A couple weeks ago, I wrote about initially misreading a sign during our summer road trip. I used it as an illustration of the antiracism work I’ve been intentionally engaged with for the past three years—and how I’ve learned and grown through what I’ve gotten wrong as well as what I’ve learned to do better. In this post, I want to reflect on the idea of “centering” ourselves in conversations, because I’ve come up against a conundrum as I ponder writing about antiracism on this blog.

The concept of centering ourselves is something I had not encountered before beginning this antiracism work. Yet we naturally do it in conversations all the time. When someone tells a story, we often respond by sharing a similar story out of our own experience. While that’s fine in a circle of casual friends, it’s another matter when we are trying to learn about or support folks whose lives are very different from our own.

You see, when we get uncomfortable in a conversation, we naturally want to pull the conversation back to a more comfortable place—which is usually by focusing on ourselves and our experiences. Alternatively, if we really want to show that we’re supportive of people who are different from ourselves, we do this by explaining how supportive we are.

The problem with these responses is that they put the focus back on us instead of keeping it on the other person or group. This is where I’m wondering about my own responses. By writing about antiracism work on this blog, am I centering myself and thus detracting from the necessary work of listening to and supporting others? Or, because my readers are mostly white like myself, am I doing part of my necessary antiracism work by “showing up for racial justice,” in the words of one of the groups I support (SURJ)?

I welcome your thoughts on these questions. If you need to learn more about the concept of centering yourself, read this post. In the days ahead, I invite you to notice the ways in which you tend to center yourself in conversation, so you can be more intentional about not doing so in your own other-focused conversations and antiracism work.

Share This