Overcoming Racism: We Need to Listen
One of the best ways to overcome racism is to take time to listen. Sit with People of Colour and/or people from other places. Ask about, and listen to, their stories of what they have experienced. Your listening shows you care, and will even help you to understand different experiences and perspectives.
One of the challenges of teaching at a southern US university was the extreme diversity of the students. Some had come from poor families, while some were from rich, privileged families. As they took their seats in my class, the groups sat together. I struggled to find a way to get them to start a dialogue.
So, I gave them an assignment to talk with one of the other students, who came from a very different background from their own, and to write and share a one-page biography of that student. At first the students struggled with how to do the assignment, but they all were courageous enough to find a person they had never spoken to, and talked to them about their experiences growing up.
At the end of their presentations, the atmosphere in the class completely changed. Many thanked me for giving them this assignment. It has been my experience that, wherever you find yourself, you can make a difference by thinking outside the box and by helping people listen to the experiences of others.
In my research with Indigenous women artists of the Arctic, many thanked me for asking them about their backgrounds. As they said, “If nobody asks, our grandchildren included, our skills and stories will be lost forever.” My own grandmother would agree. I learned so much from just listening. So make time to ask and listen.