Why Your Crayons Are Fighting In The Box–How To Navigate Race Relations

Here is a general rule in America: whatever is in your community will become the compliment or conflict of your schools. From gang conflict to fatherlessness to free and reduced lunch, it may begin as a debate outside of the school but it trickles down into the local classroom pretty quick.
Right now there is great national tension over race relations, and each time an attempt is made for forward movement we appear to take an explosive move backwards. If you would like to be one of the brave souls to engage in this topic and actually make a difference, make sure to implement these five steps:

Step 1–Listen: Newsflash…you can’t listen with your mouth open, just like you can’t sneeze while swallowing. Management is often encouraged to fix problems while listening to people, so listening is a learned art for some. Also, listening is intentional. Listening makes you the receiver and not the dominant person within the conversation. Be quiet, make eye contact, ask to take notes, and engage with your body language.

Step 2–Learn…if you are intentionally listening then you will be able to learn. Learning is an active sport, and you do this with your mind while engaging with your body gestures and facial expressions. What are the words that the person is repeating? Is there a pattern to what they’ve said and what others have said? How many times have you heard this complaint? Why do they feel so passionate about what they are saying? Pay close attention to terms that are being used differently due to cultural differences.

Step 3–Communicatenow you can talk, but start with questions, acknowledgement of the topic, and end what you have to say with empathy and concern. WARNING: this is where people attempt to fix the issues rather than completing steps 4 and 5. This is a bad place for ‘soling-the-problem’, because this should be the stage for exchanging information, ideas and dialogue. Some of the most ignorant things are said by leaders because they speak from what they know (or think that they know) mixed with what they heard in order to remain the “leader with all of the answers and no problems”. For example, this is when someone says “I’m not racist! I have plenty of black friends! There are black people who live in my neighborhood!” These facts could have worked in your favor after Step 5 but now they are discredited due to the bad timing.

Step 4–Understand…this is what happens after you learn that what you heard and what you know are not the full picture. You have had time and conversation to lead you to a better opinion. You have gained respect from those on the other side of the argument, as they now trust you to listen. They may even release you to speak to others about what was said. You can tell when someone skipped this step because they speak on behalf of an issue and race, offend an entire race that they typically associate with everyday, and find themselves attacked by those same people. Had they engaged in step 4, they would have been in a much better position for the last step.

Step 5–Change…this is where most leaders want to be in the first place, but arriving too soon can lead to your doom. Some want to be here to gain the reputation of fixing difficult problems. Others want to be here in order to avoid the conflict all together by arguing that the solution is more important than the offense. After successfully completing the first 4 steps your reasons for being at this stage may have changed, and that might be better for everyone involved. By this stage you should have a much more broader and inclusive view. You should be convinced that this is only the beginning of the healing process.

Following these steps will not make you popular, but they will make you prepared. These steps will not make you terrific, but they will make you trustworthy. These steps create character and integrity for your school, classroom, church or company. If you have any questions on how to further implement these steps, feel free to contact me at www.makeitplainforme.com