1. Pick a safe place. On the street, entering a spa, in line at the grocery store, are not conducive environments to begin a discussion that may bring you to tears, shouting matches, or hurt feelings. So while we all need to discuss race, power, and privilege, the setting is imperative. Classrooms, dinner parties (where you know the guests), places that have a clear exit and no one feels pressured to contribute but also equally allowed to participate are the main factors to having a productive conversation.
2. When a marginalized group member says they are offended, unsafe, triggered, or upset, don't tell them that they are exaggerating or bringing prejudice or discriminatory practices on themselves by being "hyper focused." Yes POC are hyper aware and for good reason. Statistics show that we are more likely to be murdered, imprisoned and victims of violent crimes. Those statistics grow exponentially when the person is also part of the LGBTQIA+ community. So before you blame the victim, just, don't. They are trusting you with their story, just listen. They do not need to rise above hundreds of years of genocide, rape, and slavery, they are doing fine by not being enraged all the time.
3. Do not engage in a "struggle stand off." When someone says they experienced racism don't say, "Oh that reminds me of a story," or "Did you hear what happened to (insert marganilized group name here)." Being brave enough to share your story of a microaggression, assault, or generally unsafe encounter takes guts because alot of times we have been ignored or told flat out that they didn't believe us. No one is "playing the race/gender/sexual orientation card. We would love to be treated like typical folks but we aren't and we can't ignore that. So when we tell you about one instance, out of the hundreds we face daily, please do not try and outshine us or tell us, "We could have it worse." We know we can, our ancestors did, but we still are asking for equality.
4.People of color and other marginalized group members are not diversity experts. One of the audience members told me after my TED talk, "Why does it always have to be the people of color doing the speech about diversity?" And I get where she is coming from. Diversity is something I am passionate about, my Master's degree in Communication with an emphasis in Intercultural Communication, further explains this but alot of times POC are approached on the street and in the office to speak out about racial or social justice when they have no experience in the field. Their skin color being their only "qualification." Stop it. The only reason I know about diversity is because I want to. I read the books, got the training, and continue to surround myself with actual experts. My black skin has formed experiences for me and challenged perceptions but it doesn't come with an education.
5. Be kind. I don't want to scare you out of having the conversation, I just want you to be aware that when you see someone different from you that is not an invitation. They are not existing to educate you. They were not put on earth to put you at ease. They are complex people, just like you, who are simply trying to make it through the day. If you have questions look at the Internet, allthis.org. If you want to build real relationships and friendships look for common ground and similarities and start there. These complex converstions need to be had, but they need to be handled with grace.