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Reflections on Racial Justice: Part XVI – Conversations in Black & White

A reader of the previous Reflection asked about my use of the phrase “course correct” in regard to my positive preference for Black people on the Harvard IAT test.  I did not mean I wanted to raise my preference for Whites or lower my preference for Blacks.

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Reflections on Racial Justice: Part XV – Unconscious Bias, Continued

In reflecting on my result, it seemed like the Blacks I was close to were a lot like me. Therefore, in my conversations with them, I may have missed something uniquely Black about them that I should have appreciated.  The course correction is to test that with current friends of color.  My conversations with these friends over the last four months suggest that I probably missed wariness and weariness in other friends years ago.

The kind of conversations I should have had with Black friends in the past—and that I have more recently had with friends of color—is exemplified in this Reflection’s resource video.  It is a “conversation in black and white” between two young women from my church.  The Black woman is Courtney Kelly, a young articulate professional manager.  She became involved at my large and largely white church because, while she felt apprehensive about fitting in at first, the “people who loved on her” outweighed the people who were stand-offish.  She is now an active volunteer.

In the video, Courtney talks about the Black Lives Matter movement, systemic racism, how to help, sharing stories of every-day racism, and other topics.  She is calm and thoughtful.  However, she has feelings and convictions just as strong and powerful as the angry woman in the “monopoly” video I shared in my first Reflection.  She talks about a “social contract” that makes it okay for people and police to assume that Blacks are threats or perpetrators of crimes.  The same “social contract” allows Black’s legislated rights, such as voting, to be suppressed by means considered legal.  Voter suppression is one of several examples she gives of systemic racism.

While Courtney believes that systemic racism must be attacked as a system, there are things that individuals can do to combat racism.  One of them is to find out about Black experiences through conversations, reading, movies, websites.  Although she doesn’t like talking about her painful experiences with racism, she feels an obligation to do so:  if she won’t do it, her friends won’t hear it.  When she lets a white friend into her “little black box,” she wants them to sit, listen, and believe her.

If white friends listen and believe, they will realize that their Black friends and peers experience racism that creates tension, fear, and exhaustion.  Their Black friends are not exempt because they, metaphorically, wear a suit and tie.  Second, white friends will understand their privilege.  Whites don’t need to think about our whiteness all the time as Blacks must think about their Blackness.  For example, when whites get up in the morning, we don’t have to decide how to dress to counteract our whiteness.  When we step outside the safety of our church we don’t have to wonder if we will end up dead or battered before we get home.  We do not live in exhausting tension.

When we feel outraged that Blacks are still marginalized every day and systemically, we are motivated to go beyond thinking that not being racist is enough.  We realize we need to stand up to injustice and use our spheres of influence to promote change.

There is much more in Courtney’s conversation that is worth listening to. ⤵︎

Resource: https://www.hpumc.org/stories/conversations-in-black-and-white-courtney-heather

Frank Lloyd
Frank Lloyd
Dr. Frank Lloyd is the former Associate Dean of Executive Education at Southern Methodist University's (SMU) Edwin L. Cox School of Business, where he led development and delivery of award-winning executive leadership programs that transformed careers and organizations. He was the driving force in the creation of a national center of excellence on Latino leadership, and he was instrumental in the launch of the James M. Collins Executive Education Center. Dr. Lloyd joined SMU’s Cox School from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, where he was Vice President of Executive Education. Prior to joining Thunderbird, Dr. Lloyd was a human resources executive with General Motors. Among the highlights of his career, he was responsible for organization development and leadership training for GM Europe during its transition from mass to lean production, and he was the first GM Human Resources manager at New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), the historic joint venture between GM and Toyota noted for its innovative labor-management relations and the introduction of the Toyota production system. Dr. Lloyd is an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of UNICON, the Global Consortium for University-based Executive Education. He served on the national board of Inroads, an organization with the mission to develop and place talented underserved youth in business and industry and prepare them for corporate and community leadership. He is the former board chair of Daystar US which mobilizes resources to support Daystar, a non-denominational Christian university in Nairobi, Kenya whose mission is to prepare servant leaders for Africa. He currently is a board member for Literacy Achieves, a Dallas, Texas-based non-profit that teaches English as a second language to adult immigrants to facilitate their employment, parenting, and other life skills. Dr. Lloyd was a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Isfahan in Iran. He also served as a U.S. Information Agency curriculum consultant for Germany. He earned a master’s degree at Purdue University and a Ph. D. at the University of Iowa. His undergraduate degree is from Occidental College.

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