September 1, 2022
Cross Racial Understanding Granby Racial Reconciliation Editorial Committee
Granby Racial Reconciliation (“GRR”) welcomes the opportunity to share the inaugural article of our column Building Bridges. GRR formed in 2020 after nationwide coverage of multiple incidents of racial injustice, including the murder of George Floyd. The goals of our regular column are to raise awareness on social justice, encourage conversation, and develop relationships and understanding in our community. Sometimes, these conversations may be uncomfortable, but building a bridge across difficulties like judgment, guilt, or political or cultural divisions will help us all along the path toward better understanding one another.
One of the challenges that GRR often faces is the concern that discussing racism is divisive. Some community members have asked if it would be better to just overlook our differences and treat everyone the same way. Unfortunately, not talking about an issue doesn’t make it go away. It simply silences the voices that need to be heard.
Racism is a painful, complicated part of our nation’s history. It’s a painful, complicated part of our present as well. One reason discussing race is difficult is because many of us were often encouraged to be “color blind” - the concept that we are all equal regardless of skin color and it should therefore not be acknowledged. If treating someone differently based on skin color is bad, then being color blind should be good. Most of us don’t want to be seen as racist. When we talk about race, there’s always a risk we’ll say the wrong thing, or in the wrong way, and that might make us look like a bad person - so maybe it’s better to just avoid talking about race at all. Unfortunately, silence simply perpetuates misunderstandings.
Another challenge GRR faces is the mistaken belief that acknowledging the existence of racism is designed to induce shame or guilt in White people. That simply is not the goal, as encouraging guilt or shame is counterproductive to moving forward. None of us can rewrite history, but we can work to understand it, learn from it, and help create a better future.
This leads to another concern that we sometimes hear, which is, “So much progress has been made. Why do we need to keep talking about problems that have already been addressed?”
It’s true that when you look backward, much progress has been made toward equality. But when you look at where we are and then at where we need to be, it’s clear that more work needs to be done. Progress can only be made when we come together to share perspectives and work toward common goals. For all of the above reasons, we don’t think it’s better to just avoid talking about race. In the words of writer and Black activist James Baldwin, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
Talking with one another, sharing viewpoints, and expanding our understanding are among the best ways to make progress. No one is color blind and avoiding a topic doesn’t make it go away. In our country, we experience the world differently based on a number of factors. The wealthy move through the world differently than the poor; men experience the world differently than women; teens see things differently than adults. We don’t pretend that we don’t recognize wealth or gender or age. We all see, and respond to, the color of skin as well. Building better racial relationships starts with recognizing that our different experiences can divide us or bring us together, if we choose to grow. If we say we don’t see someone’s color, we’re also choosing to ignore how they experience the world. To deny someone else’s reality is to deny them the dignity and value of their perspective. “You’re not listening! You don’t get it!” is a familiar complaint in any house with a teenager struggling for respect and an equal voice. It’s a reminder that respectful dialogue is essential in building healthy relationships.
We want to help our community build bridges to connect us as Americans, as people of equal rights, and as individuals with unique experiences. All are welcome and we hope you will continue to walk down this path with us. Please join us for our upcoming events. You can also contact us at info@GranbyRacialReconciliation.com .