Racial Anxiety Limits Racial Progress

This week's commemorations didn't address why talking about racism is as hard now as it was in 1963.

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TR: So, what's the alternative to talking about topics that trigger racial anxiety? Are you suggesting that we don't talk about them at all or that we need to do something to supplement these conversations?

AMJ: [In individual conversations] you can name that anxiety. You can say, "I see where you're going -- I'm not in this conversation to call you a racist." You can disarm.

You can first affirm people's goodness, because people aspire to egalitarianism. You can allow people's ambivalence about race, and you can acknowledge the strategies about increasing racial anxiety so people know that, and they know what's being marketed to them.

Moments like these, racial moments, moments when we take our temperature around race, are an important time to educate people around implicit bias, so that they're able to acknowledge it.

We also want to educate people, for example, about the problem with the idea of colorblindness as an ideal. There's a Pew poll that came out just last week on progress toward a colorblindness goal. That reflects one axiom we have to fight on. The myth of colorblindness -- along with the idea that racism has to be intentional and explicit.

Most people have the best of intentions, but they also have these biases, so what we're trying to do is help them see the inconsistencies between conscious values and what's happening unconsciously.

Jenée Desmond-Harris is The Root's staff writer and White House correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

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