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How to Talk to Your Partner About Racism

The recent killing of George Floyd and acts of violence toward black people have touched the world with pain, guilt, shame, and anger. Many of us struggle to find the words or actions that will contribute peace and justice to those exhausted with the daily trauma of racism. Change in the world must begin in the home – in our communities, families, and relationships. Partners disagree about current events and movements, but unless we talk about it and act on it, nothing will change. Saying you don’t want to get involved or it isn’t your place to be involved deepens the wound for our black brothers and sisters.

Couples are reluctant to have difficult conversations, but it is through civil discussion that we model respect and cooperation for our children. Make your relationship a safe space to share with the suggestions below.

  1. Set the stage and schedule a time to talk. No one likes to be caught off guard. If you ask your partner for times you can talk together about the racism crisis it shows respect, and that’s a great place to begin. Find a time that is free of stress and time pressures.

  2. Respect your partner’s context and experiences. Many people have stories of pain and injustice which are projected onto all people of the same race. Being mindful of that will help diffuse defensiveness and increase empathy for the injustice the black community is feeling now. We are not responsible for what happened before we were born, but we are responsible for what we do in the future to help bring about equality.

  3. Be the change you want to see. When you talk about your blind spots, mistakes, and prejudices, you give permission to your partner to see you as imperfect, too. They understand that it isn’t you against them but an effort to stop racism in your home together.

  4. Share and widen the conversation. Talk about how you grew up and what you heard or saw as a child. There is a deeper understanding when you see your partner as a small child being raised by people who had racist values.

  5. Continue the conversation and stay committed to ending racism. When you work to help your partner understand white privilege and the battles you never had to fight due to your skin color, it reveals the blind spots in all of us. Use these discussions as meaningful ways to help end the violence and deepen your relationship.

Imagining the pain of George Floyd crying out, “I can’t breathe,” reminds us all that we have a part in ending racism. We are past a point where we can expect the government or someone else to “fix” the problem. The problem lies within each of us. As we work to understand and support each other in racial tolerance and equality, we become better humans and raise healthier children.


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