How to Have Open and Honest Conversations About Racism, According to a Psychiatrist

Adrianna Freedman
Photo credit: Franziska & Tom Werner - Getty Images

From Men's Health

After the murders of Black Americans including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, many people are now having conversations about the pervasive issue of systemic racism. Gregory Scott Brown, M.D., a psychiatrist and member of the Men’s Health advisory board, recently chatted with Drew Ramsey, M.D., to discuss how to open the doors for people to engage in such honest and important dialogues about racial injustice.

Brown says the first thing to do is try and overcome any fears or anxieties you may have when beginning a conversation about racial issues. “I’ve noticed when it comes to people from different racial backgrounds sitting down and having these conversations, it’s difficult,” said Brown.

“People are afraid of saying the wrong thing, their story not necessarily resonating with the person they’re speaking to…The biggest way to overcome those fears is to just really get into it and have those conversations.”

Is there a specific way to get the ball rolling and open the floor for a dialogue? Yes, said Brown. It’s to ask those open-ended questions about how your peers think about recent events. Take the time to talk with your white peers about it and share your views.



Brown says it's crucial to remember that racism also impacts more than any one single community and to remain sensitive of that. “We try to take these really complicated issues about race and turn it into an issue of Black and white,” Brown continued. “We need to understand that this is an issue that affects different types of people, and we need to make sure that we’re not marginalising them in this discussion.”

If there’s anything Brown wants for those to take away from his conversation with Ramsey, it’s the understanding that people aren't all the dissimilar—and that alone could be used as a foundation for having these essential conversations. “What’s important to realize is that people at our core, I think our values are essentially the same,” Brown said. “We want to have a good life. We want the next generation to live a better life than we live. No one wants people to stare at them or profile them in public, regardless of what they look like. And we want decency and respect.”

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