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Generative Race Conversations Across Difference

Begins with Me 

By Althea Banda-Hansmann

Transformation Coach, Facilitator and Consultant

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‘I would stop talking about the past if it weren’t so present’

– Bartholémey Boganda, 1910 – 1959

Central African Republic politician

In my experience, when people are given space to have generative conversations about race and racism, at the outset many might start the conversation journey with curiosity or anxiety or mixture of both. At the end, when conversations about race and racism open into shifts and into witnessing each other’s racial experience; there can be a palpable release of what feels like a relief from long inhale, now exhaled with a deep outbreath. Other times, I’ve noticed that individuals share that they are left with new questions for their further journey. And for others it is an expression and coming to terms with emotions that helps them voice their experience and deepen their wisdom. 


In the shift from Apartheid to a democratic South Africa, we grossly underestimated the impact of colonisation and Apartheid on our individual identity, group racial identity and in our relationships. Racism conditioned white people over hundreds of years to internalise a sense of themselves as superior to black people, which is defined as internalised dominance. Black people have internalised inferiority due to living under social systems of prejudice, discrimination and oppression.


These realities make it challenging to connect and have conversations across race, let alone feel a sense of belonging to one another. Where is a good place to start cultivating generative conversations about race? 


Generative conversation across race and racial difference begins with the journey into ourselves.  


1. Be mindful of the impact of racism on our self-image. For white people, the task is to recognise and articulate the signs or symptoms of internalised dominance in their own lives, in their family patterns and in their racial group. For black folk, the task is to recognise and put to language the signs or symptoms of internalised inferiority in their own lives, in their family patterns and in their racial group. This requires a life-long commitment to understanding ourselves and to a commitment to increasing our own racial literacy.Using our racial awareness and racial literacy we can begin to unlearn racialised patterns of behaviour. 

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2. Tend be to shame and rage with skill and compassion.


3. Be humble, especially hold intellectual humility ie an awareness of what you might know, what you know you don’t know and what you don’t know you don’t know.


4. Learn how to identity and rectify racial mistakes in the moment.


5. Practice self-love


6. Listen and witness each other’s experience as if your life depended on it.

Althea Banda-Hansmann has over 20 years’ experience in the areas of leadership development, coaching, diversity, racial and social justice and human resource development. She is the Founding Director of Transforming Moments Consulting CC. Born in the intensity of the Apartheid years, she has a deep lived experience of racism and a vocational passion for racial healing. She is in an inter-racial and cross-cultural marriage for 21 years and continues to hold space for black and white race-work and understanding in South Africa.