The Entry Point: Conversations About Race and Difference

The entry point: it’s the place of initial opportunity, first access, place where we begin anything.

Every country has an entry point. Whether by boat or by plane, there’s a place where those who care to visit must come through.

Every conversation has an entry point. Whether that begins with a hello or a glaring stare, there is something that serves as the initial opportunity for some kind of encounter with the other.

Every dwelling has an entry point, too. Whether that’s a front door, back door, screen door, or a makeshift door made out of cardboard, there’s a point of entry to get into the space.

What becomes difficult is when we desire to enter into a country, conversation or even a dwelling and cannot gain access to it because the entry points are obscure, hard to find, come with stipulations we do not meet, or we simply do not know enough to safely navigate the world on the other side and fear keeps us from even attempting to go through.

I find this happens often when we want to have hard conversations about race and difference — any kind of difference. Those who are oppressed and those who are on the side of the oppressed often know how to navigate the entry points that allow for open, honest dialogue.

But there are many who resist having these conversations because they feel (or assume) there is no way they can enter into difficult conversations with others because there’s no entry point — there’s no commonality or common thread between them and the other making conversations about our world difficult and not common.

A couple of months ago, I had coffee with my friend Robin and her niece Sari and we talked about the ways in which hard conversations about race and difference can be had. We ran the entire gamut of Scripture and personal testimony and little anecdotes that helped us better understand the difficulties many people, including ourselves, have about finding common ground with one another, especially concerning race.

One story after another, Robin and Sari, two white women and I, a Black woman, found commonalities in our stories that were so similar that we suddenly realized the entry point was just that: stories.

I wrote about the Art of Storytelling back in March and mentioned how important it was to be invited into spaces where we are engaging in stories of other people. I wrestled with remaining true to my craft as a writer and telling the stories of the beautiful people in Uganda without becoming intrusive and voyeuristic. By the end of my trip, I found more in common with the people of Uganda than I would ever imagine, a realization that came only after spending nine days telling the stories of the people there.

The human experience allows for there to be threads of commonality that not only allow us to identify a part of ourselves in the lives of others, but also makes room for us to have compassion and, at least, sympathy for the things that pains others.

And while the entry point into conversations about race and difference may not be clearly defined or easily identifiable, we can trust that the human conditions that compel us: the need to be loved, accepted, and a part of a community, can create makeshift-opportunities for us to begin to build sturdy, durable entry points that faithfully and justly allow those who desire to enter, the opportunity to do so.

With whom do you have an “entry point” into difficult conversations about race and difference? How has your relationship made entering into these conversation easier? How as the absence of these relationships made the process more difficult?

I’m doing a workshop about broadening the social scope of your writing (and living) at Allume in October and would love to see you there! Stepping outside of our social norms and entering into another one can be scary. But through mutual invitation and intentional storytelling, we can find common ground that begins to build a bridge toward reciprocal understanding and action! Register for your spot today! Tickets are limited! xo

On the Chase,

Alisha L.

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