A few years back, I got hired at Sephora. Within days, of starting my new job I realized something interesting about my co-workers.
They were highly suspicious people. Either that, or they were all in training to be private investigators and they were practicing by catching phony product returns and fragrance theft at Sephora but I suspected it wasn’t the latter.
I mentioned this observation to one of my super sweet and highly suspicious co-workers.
To which she said, “Just wait. You’ll see.”.
She was right.
It didn’t take long before I was sniffing product returns, examining packaging and volunteering to guard the fragrance section with my life with the passion of Katniss Everdeen.
I learned that, indeed, there was some shady folks out there and I was not about to let them make a fake return or rob us of hundreds of dollars in product… not on my watch!
I think that my perspective of my co-workers, before I saw the light, closely parallels that of many people’s perspective concerning racism, discrimination, and implicit bias.
“Why are you guys so suspicious?”
Just like I couldn’t understand why my co-workers were on such high alert for thieves, many people can’t understand why people “always” make “everything” about race.
After just a short time of being on the other side of the counter, I learned that the level of vigilance my co-workers had was not only warranted but it was necessary.
I wholeheartedly believe that when it comes to advocating for racial reconciliation, unity and justice it is not only warranted but it is necessary.
What is racial unity?
Do a Google search on racial unity and you will be hard pressed to find a definition and if you ask around, you will likely get a ton of different answers. Perhaps this is why we can’t figure it out how to have racial unity… we can’t even agree on what it is.
To understand racial unity it is important to understand that, at one point, we were all just human.
In the 17th century the term race started to be used as a way to categorize, or separate, people based primarily on their physical traits.
Since then “race” has changed and there are many different ideas on how many races there are but one thing remains, they are still largely based on physical appearance and how socially significant they are. In other words, how they differ based on the way society sees it.
Race separates us by how we look, according to society.
It’s no wonder that some scholars say there are only 3 races and others say there are as many as 60! And then there are sociologists that say there are simply not enough differences to define race at all.
Several years ago I spent about three weeks in Nigeria. In talking to some of the locals someone referred to me as “white”. I was shocked and ignorantly thought that they must not know of Mexicans or Latin Americans. (Don’t judge me, I owned my ignorance.)
They in fact knew of Mexico and, to them, Mexicans were white.
While, I realize that the official “race” I would be categorized in has typically been Caucasian, here in the United States, no one would ever call me white.
Because, clearly, I am not.
However, to this particular society, there was not a significant enough difference between me and my fellow non-black Americans to separate us.
When I lived in Hawaii, people there also had a hard time defining my race. (Let’s be real, I have a hard time defining my race and so do the government’s forms. Seriously, I think they should just add a line that says, “it’s complicated’!)
Even here in California, where I would assume people could easily see I am Hispanic/Latina, people can’t quite figure me out because I have features that remind them of people from the Middle East or India.
But one thing is for sure, no matter how many times I have been mistaken for a different race or ethnicity, I have never been mistaken for a cat or an iguana.
No matter what group of people I am assigned to based off of my physical appearance, I am a human.
Racial unity is regarding people as human beings no matter what they look like or where they come from.
It doesn’t put more weight in a person’s race or place of origin than their basic human needs. It does not ride or die for a nation’s flag over the pursuit of understanding another human’s perspective and pain.
It does not dehumanize others by equating them to animals, monsters, extraterrestrials or any other type of non-human life form.
If you want to pursue racial unity, if you want to be anti-racist, you must get comfortable with valuing all members of the human race.
Being an advocate for racial unity may mean that you check your politics at the door for the sake of humanity.
During a car ride a few weeks ago, I explained in a very age-appropriate way to my son that some children were being separated from their families and I suggested that we pray for those children.
My four year old proceeded to pray the sweetest prayer, starting with, “Dear Lord, we pray for our children…”
We pray for our children.
Let that one sink in.
That , my friends, is the heart of racial unity.
It’s acknowledging, first and foremost, that we are all in the same group. We are in one family called the human race. We are all equals.
Why do we need racial unity?
Let’s go back to my analogy about Sephora.
If we did not, as employees, actively work together and fight against theft in our store we would lose money. If we didn’t have systems in place, both to prevent and stop people from stealing, it would affect our bottom line.
We need racial unity for the same reason: it affects our bottom line.
Most of us would say that we want to be happy; we want our children to be even happier. We want opportunities. We want our children to have even more opportunities.
We want our children to live in peace and safety.
Some of our lack of compassion for other “races” even stems from these desires.
But what we don’t understand is that only looking out for ourselves, our own, affects our bottom line.
I frequently see people make comments like, “I can’t believe this is happening in 2019” referring to racism and racial injustices. Part of me can’t believe it, either, but the thing is we have never uprooted the evil of racism.
Racism has not gotten “better”, it’s gotten different.
It will not get better until we actively work against it and challenge the mindsets that started it, as well as the systems that sustain it..
How can you be an advocate for racial unity?
Be intentional about sharing positive stories and pictures of people of color (or people that look different from you or those on your friends list).
If you want to champion racial unity, expose yourself and those you influence to other races in a positive light. This can be as basic as, sharing a tweet of a funny mom meme that has a Black or Latina mom on it instead of a white one. (Sounds simple but I often have to search long and hard for these!)
I loved this viral Facebook video of a dad having a conversation with his young toddler, who was very into the conversation, though it was complete gibberish! It was super adorable and heartwarming. Also, the dad was a young black man. We don’t often see young black men portrayed in this way, so you can bet I shared it and I will always share this type of content because it connects us on a human level.
In order to do this, though, it may require you to get intentional about following people of color or people that don’t look like you. If you don’t know who to follow, I will be happy to share some ideas or if you have a particularly woke friend, follow who he or she follows- that’s what I did!
Refuse to engage in racist, dehumanizing or otherwise degrading narratives.
You may be thinking, “I would never…” but the truth is, many of us do not realize how institutionalized racism is and how socially acceptable making racist, dehumanizing and degrading “jokes” has been.
When I was pregnant, I was horrified by some of the comments people made about my unborn baby and his black father. And by “people” I do not mean complete strangers. I am talking about people I know and love. People that I would never have thought racist - “good people”.
Don’t laugh at or share that joke. Don’t accept it when other people are called “animals” or derogatory terms.
Raise awareness about the issues that the marginalized face by sharing relevant articles and social media posts.
They say ignorance is bliss. Well, let’s put an end to the bliss of racism, inequality and injustice by putting the issues that marginalized people face out there front and center. Let’s make it too hard to ignore or to be unaware of.
Yes, changing the climate of racism is a monumental task but you can be a part of changing that climate by being an advocate for racial unity and justice - a champion for the human race.
If you would like further resources, or want to engage in discussions regarding this topic, I invite you to join my brand new Facebook group, Moms Pursuing Better - Be a Voice for Racial Unity & Justice. You don’t have to have it figured out, because none of us do. You don’t even have to be fully “on board”, just have an open heart and mind to other perspectives.
About the Author
Hi! My name is Inez and I am the owner of fortheloveofmom.org, a website dedicated to helping moms pursue better so that they can live their best lives and raise kids who do the same!