Ostriches are known to bury their heads in the sand when they feel scared or threatened. I view this behavior as the perfect description of how people respond when the issues of race are brought up for discussion. Many people are unwilling to listen or discuss issues constructively and prefer instead, to bury their heads. This way of being must change if we wish to move beyond our current state of impasse on the issue of racism.
Why do we resist the truth so much? Fear. Why do we fight so hard to hoard lies and half-truths while pushing the fact away with outstretched hands? Fear. On any level, witnessing abuse is horrific; however, emotional racial abuse, which many have endured on a day-to-day basis, is worse. The personal and psychological consequences of racial abuse are severe. It can destroy the self-worth of individuals and can lead to anxiety and depression.
My C.A.R.E method (Compassion, Accountability, Resistance, Empathy) has been created to increase racial awareness. It has been designed to support many to navigate through the murky waters of life. The R in the C.A.R.E stands for resistance. It is a wilful struggle against something that you do not need or like or, in this case, not ready to address—the resistance to looking at race, maybe an avoidance. As a therapist, I recognise and appreciate the participants’ resistance as a survival pattern. I meet the participants at their point of resistance, with compassion and empathy. I recognise the tension between participants’ desire to change and their desire to keep things the same way. Gently confronting clients with their resisting behaviours always serves to increase race awareness. It also helps them to consciously experience their ways of acting and any contradictions of their motives. Many soon discover how they impede their growth process if they shy away from what is happening around them. Attendees have expressed learning to be more responsible for their conduct and to consider the consequences of their behaviours, particularly when stereotyping others. Participants who give up their resistance to difficult conversations are taking and beginning to hold empathic talks. One valuable lesson learned in the workshop is resisting the impulse to judge and recognise that any resistance prevents them from doing the work.
Without looking within, many people risk buying into false beliefs and ideologies they have been taught. To cultivate awareness about racism, we need to break the walls of ignorance first. If we want to see a change, we must resist the narrative that racism doesn’t exist or is only “their problem.” Burying our heads in the sand is a flawed strategy. If you are ready to become part of the quest to build a better society, start to have difficult conversations.