Home > NewsRelease > Empowering Antiracist Conversations: An Interview with Roxy Manning, Ph.D., and Sarah Peyton
Empowering Antiracist Conversations: An Interview with Roxy Manning, Ph.D., and Sarah Peyton
Norm Goldman --  BookPleasures.com Norm Goldman -- BookPleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Tuesday, September 19, 2023


Bookpleasures.com is honored to have as our guests Roxy Manning, Ph.D., author of How to Have Antiracist Conversations: Embracing Our Full Humanity to Challenge White Supremacy, along with her co-author Sarah Peyton in her second book, the accompanying The Anti-racist Heart: A Self-Compassion and Activism Handbook.

The convergence of their two remarkable minds highlights the dynamic interplay between compassionate dialogue and personal transformation.

Their co-authored work underscores the profound connection between self-compassion and pursuing societal change.

Good day, Roxy and Sarah, and thanks for taking part in our interview.

Norm: Roxy, what motivated you to author How to Have Antiracist Conversations: Embracing Our Full Humanity to Challenge White Supremacy?


Roxy:  I felt compelled to write this book out after decades of engaging in antiracist education and working to help communities heal and bridge differences.

Through that work, I saw repeatedly that while many people express a resounding rejection of racism, our collective response has, been counterproductive. Instead of promoting understanding and growth, we often select punitive measures, using blame and shame as our primary tools.

This approach has unfortunately resulted in a climate of fear and silence, deterring well-intentioned individuals from actively addressing instances of racism because of the threat of harsh repercussions or backlash.

My goal with this book is to offer readers an alternative perspective, providing strategies to address racism in a manner that heals and unifies rather than deepens existing divides, and thus promoting genuine, impactful change.

On a personal level, my experiences as a Black student, like so many others, were extensively marked by racism.

These experiences, which went unaddressed for years as I did not initially have the requisite knowledge or skill,  significantly hindered my creativity and self-expression.

Writing this book has been a cathartic process for me, marking both a culmination of my healing journey and a hopeful offering to the next generation. It serves as a guide, ensuring that future students either refrain from causing similar harm or are better equipped to address and heal from it. Knowing that my work has already found a place in academic discussions further fuels my belief in its potential impact.

Norm: Roxy and Sarah, what motivated you both to author The Antiracist Heart: A Self-Compassion and Activism Handbook?


Roxy: I repeatedly experienced that despite people's commitment to the theories and principles of antiracism, they struggle with implementing them. I wrote

The Antiracist Heart to help people who want to support antiracist efforts learn how to address some of the unconscious barriers that block action and gain the skills that are necessary to support change.

I also was delighted to coauthor with Sarah because her insights on our brain's functioning and her innovative techniques that liberate us from maladaptive patterns would lead to a more holistic approach.

By combining principles of neuroscience and Sarah's contract release work with the practical skill-building offered in the Authentic Dialogue framework I developed, we hoped to provide a roadmap that would bridge self-awareness with effective outward strategies and actions.

Sarah: In these complicated times, I was watching how many people I knew who were getting tired in the effort to take a stand against racism, and I thought that we all desperately needed self-compassion to be able to keep getting up after being knocked down, and for people to be able to engage in antiracism in ways that were nourishing, and connected people to their deepest values. And I was aware of Roxy's beautiful work in this area, and her commitment to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's understanding of the fierce love inherent in his concept of Beloved Community, so I invited her to co-write this beautiful book with me. 

Norm: As leaders in your respective fields, how do you define the "Beloved Community" concept in addressing racism and white supremacy?

Roxy: To me, the "Beloved Community" is a compass in addressing racism and white supremacy.

Drawing from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision, it's not a utopian dream but an understanding of the world as a family interconnected by shared destinies. It's about seeing every individual as family, bound by love, understanding, and mutual respect.

Racism and white supremacy fracture this family. They are barriers preventing us from recognizing our shared humanity.

While supportive legal and structural changes are crucial, as highlighted by scholars like Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, the "Beloved Community" transcends these measures.

It's a call for genuine dialogue and empathy, understanding that our healing, as a society, is intertwined. Our challenge isn't just securing a seat at the table but ensuring meaningful engagement once there.

"Beloved Community" is about evolving past blame and judgment, realizing our collective liberation is tied to every individual's freedom.

Sarah: I share Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision of a society characterized by justice, equality, and love. In this society, poverty, hunger and homelessness would not be tolerated because no one would stand for it. Everyone would belong.

Moving toward this vision requires a steadfast willingness to see what is really happening with racism and white supremacy, and to take every action possible to create a different world. 

Norm: What role does nonviolent communication play in your model of antiracist dialogue? How does it contribute to fostering productive conversations?

