The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism and Engage in Collective Healing
by Anneliese A. Singh (Reviewed by Kathryn Madden, rc)
All my life I had looked at the image of Aunt Jemima on pancake syrup bottles without recognizing that its origins were based on a racial stereotype. It was humbling to realize that while the poison of white supremacy can be blatant, it can also come in smoother, less obvious packages. In The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism and Engage in Collective Healing, Anneliese A. Singh, a professor and associate dean of diversity, equality, and inclusion, demonstrates how heartening and impactful it can be to embrace even a small rebranding of transformed racial consciousness.
The first premise of this user-friendly workbook is that our world is steeped in racism and the notion that white people are superior to people of color—which is just not true. Singh consistently capitalizes the word White to highlight this. A second premise is explicit and implicit stereotyped messages are learned in families, schools, and communities about who people of color and White people are, and these are unconsciously internalized. Singh’s third premise is that, as extensive and overwhelming as racism can be, we can begin healing from racism through changing our individual actions and interpersonal interactions.
Writing for everyone—those who are disadvantaged under White supremacy and those who benefit from it—Singh has designed her ten chapters to take readers step by step through a given strategy of healing from racism that will relate to people of color and White people engaging in racial healing strategies alongside one another. By adopting a recovery mindset, we can identify ways in which we have internalized racist ideas and stereotypes with the hope of acting differently when we encounter racism in day-to-day life.
This approach seems very applicable to spiritual guides seeking to equip themselves to sit with others discerning their response to the pandemic of racism. Just as we stand in our integrity by only recommending to others spiritual practices in which we are personally steeped, we can only help those we accompany elevate their race consciousness by attending to our own need for deep conversion in this regard, especially on an unconscious level.
As someone who desires to become more direct and assertive in the moment, I was most intrigued by Singh’s chapter entitled “Catch Yourself in the Flow of Racism.” This entails becoming aware of “microaggressions,” which are negative, everyday messages conveyed to people of color through words and actions. Acting quickly in response sometimes entails attending to our internal dialogue. At other times, we need to attend to our external dialogue by choosing to apologize or to risk telling another that something she said or did is just not acceptable.
In insightful and practical ways, The Racial Healing Handbook initiates readers into the rewarding and tough work of racial healing in which a range of emotions may come up. Spiritual guides may well need to avail themselves of supervision in order to humbly be with others along this rigorous path of deep listening and vulnerability.
Kathryn Madden, rc, completed spiritual direction training at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, USA, and the Center for Religious Development in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. She resides in Chicago, Illinois, USA, and can be reached at [email protected].