What does it look like when a black lady and a white lady sit down to an open, honest, authentic and vulnerable conversation about race?
Well, we found out last week. This week, in the second episode of the Conscious Conversations series, we continue that conversation on a more international level. My long-time friend Sophie grew up in the Caribbean, where black people are not the minority. Doctors, lawyers, teachers and other role models were black. How did this affect her growing up, and what part, if any, did (and does) racism play in her life?
Huge thanks so Sophie for participating in this wonderful conversation.
Thanks so much for watching this installment of Conscious Conversations. If you’re a person of color or other group whose voice needs to be heard, and you’d like to participate in a public conversation like this, or if you know someone who would be perfect for this format, please contact me through my website, (or just reply to one of my emails).
Otherwise, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below. Did you enjoy this format? Were there any aha moments? Were you left with more, unanswered questions that you may want us to answer in future conversations? Did you get uncomfortable? If you’re a person of color, do you feel your perspective was represented? What about if you’re white? Let me know in the comments.
All voices are welcome, but we do ask that you keep it respectful and constructive. In other words, what you have to say is important, just don’t be a dick about it.
Until next time, I’m Melody Fletcher, and thank you for bringing your light to the world.
More Info on Sophie Acomat:
Sophie lives in London and splits her time between the UK and Martinique. While she’s not a public figure, she has graciously allowed me to share her contact info, in case anyone would like to get in touch with her.
Thank you Melody for having these conversations and creating this series. I’ve been watching other similar conversations online, and I’m learning a lot.
While I listen to these conversations, I’m really given nuggets of info to chew on, and some nuggets take a little more time to swallow than others. I’m really seeing that there are very different perspectives and experiences between people of colour and white people, as well as individual differences. And I’m trying to put together the big picture here, which involves putting as many perspectives together (either like a jigsaw puzzle or like weaving a tapestry); because I don’t see that any perspective is more right or wrong than the other.
One thing that Sophie brought up is something that I’ve been struggling for a while, which is when she mentioned that some of her activist friends were tired of having these conversations. This is something that I’ve heard a fair bit, largely from activists and black leaders. On one hand, I can completely understand where they’re coming from. It’s 2020, and we’re still dealing with racism? This isn’t a new concept, and the fight against racism has been going on for ages. Of course they’re angry and tired. I can’t even begin to put myself in those shoes and really feel the weight of that. So I understand the emotions.
At the same time, the sad reality is that white people as a whole haven’t been listening up until now. There’s more willingness now for white people to sit down and listen, to take some kind of action to actually help fight against racism. Yes, we should’ve been listening sooner; yes we should’ve taken action sooner – but we can’t change the past. White people are slowly waking up and coming to the table to finally have these conversations. It’s kind of like manifesting anything else – getting angry, frustrated, and impatient that you haven’t received your manifestation yet doesn’t bring it to faster. I just feel like it’s off-putting to be a white person and met with all the anger and frustration and even dismissed because we didn’t do anything sooner; that I’m sure many white people just turn around and give up. This isn’t a very good excuse though. And people of colour are justified in their anger, and frustration, other emotions, so I can’t expect that to just go away either. It’s still a nugget I’m chewing on…how do we shift from a white vs black (or other poc) issue to an issue about equality?
I see these conversations being really important and I’d like to see these types of conversations becoming much more mainstream; because I think we all need to really sit down with each other and learn from each other’s experiences. I know that some are thinking the time for talking has past, but it really hasn’t – not really. We can take action while we have these conversations, but I think more white people are in the dark than anyone really wants to admit. I’ve been wondering a lot lately about what a non-racist world looks like? Do we all basically become colour-blind to each other, do we all more openly have conversations about other cultures on a regular basis; or something else completely different?
You raise some really great questions. I can only answer from my point of rapidly changing understanding, but maybe it will help. And, of course, I encourage any people of color to also give their point of view. The more data, the better!
Of course, every black person is going to have their own perspective here, but in general, my understanding is that it’s all about respect. Respect the other person, their right not to have this conversation with you right now, their right to be angry, and their right to have their time respected (if you can learn something by googling it, maybe do that first and arrive with more specific questions). What I’m hearing over and over again, even from POC who tell me their sick of TRYING to have these conversations, is that when someone shows up with an open energy, ready to actually listen, be humble (don’t defend yourself immediately) and doesn’t make it about themselves, even those POC are willing to have the conversations. It changes the experience massively. You can’t demand that your black friends talk to you, but again, if you’re truly open and vulnerable, you may well get a very different response.