Roxy: Nonviolent Communication, which is anchored in the principles of the Beloved Community, is an integral part of my model of antiracist dialogue.

This approach challenges binary concepts such as good vs. evil or right vs. wrong which are rooted in white supremacy culture.  Instead, it moves us towards understanding our collective interdependence and recognizing our shared human values.

Despite adopting a wide variety of strategies in any situation, we are seeking to fulfill universal human needs. This seemingly simple insight enables us to articulate the harm we endure without vilifying others.

The key steps of the Nonviolent Communication process —making obvious observations, expressing feelings, grounding in values, and articulating effective requests—resonate deeply within my framework.

The combination of an orientation to Beloved Community and the clarity offered by the four steps are integrated into my model of antiracist dialogue because they foster mutual understanding, enabling us to identify issues, appreciate everyone's concerns, and strategize actions that ensure collective well-being.

Sarah: Miki Kashtan, one of the thought leaders in Nonviolent Communication, writes, "applying nonviolence becomes progressively more difficult the closer it is to thought.

Many more people can refrain from physically violent acts than from using the language of judgments, threats, or demands. Similarly, many more people can train their language than can train their mind and heart to hold the commitment to nonviolence."

Nonviolent language is a starting point for the journey into the mind-and-heart commitment to antiracist dialogue. It gives us something solid to hold on to.

Roxy's work provides a structural framework which lets people bring their hearts to making productive change. 

Norm: Could you provide some examples from the books on how to effectively interrupt hateful or discriminatory behavior without resorting to humiliation?

Sarah:  The first step in effective interruption is self-accompaniment and self-compassion, and if it is our practice to accompany ourselves warmly, this step will have begun long before the hateful or discriminatory behavior takes place, and it will keep us calm, so that we can evaluate the safety of everyone involved.

The next step would depend on safety. Can we intervene physically, perhaps by using our body to interrupt the behavior, for example, by creating a distraction which lets the receiver of the behavior escape?

Can we intervene verbally, using Roxy's framework for possibilities for bystanders and witnesses to such behaviors? Can we call the person who is enacting the behavior back to their own best values and integrity?

We will be able to make wonderful decisions if we begin with self-compassion. 

Roxy: Once we are ready to interrupt verbally, we can take the following steps. Begin by making a direct appeal for a change in behavior. Clear, specific statements like, "I want to change the subject" or "Please stop" work effectively.

Then, clearly name the behavior you're observing that is impacting you. When we name the challenging behavior, we do so by describing the actions and context that is making it challenging, not by attacking the character of the person who is doing the actions. 

In The Antiracist Heart, I talked about an example that many readers might recognize. In November 2022, people were stunned at the extent to which Susan Hussey, one of Queen Elizabeth's attendants, persistently questioned the origin of Ngozi Fulani, a Black UK charity founder. Despite Ms. Fulani repeatedly responding by affirming that she was indeed born and raised in the UK, Ms. Hussey did not accept Ms. Fulani's responses, instead continuing her racist probing. An observer could intervene by stating to Ms. Hussey, "Please stop asking that question," followed by a description of the problematic behavior, "Ms. Fulani told you three times that she is a native born UK citizen." The  bystander could choose to continue by making clear the implicit message the bystander perceives in Ms. Hussey's actions, stating, "Your repeated questioning insinuates that true Britishness is exclusive to whiteness, delegitimizing Black residents as true natives."

In this process, there's no vilification of Ms. Hussey. We're simply calling attention to her actions and their implications. Drawing from Nonviolent Communication, we can further clarify why we are so impacted by her actions.

"For me, it's essential that every attendee feels genuinely acknowledged and experiences true belonging."

While we seek to raise awareness of and change behavior that is having a racist impact without shaming the actor, it's also important to recognize that people like Ms. Hussey might still grapple with internal shame upon receiving our feedback and request.

This emotional reaction is often rooted in experiences and even cultural norms where feedback and humiliation are intertwined.

The absence of judgment doesn't guarantee the absence of self-reproach. Assimilating feedback, recognizing misaligned actions, and navigating one's emotions without collapsing into self-blame and judgment are crucial skills for those who want to contribute to a more antiracist society. The Antiracist Heart is an attempt to nurture this liberatory self-awareness and response in our readers.

Norm: In what ways does How to Have Antiracist Conversations guide readers to identify their motivations for engaging in antiracist conversations? How does this influence the approach they take?

Roxy: The Authentic Dialogue framework I develop in How to Have Antiracist Conversations encourages readers to examine their motivations, with empathic support if needed, before initiating a dialogue. 

I believe a fundamental first step is to understand one's true purpose - resolving conflicts, bridging understanding gaps, ensuring one's feelings are acknowledged, or healing personal pain or fractured relationships.

