Q1: How can I get people to talk about race when they always want to change the subject?

People are more willing to talk about issues when conversations:

  • Stress values that unite rather than divide (e.g., “opportunity,” “community” instead of “to each his/her own”).
  • Bundle solutions with any problem description, in order to avoid “compassion fatigue” and helplessness.
  • Focus on situations that anyone might find themselves in, like the loss of a job).
  • Use images that offer shorthand for complex issues, such as competing in a race but having to begin it from behind the starting line as an image suggesting unequal opportunity and ongoing disadvantage).

They are also more likely to turn off conversations that:

  • Criticize people instead of policies, practices, and proposals. It’s better to focus on Policy X rather than Senator Y)
  • Use too many numbers without a storyline for understanding them. For example, it’s better to focus on the harm to children from under-resourced schools rather than a stand-alone litany of numbers reflecting inequitable resources.
  • Use a rhetorical rather than practical tone. Up-front accusations of racist intent typically make people defensive and unwilling to reason with you.

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“Creating the Space to Talk About Race in Your School” content on this web site and in our "Racial Justice in Education" resource guide © 2017 National Education Association, in collaboration with Race Forward.