Through social media, people often ask me what they can do about racism.
There is no simple answer but certainly, it requires a deeper commitment than spending half an hour scrolling through your timeline on instagram. Racism is centuries old and so ingrained in society that many of us don’t know we are being racist when we are. For those looking to take steps to understand racism and minimise its impacts, AWARENESS and CONSCIOUSNESS are the first steps on your journey to ‘wokeness’. Woke is a term which has been hijacked by the media and in my view needs to be reclaimed. It is the perfect word to describe what is required, coming from the verb ‘wake’ or ‘awaken’.
To become ‘woke’, in its original meaning, is to become more aware of what racism is and how it shapes all our lives. Genuine ‘wokeness’ involves three key steps:
1. Education – Read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch videos, attend workshops
2. Conversation – Have conversations with others to share and deepen your thinking on what you learn. Writing about what you learn can also be useful
3. Action – Apply your learning. In the early stages this can be small things like just noticing racism when it occurs
These steps need to be repeated. As you complete more cycles you become more aware of what racism is and how you respond to it. Honing this process is the most powerful action any of us can take to fight racism, in ourselves and in society. The process requires commitment but most people who fully engage find it highly rewarding. It can often be the most powerful learning experience of your life.
It’s also a very challenging process and needs to be managed with care. For this reason it is important to:
Go slowly – Each step can be uncomfortable so it’s important to take small steps, especially at the beginning.
Do it with others – It’s best to do this process with others, you will learn more and you can build group trust when having open conversations on what is one of the most difficult topics to discuss.
Get a facilitator – In order to manage the above, find someone who has been through the process.
I have researched race, identity and power and worked with young people to help them navigate issues of racism in their lives. I’m piloting an introductory workshop for young people on racism. We are looking for a group of 15 young people who want to take meaningful action on racism to participate in our online programme. The workshops are equally valuable to black participants as white, though for different reasons. As a result, introductory workshops will be delivered separately (all white or all black groups) with later workshops done in mixed groups as participants mature in their understanding of race, identity and power.