5 Tips for Talking About Racism


At Single Story, Inc. we believe in the power of communication. Communication is the catalyst for inspiring leaders, building trust, and changing hearts. Now more than ever it is important to use the power of communication to have discussions about racism. While it’s not always easy to talk about racial injustice – organization leaders, business owners, and educators have the responsibility to move these discussions forward in their communities.  Check out our top 5 tips on how to start the conversation about race.

  1. Consider your audience & establish your goals

Before starting a conversation around racism it is important to understand who your audience is. Different groups need different messaging in order for them to best absorb the information presented to them. In this country when it comes to racial indifferences, the topic of racism can fall along a very wide spectrum of understanding. Knowing your audience (i.e. differences in races or ethnicities, socio-economics, the environment, and willingness to be open) can help you create the best strategy to influence the group you are communicating with. After developing a strong conversation strategy as an access point for your audience, establish goals for the conversation. Identifying what you want to get out of the exercise can help move the discussion along.

  1. Talk about how racism holds everyone back

We all know that discrimination and racial bias negatively affect BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), but it is important to highlight that these practices also hinder non-BIPOC.   Unequal opportunity for one group of people undermines the American ideal of fairness for all. Most individuals can relate to the feeling of being “excluded” or “on the outside”, and by working together to create equality for all people, in turn, creates the most opportunity for everyone.

  1. Stay anchored in shared core values

When talking about racism in a group, a key to a better understanding for all is leading with mutually shared values. We can all agree that justice, equity, and inclusion are the end goals; therefore, verbalizing these values to your audience can help create an environment that is aspirational and solution-oriented. This also helps others enter the conversation in a more positive headspace, instead of coming from a place of fear or anxiety.

  1. Do not sugar-coat

Racism is systemic and goes way beyond socio-economic factors. Racism not only affects the education system, neighborhoods, and jobs – but also specific experiences that only BIPOC can understand. It is important that these situations are also discussed because it helps non-BIPOC better understand the long-term system correlations that racism causes. Being clear and using honest examples is often challenging in a space where others have not lived the same experiences, but is so necessary to create change.

  1. Allow transparency to move you forward

Allowing space to talk about the problems that racism and discrimination cause or playout in your organization, positions your community to identify the next steps for addressing them.  As stories are shared, begin to see the racial blindspots in your organizations and what things are needed to begin to properly eradicate them.  Laying the groundwork in these conversations for how people can take steps to create a more equitable environment, gives each person a responsibility to be part of the roadmap in this work.

For more tips on how to have these delicate conversations, please reach out to our consultants at Single Story, Inc.