Healing Begins With You
"Why do they always
sit together in the dining hall?"
"It's a Black thang,
you wouldn't understand."
Comment said to African-American
males on campus
"You must be a football player."
"Why do you always
try to talk and act so White?"
"You know, I really
don't see you as Mexican-American."
"I'm tired of always
hearing about racism."
"Have I got a good
racial joke for you."
Without a doubt, you've
either made or heard one of these statements or been asked one of
these questions. The common thread for all the above statements
and questions is that all are based on limited information and stereotypical
generalizations about race. Unfortunately, it is these types of
generalizations about race that lead to racial slurs or jokes being
made, racist literature being distributed, and physical confrontations
occurring between different racial groups. Given that one of the
traditions at Notre Dame is that of providing a familial atmosphere
for it's students, faculty, and staff, it is time that we all take
an active stance to make sure that all racial groups on this campus
feel included in the Notre Dame family. Healing and harmony between
the races begins with you!
So you ask, why should
I make a commitment to be an ally for racial harmony? When you become
an ally for racial harmony, you have the opportunity to: gain greater
self-awareness; gain greater awareness of others; develop new friendships;
develop better interpersonal skills; become better able to challenge
stereotypes and prejudices; promote more unity between racial groups;
and become better equipped to live in a multicultural world. In
other words, you have the opportunity to grow both emotionally and
intellectually. Through this growth, you contribute to the development
of a society where all races are valued and appreciated.
One step in building
the bridge toward racial harmony and tearing down the walls of racism
is that of interracial communication. While we all know that it
is sometimes emotionally difficult and risky to speak candidly,
openly, and honestly abut race, it is only through this type of
dialogue that we are able to become more aware, sensitive, and knowledgeable
about each other. Given that the topic of race can be a sensitive
and emotional area, it's important to keep a few pointers in mind.
- Do use "I" statements.
- Do listen with respect.
- Do restate what you've
heard about a person's experience.
- Do allow questions,
no matter have trivial they may seem to you.
- Do encourage clarification
and elaboration by asking for examples.
- Don't try to debate
or downplay a person's experience.
- Don't blame a person
for the sins of their racial group.
Now that you have some
pointers for communicating about racial issues, here are some questions
to ask others and yourself. With each question, fill in the blank
with a racial group.
- When you hear the
term _____, what thoughts or images regarding their behaviors,
attitudes, and lifestyles come to mind?
- What do you admire
or respect about _____?
- What experiences have
you had that impact your present feelings toward _____?
- How have significant
others in your life influenced your attitudes about _____?
- If you haven't had
much contact with _____, what prevents this from happening?
- When you have a racial
prejudicial thought or hear a racial prejudicial remark, how do
you handle it?
- What has been your
experience with racism?
- What will you do today
to increase your racial awareness?
Now that you've made
the commitment to become an ally for racial healing and harmony,
here are some suggestions for increasing your racial awareness,
sensitivity, and knowledge:
- Celebrate a Multicultural
- Visit an Ethnic Art
Gallery or Museum
- Volunteer at a School
or Agency with a Racially Diverse Population
- Attend a Church or
Synagogue that has a Diverse Congregation
- Visit your Office
of Multicultural Student Affairs
- Learn a Foreign Language
- Read a Book by an
Author who is Racially Different from You
- Invite a Friend to
Lunch Who Is Racially Different From You
- Take a Cultural Diversity
- Go to an Ethnic Restaurant
- Watch a Movie or Play
with Racially Diverse Actresses/Actors
- Listen to Music by
Artists Who Are Racially Different From You
- Join A Club Committed
to Diversity Issues
- Have Chat Sessions
Concerning Diversity Issues
- Take an Active Stance
against Prejudice and Racism
Healing, harmony, and
unity between racial groups occur as we interact more with, become
more aware about, and become better educated about one another.
It's a cause for celebration when we are willing to take risks regarding
our multicultural growth by gaining more sensitivity, awareness,
and knowledge about the history, values, experiences, and lifestyles
of different racial groups. Challenge yourself to unlock your endless
capacity for racial awareness. It's up to you to do your part in
creating a society where there is greater understanding and awareness
between different racial groups.
If you are interested
in gaining more awareness about racial issues, the University Counseling
Center offers outreach programs designed to increase multicultural
awareness, such as the program, "Race Relations: What's Your View?"
Call 631-7336 to arrange for a counselor to come to speak to your
group. Also see our Multicultural
Awareness web page.
article was originally published in the Observer in February, 1999.
The intent of these self-help articles is not to provide counseling
but to provide information about a variety of mental health topics.
To seek help with your individual concerns, please contact the University
Counseling Center at 631-7336 to schedule an appointment.