Home >Magazine >The Question That Can Start a Dialogue About Race with Others and with Yourself

The Question That Can Start a Dialogue About Race with Others and with Yourself

Janice Johnson's minister challenged his church members to explore viewpoints from people who didn't look like them. The process wasn't easy but how change begins.

Editor’s note: The perpetually overdue conversation about race is growing louder, and we’re sure this is the path to healing and justice. The co-founders of NextTribe are two white women who know it’s vital to be more inclusive, to publish other voices, and to use this platform to open minds and show life from various perspectives. We are thrilled that Janice Johnson, a retired corporate coach from Atlanta, has shared her thoughts here. We also welcome others to add their opinions and experiences on the seismic shift this country is going through. Please contact us at editorial@NextTribe.com. 


We can all agree that it has been a rough few weeks since George Floyd was killed under a policeman’s knee and the recent shooting of Rayshard Brooks. The impact was felt by all, no matter what religion, economic status, or color. This fury didn’t just start with these two homicides. It has been like a volcano bubbling but waiting for another injustice to erupt.

I am 60 years old and it brought back memories. My father was born in 1910 in Wilmar, Arkansas, served in the military, and worked at a bathhouse where he had to use the back door to enter. He was not granted the opportunity to vote until later in life. I remember seeing cross burnings but did not understand the KKK and the reason for their violence. I was only allowed to hold hands with people that looked like me when I entered first grade. My aunt and uncle marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis and protested at lunch counter sit ins. I took my daughter to a march when she was 5 years old in Louisville for police brutality. She is now 26.  My daughter and I attended President Obama’s inauguration and I thought we had made it.

Read More: “The Dark of Broad Daylight” and Other Thoughts on Racial Justice

The Challenge

Recently,  the minister at our church has challenged members to listen, talk, and learn from people who do not look like them.  He said, “Ask others the question, `How do people who don’t look like you experience you?‘” I received several calls from members of the church, co-workers, and from close friends who just wanted to see how I was doing. They asked me what they could do and how they could educate themselves about some of the issues that had come to light. I prayerfully asked God to give me the words to say.

At some point, I was tired and asked, “Why me God?” God responded to me “Why not me?” I confess I felt a little angry and disappointed in their lack of knowledge and understanding of the African American experience. But I reminded myself that it was great that they felt comfortable having that conversation with me. It was an opportunity for them to listen to me but also for me to learn their experiences as well, Isn’t that where change begins?

Read More: Owning Up to My Own Racism: A First Step Toward Creating Change

Standing on Shoulders

I started digging deep by reading, listening, and seeking articles and social media sessions by young people who are out there standing and protesting for me and their future. Where I have been standing on other’s shoulders, now it is time for them to stand on mine. I will continue to support them, learn from them, but remember others who have sacrificed for this season and at this time in history.

I am reminded of the words to the song “I Don’t Feel Noways Tired” by James Cleveland:

I don’t feel NO ways tired, I’ve

Come too far from where I started from. 

Nobody told me that the road would be easy. 

I don’t believe He brought me this far to leave me.

My daughter is a brand new attorney. I am watching her with pride as she is learning how to use her voice in addressing injustice.  I rest at night with confidence that our young people are going to change the world for the better.

I recently saw this post on the Instagram feed of Mitch Marchand, a writer, actor, comedian, and producer:

some are posting on social media
some are protesting in the streets
some are donating silently
some are educating themselves
some are having tough conversations with friends & family
a revolution has many faces – be kind to yourself and to 
others who are traveling in the same direction
just keep your foot on the gas
By Janice Johnson


Related Articles

Find your tribe

Connect and join a community of women over 45 who are dedicated to traveling and exploring the world.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This