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Emotional Labor and Antiracism Work (Religion & Race)

Don’t require the ‘emotional labor’ of Black, Indigenous and People of Color  

Emotional labor refers to how one manages or regulates emotional expressions with others in a workplace or social setting. In the work of racial justice, some white people expect, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) to carry the emotional labor. Examples: 

  • During group discussion of a book about systemic racism, a white woman says to the lone Latina group member, “We don’t treat YOU like that! Are you calling US racist.” (This statement puts the Latina on the spot, demanding her validation, instead of prompting the white person to reflect on the book’s implications for herself.) 
  • After a mass shooting in which most of the victims are Asian-American and the shooter is a white man who targeted Asians, the arresting officers says, “He [the shooter] isn’t racist; he was having ‘a bad day.’” (This statement negates the real trauma Asian-Americans have experienced with racial violence, while assuring the white community that they have no responsibilities for this incident of racist violence. 
  • When, in addressing systemic racism, BIPOC people are asked suppress their emotions while mitigating an unwelcomed racist comment, act, or assertion, it unfairly tasks them with managing, hiding, or even repressing their anger, sadness, and confusion in order not to offend, upset, or require antiracism work of white people. However, antiracism work is required of all who love God and want to bring justice and reconciliation to the world.

White allies can assume their share of the emotional labor in antiracism work through:

  • Research 
    • Take the initiative to do your own work against racism.
    • Research a white person who has worked on their own white privilege. 
    • Do your own research about culture, background, ethnicities, and races. 
    • Research books, listen to podcast to work against your own racism. 
  • Explore 
    • Don’t rely on stereotypes.
    • Don’t ask People of Color to be your teacher.  
    • One Person of Color does not represent their whole group. 
    • Do the work yourself, and don’t rely on People of Color to do your work. 
  • Assume nothing 
    • You cannot and will not ever empathize with People of Color. 
    • Don’t equate your experience or opinions with the realities that People of Color live with every day. 
    • Re-examine and change any negative biases you have about people from their racial-cultural groups. 
  • Learn 
    • Learn about the culture/background of People of Color you work/meet everyday.
    • Learn to read body language and nonverbal cues to gage another person’s reaction. (Don’t continue the conversation if the Person of Color seems uncomfortable). 
    • Learn to ask People of Color before you show a video or read a passage that demonstrates racial violence.

REAL is an acronym that recognizes racial injustice and violence against People of Color is devastating. It is a reality that People of Color deal with every day.