When we recognize our purpose, we are more effective in inviting the other person into dialogue with us with clearer understanding on the skills and capacity each will need for a successful dialogue. 

Norm: How do you address the challenges of engaging with individuals who may be resistant to discussing racism or systemic white supremacy?

Roxy: In How to Have Antiracist Conversations, we examine several reasons people might be resistant to discussing racism or addressing systemic white supremacy.  First, we have to debunk current misconceptions. Some people believe that acknowledging racism perpetuates it and advocate for a "color-blind" approach or insist we're in a post-racial era. I share examples and show how to use information to contest these erroneous conclusions.

In addition, not discussing or tracking race blocks communities from the minimal engagement necessary to tackle racial inequities. I give multiple examples of my journey to show the costs of that approach in the book.

Finally, I explore the role of unconscious bias, the natural but insidious process that makes it incredibly difficult for us to even notice that racial harm is happening. Readers learn about some specific types of biases that are especially potent in maintaining our lack of awareness of inequities and how my Authentic Dialogue framework can help to counter them. 

Sarah: Here is another place where self-compassion is necessary to prevent burnout and exhaustion. So many white people really would prefer not to know about the harm that is still being done by the system of white supremacy.

White people don't want to know about the health impacts on people from the global majority. They don't want to know about the multi-generational financial and professional impacts, they don't want to know about the harm being done to children.

So persistence is necessary, fierceness is necessary, conviction is necessary, and it's very important to stay connected to our own values and our own integrity and commitment to including everyone in beloved community, even those who are resistant or reluctant to have these conversations. 

Norm: Can you explain the different roles outlined in How to Have Antiracist Conversations: the Actor, the Receiver, and the Bystander? How does each role contribute to the dynamics of antiracist conversations?

Roxy:  One of my goals in How to Have Antiracist Conversations  is support a quality of connection while confronting racism that can lead to change and move us closer towards Beloved Community.

One way we can do so is to clarify the roles involved when racial harm is happening that facilitates constructive conversation. I've modified Dominic Barter's terminology used in his Restorative Circles that works well to support that goal: Actor, Receiver, and Bystander.

1. Actor: This term is used for people who engage in acts that have racist impact. Instead of labeling them as perpetrators, the focus is on their actions. This terminology creates space for the individual to engage in restorative practices without the weight of moral judgments, instead focusing on the harm and the cost to individuals and community.

2. Receiver: Those who are on the receiving end of racist actions are termed Receivers. The idea here is to go beyond the often disempowering term of "victim" and instead focus on their lived experiences of the act, empowering them in the dialogue as people who seek solutions and advocate for change.

3. Bystander: People who witness these acts, but are not directly involved, are called Bystanders. Their role is unique because while they are not directly targeted, they have the power to influence the outcome through advocacy and potential intervention.

Each of these roles serves a unique function in the dynamics of antiracist conversations. The Actor, Receiver, and Bystander framework encourages us to see each person's full humanity, refrains from boxing them into good or bad categories, and allows for more constructive and nuanced conversations about racism.

Norm: What practical tools or frameworks do you provide to help individuals and organizations start and navigate antiracist conversations?

Roxy: We help people navigate all the steps of conversations about racism. Using the tools of Nonviolent Communication, integrated in my Authentic Dialogue framework, we guide the reader through practices to determine whether to engage in the dialogue and what kind of dialogue is necessary and then provide concrete steps on what to prioritize in each of the four conversations I teach.

Many readers have shared that the books offer individuals and organizations both an understanding of the "why" - a clear rationale for engaging in these conversations, and the "how" - the steps that make the conversations more likely to be effective and lead to change.   We also provide readers with some guidelines on where the process might fall apart - common challenges we face in implementing it, and a framework for moving through those challenges. 

Norm: Where can our readers learn more about you and your books?

Roxy and Sarah: Please visit our book WEBSITE to find out about our books, our podcast and our offerings.

For more on antiracism, Nonviolent Communication and DEI, visit  ROXY MANNING,   and for more on the neuroscience of self-compassion, visit SARAH PEYTON

Norm: As we wrap up this interview, what message would you like to share with your readers, and what do you hope they take away from the books?

Roxy: I want readers to know that change is possible. No matter how stuck or blocked they have felt about working for change, they can learn new skills, new ways of authentic expression, new ways of self-compassion, that can create a shift.

And even if all that effort doesn't create a straight path to the full manifestation of Beloved Community in our lifetimes, with each action they take, they are building the path that will make it possible for generations to come. 

Sarah: I hope that readers will find themselves warmly held, acknowledged for their experiences, inspired and encouraged to take their next steps in antiracism. Additionally, I hope that they will discover their own invisible biases, and learn ways to counteract them. And of course, I always like it when readers discover they make sense.

Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your endeavors


 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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