives Matter movement or people of color)
- Doesn’t serve you (this thought leads to emotions like shame and guilt and like we’ve already talked about, these won’t lead you into action)
- Isn’t true.
The key to debunking untrue thoughts like this is to find the evidence that it isn’t true. The only way you can do that is if you’re not wrapped up in it, which is why creating space is SO important.
An easy way to do this is to ask yourself, “Is this a thought that serves me?” then, “Is this thought true? In what way is it NOT true?”
I had to do this same thought work with myself recently, and here’s what I came up with:
- It’s my fault that systemic racism exists.
- Having white privilege doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.
- Being unaware of things like this doesn’t make me a bad.
- My intentional action from here on out defines who I am. And I have complete control over my intentional action.
- I would never judge someone else so harshly for things they were ignorant of, so why am I putting so much pressure on myself?
More unhelpful thoughts are, “There’s no point talking to them” or “They’ll never understand.”
I wanted to address these now since we’re doing the prep work to be able to have a productive conversation with other white people about race.
I’ll go deeper into these thoughts in upcoming episodes of this series of the podcast, but it’s essential to start seeing thoughts like this now. Like we’ve seen earlier, your thoughts have a direct impact on your actions. And you can probably guess how these thoughts would influence you when you speak to people who don’t understand that Black Lives Matter.
If you want a quick way to prove this thought wrong, I’ve got one. A great example of proving this thought wrong is with Deeyah Khan in her documentary White Right: Meeting the Enemy. In her Emmy award-winning documentary, she interviews multiple skin-heads, overt racists, and Neo-Nazis and makes more than one impact.
My point is if, a Muslim woman can connect with a Neo-Nazi organization leader and get him to question his beliefs enough to quit the organization due in part to her, you can have a conversation with your family, friends, co-workers and anyone else.
Take power from accurate — but unhelpful thoughts
There might be thoughts that are actually true but lead you to unhelpful emotions that don’t serve you like shame, fear, guilt, etc.
Maybe like, “I’ve had racist thoughts before.”
At surface level, this is accurate. But what you make them MEAN about you is what leads to unhelpful emotions like guilt or shame.
Challenge these thoughts to turn them into something that serves you. Something that will lead you to feel the EMOTION you defined earlier in the episode. (like courage, certainty, etc.)
That could be simple as adding “… and that’s ok” to the end of your sentence. Or “…I’m learning” or “… because of that, I know how to do better now.”
4) Define helpful thoughts that serve you and lead to the emotion you labeled earlier
As you look at helpful emotions and pinpoint unhelpful thoughts that keep you from feeling that, notice when you feel an uplifting sensation in your body.
Have you ever noticed when you have an “a-ha” moment like a light bulb goes off, and you can actually FEEL inspiration in your body? Pinpointing that thought that lead to the “a-ha” will be CRITICAL.
This usually happens in a flash, so make sure to have your pen ready when you have it so you can write it down as soon as possible.
THIS thought will be one to practice building evidence for. You’ll practice repeating it to yourself, and reminding yourself WHY it’s true for you.
The more you do this work, the more natural the thought will feel eventual turn into a belief. It will come up naturally for you after a while, instead of you consciously having to do the work every day. But it will ONLY happen if you DO the work until it does.
This is not a one and done situation.
5)Think about the best result you’d want from this conversation.
Remember that exercise we talked about earlier? The one that started with “what happened“? You can take this same work and fill in the blanks to get a different result you want.
Let’s start with the result you want and work your way up.
- What will happen: Conversation with ___ (family member, co-worker, etc)
- My Thought: ______________________________
- My Emotion: ______________________________
- My Actions: _______________________________
- The Result I want: Them to clearly understand Black Lives Matter
As you fill this out, think about the version of you that already successfully done this?
- What actions did you take that led to that result?
- What emotion did you feel when you took that action? — maybe it’s courage? Curiosity? Compassion?
- What thoughts would lead you to feel this way? Like, “They simply don’t understand, they would be better off if they did“
Focus your time and energy building evidence to prove this thought true to yourself. So much so that you actually FEEL a shift in your body. How is this true?
Side-Note: This is why repeating affirmations mindlessly won’t work. You must do the work to PROVE the affirmation TRUE to you in order for the process of repeating them to yourself work.
I’ll see you in the next episode where we’ll talk about the actual step-by-step process to have these difficult conversations now that you’ve done the thought work.
P.S. If you’re ready to start bringing your dreams to life and finally get over the negative self-talk stopping you, then we need to chat! I’m offering a free 1-on-1 virtual call to help you define your goals, pinpoint what’s *actually* stopping you from getting them and what steps you NEED to take to make them a reality. I can’t wait to talk to you then!
Schedule a time below that works well, and I’ll be in touch.