Recently the Nashville Health Care Council hosted a virtual listening session with Duane Reynolds, founder and CEO of Just Health Collective, on terminology necessary to navigate impactful discussions about race. Reynolds spoke with Council President Hayley Hovious about the meaning behind words, systemic racism, and what we can do about it.
Before the conversation began, Reynolds asked for a moment of silence to honor three individuals who forever altered the course of our country’s trajectory: George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. They and countless others have lost their lives as a result of racial injustice. “It’s time to awaken to a new reality — a rebirth of our shared humanity, equity and justice,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds defined three terms that are important in understanding the racism spectrum:
- Racism is the discrimination of a person or people based on their particular racial or ethnic group.
- Non-racism is the passive rejection, opposition and disassociation from behaviors and ideologies that are considered racist.
- Anti-racism is the active practice of identifying, challenging and changing the values, structures and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism.
“The category of non-racism reflects the sentiment, ‘I don’t see color.’ And while on the surface this sounds positive, it actually devalues people of color by not recognizing that their color reflects their lived experience,” Reynolds said. “We want to see color. We just don’t want to judge and treat people unfairly because of it.”
Reynolds said that for all people, the goal is to become anti-racist and referenced author Ibram X. Kendi’s six action steps to becoming anti-racist from the book, “How to be an Anti-Racist.”
Reynolds went on to examine privilege, equity and equality:
- Privilege is the systematically conferred advantages individuals enjoy by their inclusion in dominant, majority groups with access to resources and institutional power that are beyond the common advantages of marginalized citizens.
“Notice I didn’t say white privilege,” he said. “Because white privilege is only one form of privilege. As Americans, we have privilege. As people sitting behind these computers, we have privilege,” said Reynolds. White privilege is critical to understanding systemic racism which is why it requires attention and focus.
- Social justice equitable distribution of resources and opportunities to lead fulfilling lives.
- Equality is treating everyone the same whereas equity is giving people what they need to be successful.
With an illustration of three different people, Reynolds further explained that all people don’t begin at the same place, “Equality assumes that people will benefit from the same support. When people are given different supports depending up their needs, they are being treated equitably.”
Reynolds provided additional perspective on racial disparities in the health care industry and overviewed his organization’s approach to driving change.
He concluded by encouraging organizations to create safe spaces for dialogue and emphasized the importance of listening and learning from the experiences of people of color. “Now is the time to invest in change that will create a society in which everyone can flourish,” he said. “The journey starts here, and I challenge each of you to continue learning and guide your organizations to a more just and equitable system.”
To supplement the presentation, Reynolds elaborated on additional common terms:
- Implicit bias also known as implicit social cognition or unconscious bias, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.
- Intersectionality is the interconnected nature among social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they pertain to an individual or group. Intersectionality often creates overlap and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage for that individual or group.
- Race is a social construct used to rank and classify people sharing distinct physical traits, namely skin color, whereas ethnicity is a social construct that classifies people along racial, national, tribal, religious, cultural lines or their intersection.
- White fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable and triggers a defensive attitude.
- White supremacy is the belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society, whereas a white supremist is a person who believes that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races.