You’ve got to love these folks...When it comes to expressions of racial skepticism, they are like the Cavalry or First Responders – they may not clearly see the path forward, but their prime directive is to act. They
often are having a strong internal reaction they have to manage, and they really don’t understand where skeptics are coming from. Regardless, they consistently engage. Sometimes with a well developed plan, but sometimes without one.

When a racism-skeptic reveals him or herself, First Responders feel a big gulf that sometimes causes a sinking feeling in their gut. It is very hard for them to understand this type of thinking and hearing it often triggers them emotionally. Many manage this situation well enough that their internal tribulation is largely hidden from the other person. Other members of the Cavalry are less opaque with their feelings, and their reaction is apparent. But no matter how well they manage their emotions, engaging is a lot of work for First Responders since they have very little understanding or empathy for this way of thinking. It just seems foreign to them! And the idea of having understanding or empathy for this point of view itself seems weird.

In their minds, the most important thing to do when bumping against people denying of racism is to counter it, and so they do - almost every time.

Since these people are already consistently engaging, they don’t need coaching for increased action. For them, the primary growth edge is to focus on greater effectiveness. A good place to start is getting a better handle on their own internal response. Getting a better grip on themselves when they hear racially problematic statements is likely to be a challenge, since they don’t understand racism skeptical thinking and this thinking creates a visceral reaction in them. Often they don’t want to understand it, since trying to understand it can feel like a concession and a granting of legitimacy.

For Managing Emotions

  1. How long have racism-denying statements by other whites really gotten to you emotionally?

  2. If there was ever a time when this did not happen, what changed?

  3. Are there past people or situations that your mind subtly goes to when you are triggered?

  4. In other situations not related to race, what strategies have you found useful in managing your emotions in the face of behavior that really bothers you?

For Understanding and Empathy

  1. Now you respond to racial skepticism like a firefighter putting out a small fire before it grows. How would it feel, every so often, to meet racial skepticism like a spy who asks innocent questions so you can be more effective the next time?

  2. Can you reconnect with the empathy you have felt in the past for someone with racially skeptical views? Has anyone you deeply loved held these views? Can you remember feeling at least one racially skeptical view yourself?

  3. Have you asked any other allies about books, movies, or videos that helped them better understand racially skeptical thinking?