An excerpt from Tactics for Racial Justice: Building an Antiracist Organization and Community by Dr. Shannon Prince.
When engaging in a contentious discussion about racism, use the two-step technique of Acknowledge, Address. When you discuss racism with someone adverse to you, it’s important to acknowledge his or her perspective. Acknowledge does not mean validate. It means note. One of your catchphrases needs to be, “So, what I hear you saying is…”
For example, suppose you are a healthcare provider advocating for more diversity at a healthcare facility. It might be appropriate to make any of the following responses:
“So, what I hear you saying is that while diversity is nice, it doesn’t really impact the care we provide to our patients.” To that, you could cite to the George Mason University study that found that Black newborns, plagued by infant mortality, are three times more likely to die when cared for by white doctors than by Black doctors. (Whether a white infant had a white or Black doctor did not affect its likelihood of dying).1 Understanding the other party’s position allows you to squarely rebut the notion that diversity is merely a cosmetic frill.
Or your response might be, “So, what I hear you saying is that the bottom line is, no matter one’s skin color, everyone reads a blood pressure machine the same way.” To this type of comment, you could respond, “The reason we should affirmatively seek to hire people of color is not because they have some special cultural technique for reading a blood pressure machine but because people of color have been unfairly denied opportunity in the field [and/or at this institution] in the past, and justice requires that this be rectified.” Such a response addresses the fallacy that diversity is only an imperative if diverse populations bring diverse skills to the table.
Or your response might be, “So, what I hear you saying is that instead of focusing on racial diversity, we should focus on ideological diversity – we need a better mix of doctors who have different perspectives on treating cancer.” To that, you could respond, “First, we can pursue both racial and ideological diversity. Second, racial diversity and ideological diversity are different because the former is a justice issue while the latter is not. Sometimes, one perspective will prevail over another because it competes better in the marketplace of ideas. But people were never confined to internment camps, death marched to reservations, or lynched because of the method of cancer treatment they championed. However, the same racism that did lead to those atrocities is why non-whites have faced and continue to face de jure and de facto barriers to employment the healthcare field,2 and why there is an ethical imperatively to redress employment discrimination.”
1. Brad N. Greenwood, Rachel R. Hardeman, Laura Huang, and Aaron Sojourner, “Physician–patient racial concordance and disparities in birthing mortality for newborns,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117, no. 35 (September 2020): 21195. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1913405117.
2. Penn Medicine, “Minority Students Still Underrepresented in Medical Schools,” September 4, 2019, https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2019/september/minority-students-still-underrepresented-in-medical-schools.
Excerpted from Tactics for Racial Justice: Building an Antiracist Organization and Community by Dr. Shannon Prince. https://www.routledge.com/Tactics-for-Racial-Justice-Building-an-Antiracist-Organization-and-Community/Prince/p/book/9780367700287, Discount by using the code FLY21.