Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions A Beginner’s Guide to Conversations About Race

A Beginner’s Guide to Conversations About Race

Speak From Experience

It can be tempting to try to force our opinion or “sound smart” by quoting books, citing statistics or speaking in sweeping brushstrokes with a condescending tone. More often, sharing from your own racial identity and experiences will be more honest and meaningful.

A humble approach can help maintain relationships even in difficult conversations. It’s important to note that your future life experiences and relationships may also alter your perspective on these matters. Gaining closer proximity to the topic will likely cause your answers to certain questions to be different than when you viewed them from afar.

Validate Others’ Experiences

One of the most insulting messages you can communicate to another is that their experience doesn’t matter or the way they felt in a particular moment isn’t important. As you listen, even if you don’t agree, you can acknowledge another’s emotional experience.

Some examples of how to do this include: “I can hear that you felt very ______.” “It’s clear that encounter affected you deeply.” Even if you must challenge the conclusions of another’s experience, it’s crucial to acknowledge their emotional reality.

Borrow From Marriage Therapy

Avoid accusations or attacks by framing conversations with the familiar “I feel ______ when you ______.” This strategy in conversation can diffuse situations that could be particularly volatile. And when someone else uses this language with you, don’t be afraid to apologize.

Race conversations are not a “win/lose” competition. The hope is to have productive dialogue that moves us all toward a deeper understanding and mutual uplifting.

We believe in a God of reconciliation. As we pursue healing conversations on race, may these tips help us to love one another well.  

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Bob is a Christian community developer, an entrepreneur who brings together communities of resource with communities of need. Through FCS Urban Ministries – a non-profit organization which he founded – he has developed two mixed income subdivisions, organized a multi-racial congregation, started a number of businesses, created housing for hundreds of families and initiated a wide range of human services in his community.