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Four Generations of One Family’s Perspectives on Racism


Four Generations of One Family’s Perspectives on Racism

This focus group was used to begin to explore my own critical family history. Its purpose was to gain a better understanding of how we have survived and thrived for generations in the workplace, academically, and even athletically in spite of on-going, persistent racism and micro aggressions. Racial micro-aggressions are subtle yet sometimes blatant insults or exclusions perpetrated against others because of their race. Over time, these constant insults or exclusions damage the well-being of its victims (Torres & Driscoll, 2010). I wanted to know what my family did to prepare us to thrive in spite of multiple embedded institutional barriers that are doing harm to so many in America. The literature finds that positive racial identities and coping strategies are important in overcoming racism (Forsyth & Carter, 2012; Torres, Driscoll, & Burrow, 2010).

The focus group was held over dinner and recorded. Questions were prepared in advance as part of a class assignment. We talked for more than two hours and within that time, each participant shared stories in relation to their experiences with race and racism and how they managed to process their positive and negative experiences. For some, this was the first time ever having these discussions and I heard stories from family members that they had never shared with anyone before. It was funny how they talked about this experience for several months after the focus group.

One key coping strategy my family embraced was education, as it is viewed as “the one thing no one can take away”. Other common coping strategies found in both studies included career development, spirituality practices, support systems, hyper-vigilance or awareness, and empowered action as a last resort. Social capital was also an interesting finding. From my parents’ generation through my 16-year old son, my family has always had diverse social connections, recognizing that good and bad comes in all colors.

16 yr old:

“We are all human, we are all beautiful people no matter what color – Jesus made us that way… so don’t look at someone differently from their different colors.”

“As a kid…

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