We know changes need to happen regarding how Black lives are valued in this country. Many people including myself are suggesting that individuals take some time to educate themselves about disparities, their privilege and recognize that it is not enough to just not be racist. We must be actively anti-racist and speak up for Black people in all parts of our daily lives to help correct the systemic barriers that continue to prematurely take Black lives.
We need to be mindful (being fully present in the moment and aware of what’s going on around you) as we live our lives and follow up mindfulness with self-reflection. Self-reflection is about pausing to take a step back. It can require you to look at yourself from afar in an objective, non-judgmental way to learn about yourself. Focus your attention and energy on what’s happening in your life, in the world around you, choices you make on an ongoing basis, how you’re feeling and how you react in situations. You see, perceive, process, document and learn from it.
Why you should reflect
Self reflection helps you to establish a starting point. How can you grow and change if you don’t know where you stand. A lot of times we want to establish goals to make change but again, you must know where you are at the moment before goals come into play.
How to get started
Decide how you will approach and practice self-reflection. You can self-reflect in different ways and there’s no perfect way to do so, but it only becomes practice when you do it over and over again. The focus of this reflection is to identify tendencies that you might hold in your mind that can negatively affect how you view and subsequently treat Black people. As an educator, I believe that family (primary care takers) are our first teachers in life. Make no mistake, our families would not have to verbalize racist remarks and actions explicitly to us as a child for us to learn it at home. All children have to do is simply WATCH how you treat Black people. Think facial expressions, body language, etc.
This reflection will be deeply personal for many so I suggest you begin by writing your thoughts in a journal. You can also talk to a mental health professional. I would not suggest you just talk to a “friend” because we humans have a tendency to want to paint ourselves in a more positive light in front of others. Our ego might not allow us to accurately describe our actions and thoughts in a truthful way.
Have a clear goal and use powerful questions to trigger your thinking
Once you have a clear goal (identifying and changing racist behavior in yourself), it’s time to think about questions you can ask yourself. Keep in mind that this exercise is useless if you choose to be dishonest in your responses. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
- Do I avoid difficult conversations about race?
- Do I think all people of certain groups are the same?
- Do I uphold stereotypes about Black people?
- Do I avoid common situations with Black people? (not getting on elevators with Black people, rushing your children along to avoid conversation/play with Black children, etc.)
- How have I treated Black people in my younger years?
- How do I treat black people now?
- How do I treat people of color? (in general)
- Am I as kind to Black people as I am to people of other races?
- Do I make an effort to support black owned businesses?
- Am I putting any effort into being anti racist?
- Do I let the opinion of others in social situations (friends, family, acquaintances) affect how I treat Black people?
- Was there an opportunity to speak up for a black person that I did not take?
- How can I contribute more to the Black Lives Matter movement?
- How did I feel about my honest responses?
- What did I learn about my biases today?
- Am I achieving the goals that I’ve set for myself?
- How have I grown/changed since starting self reflections?
- Am I living true to myself?
Keep it simple
Start out by adding self reflection to your day in a seamless way. Before dinner, or the last 10 minutes of your lunch time. Spend more time reflecting as you get the hang of it. You have better chances continuing a new habit with manageable steps.
What matters is that you do it. Don’t quit! You might find this emotionally overwhelming at first but continue to push on and be consistent.
I hope you find this helpful Color Bees!