Is a non-racist world color blind? I don’t think so. That’s like saying that a non-sexist world is gender blind, where the fact that you’re a woman doesn’t matter in any way. Well, it may well matter to you. I think a non-racist world, or non-prejudiced world is one where we see diversity and we celebrate it. Diversity is a gift, it means we all have a piece of the puzzle, and we can reveal a much larger, much more magnificent picture if we combine our data. That doesn’t negate the data, and the fact that someone is black, or Hispanic, or female, or gay or whatever, plays a part in that data – what happened, how it was perceived, and how it was experienced. So, we can’t just discount that. It’s part of what makes unique perspectives possible and so incredibly valuable. It’s a world where our differences are not judged as bad, less than, or whatever. We can all be different, we just don’t want to hate each other for being different.
Living multi-culturally most of my life, I can tell you that in that crowd, conversations about cultures and cultural differences are very common. Asking people “where are you from?” is an invitation to share your culture, not a way to judge someone’s heritage. It’s much more about sharing your unique perspective with people who love hearing and experiencing all those different perspectives. The more, the better. So, I suppose, I view a racism-free world through that lens. I hope that helps, but look forward to reading other people’s point of view, as well. 🙂
Thank you Sophie and Melody! Just wanted to say I really appreciate these series. I also find it uncomfortable to discuss these things and I question myself “Do I do/think/say right or wrong”. I’m even having trouble writing this comment because I don’t want to offend 😀 . One thing I ‘ll take with me from this conversation is the fact that it is uncomfortable to discuss these things, there is no way to get around it. And it’s ok that it is uncomfortable.
I consider myself a non-racist as it is my core value and belief that all humans have equal value, but these past months have opened my eyes that I’ve been ignorant on some things and aware of that I still have a lot to learn. I also, and now I’m just very honest, find it frustrating that only one side is allowed to speak, we all have feelings. At the same time I acknowedge the fact that it is not my time to talk about my feelings. Now it is the time to listen (I got really frustrated when men said “not all men” etc., during the “me too” and wanted attention from the women.)
I’m wondering about what to do and how to react to people who in some crazy way believe they are superior over others because of their skin color and not willing to open, listen or change their mind? In the LOA perspective I know I can’t do anything to change anyone, but still, isn’t there something? I guess I can change my own perspective, but how? I don’t want to ignore the fact that racism is a big problem in the world.
Well, I think that’s a big part of this conversation, and the discomfort around it. White people are beginning to realize that this is their wound, too. So, this topic can be very triggering, even if you’re white. That trigger can lead to wanting to defend oneself, or demand answers, avoid the conversation altogether, or react in some other, non-constructive and even offensive way. Again, I can only speak from my experience, but it’s not that white voices can’t be heard on this, it’s that we have to pick our moments. I think the parallel between this and misogyny are apt. If a man wants to you talk to you about sexism, and he’s open and humble and doesn’t try to tell you how to feel, if he really listens, and takes it on board, and THEN asks if he can talk through how HE feels so he can complete the shift in perspective, you may well be very open to that. If he starts the conversation with his own shit, basically saying that once he gets over that, he might be willing to listen to you (which is NOT the way it works!), then you’re probably much more likely to shut that down and walk away. It’s not that we don’t get to speak. We don’t get to speak FIRST. We have to listen FIRST, really listen, take it on board and THEN process. Otherwise, we have no new data to process, which means, we’re only perpetuating our current point of view, and aren’t changing anything. But we can feel good because we “tried”. In other words, don’t start talking until you’ve sat through the discomfort.
This is how it always works, when shifting anything. Don’t REACT before you’ve allowed yourself to experience the discomfort of change. Otherwise, you’re just having the same reaction over and over again.
Regarding really racist people – you can’t force anyone to listen. Trust me, I sometimes totally wish we could. But what you can do, is bless them. Keep in mind that if you have any anger towards people like that, and you almost certainly do, then release that first. Allow the anger, feel it, and express is constructively. But the more you can see everyone as playing a part in the awakening, their own part, to be sure, but a useful, helpful part, the better you’ll feel. Even the racists are here to shift energy. And bless them for taking on such dark energy! That’s really hard and really painful. So, if it takes them a while, that’s ok. The more light we bring to the world overall, the more we support everyone. Maybe you want to think of these people as “lost” rather than hateful and ignorant and broken. And it’s not your job to find them or save them. The light is calling them, it’s already inside them, steering them towards themselves (who they really are). You don’t have to engage with that. But recognize that maybe you’re glad that you’re not dealing with that kind of dense energy, and are already much more awake. Then, you can appreciate their soul’s work and have compassion, instead of pushing against or trying to save them, neither of which will work. I hope that makes sense.
Thank you so much for your honesty Jenny. This is what we (well if not we, then definitely I) need. And I think it captures it all. Yes you do get to speak, and to voice how you feel, but as both you and Melody say, listening first and being ok with feeling uncomfortable.
About your comment about racist people, I’d like to add that I have a principle which I apply to all areas of my life: if someone isn’t willing or ready to listen or even hear what I have to say, then it is, to me, a waste of my time and energy to talk to them about that thing. If I don’t see an willingness to be open to other perspectives, I will not exchange. We have to nurture our selves, our energy so that we can use it with people who are aligned with us or beginning to, rather than trying convince someone that we’re right and they’re wrong. Let’s keep that energy for a real meaningful exchange. And who knows, maybe we’ll plant a seed, a thought, and help shift things a little 😊.
Its not simply picking up the views as a youngster from images, friends and surrounding. If you just listen to the language in Western culture and in countries where colonialism was present. Its in the core of the language we speak.
I absolutely agree Farah. We’re constantly attacked by language without even realising it. In fact I recently learned the origin of the word ‘Creole’ in French and was horrified. And it is a word that we use to define ourselves. Can you imagine the damage it does to us! Let’s go further and think about the country of Colombia, named after Christopher Colombus himself. What does it do to an indigenous person to live in a country named after her oppressor. The damage is deeply rooted and all encompassing.
Oh wow. I just looked up the etymology of the word creole. So, basically, it carries the energy of the “other”, but you, as the locals are using this to describe yourselves? You have become the “other” in your own country?
Here it is in case anyone else would like to know:
“person born in a country but of a people not indigenous to it,” c. 1600, from French créole (17c.), from Spanish criollo “(person) native to a locality,” from Portuguese crioulo, diminutive of cria “person (especially a servant) raised in one’s house,” from criar “to raise or bring up,” from Latin creare “to make, bring forth, produce, beget,” from PIE root *ker- (2) “to grow.”
The exact sense varies with local use. Fowler (1926) writes: “Creole does not imply mixture of race, but denotes a person either of European or (now rarely) of negro descent born and naturalized in certain West Indian and American countries.” In U.S. use, applied to descendants of French and Spanish settlers in Louisiana from at least 1792. Of languages, from 1879. As an adjective, from 1748.
Thank you Sophie and Melody! Sophie, I found your insights and experiences thought-provoking and I also enjoyed your calm, convincing and eloquent way of expressing yourself.
Melody made a very good point regarding all of us being prejudiced to some degree and that it is OK if we acknowledge it. When you acknowledge it, then you’re in the position to change it. Myself, I hail from one of the most homogeneous countries in the world and have been raised and am still living in a very White environment. (It’s probably needless to say I’m also white lol.). When I was young, say from my mid-teens to my mid-20’s, I liked to think myself as a notably enlightened person when it came to issues such as race (or religion, or sexual orientation etc). Now, in hindsight I can see how ignorant I actually was. But back then, it would be have been unthinkable for me to question and challenge my own presuppositions. I was so afraid of finding out I’m in fact far less educated and open minded than I thought. My ego was too strong at that time hence I preferred to continue living in denial.
Sophie also illustrated perfectly with her co-worker example how we often aren’t willing to really listen but instead tend to make these conversations about us. I admit I’ve been guilty of that “I’m not racist!” sort of talk when having a conversation with a black person because I thought I was showing my support by stating how anti-racist I am and how I accept all people. Good gawd how clueless I was… Sometimes I think we tend to take people sharing their experiences as accusations toward us therefore tend to jump in and hijack the conversation with the “But I am NOTHING like that, I am a GOOD person!” plea. But, when you acknowledge it, then you can fix it 😉
Thank Lady R for your comment. I loved reading your story and how everything shifted with your self-awareness. Your honesty is so refreshing, it has made me feel a little lighter today. And to me self-awareness is key and is the first and most important step in our growth. Becoming aware of and admitting our own prejudices is uncomfortable, it is painful. It takes courage. So I thank you for your courage ❤️.
Hi Sophie and thank you for your comment! Sorry for my belated reply, I haven’t been visiting this blog recently. I’m happy to hear you found my comment refreshing and your point of view definitely encourages me to continue to be as honest as possible. All the best to you and thank you for your contribution once again!