How to Turn Lies about Race Inside Out

This is a story about love

But it’s not about that Valentine’s Day love

Or that motherly love

It ain’t even about that Philly brotherly love

No

This is a story about the love that hate produced

It’s a story about Africa and all of her children

Still loving themselves

After centuries of systemic injustice

Thus begins Lies About Black People by Dr. Omekongo Dibinga. The book takes a hard look at race relations from the perspective of a child of Congolese immigrants who has established a career in academia and made a name for himself as a musician, rapper, podcaster, and poet. 

Less than equal

The book’s subtitle underscores its message — “How to Combat Racism and Why It Matters.” The book explores and debunks myths (okay, lies) about non-Black people’s perceptions of Blacks. In short chapters, many containing his poems, Dr. Dabinga punctures myths about Blacks with research, stories, and humor. The book’s point is to make it safe to discuss issues in ways that illuminate the issue to create a more profound understanding. 

Understanding the issues

“The categories of race that we know them as today were created in the mid-1400s in order to justify enslavement and to justify black oppression,”Dr. Dabinga told me in a recent interview. “And that idea that black people are inferior has been at the heart of so many issues that black people still face today.” This sense of inferiority that Blacks feel is unrecognized by majority cultures. Yet this erosion of self-esteem is at the heart of many problems that plague our society today.

“It’s not enough to just say, ‘I’m not racist… Well, I didn’t own slaves, my grandfather didn’t own slaves, or whatever.’ If you don’t actively fight it, you are part of the problem,” says Dr. Dibinga. One could draw an analogy to watching someone being beat up without intervening. “If you see racism happening in your job towards somebody, and you don’t say anything because you are not racist, then you’re condoning racism.”

Finding solutions

Responsibility of leaders is to make find solutions. Become an UPstander – the opposite of a bystander. Dr. Dibinga offers a call to action in the form of an acronym: LEAD.

Learn. Stage opportunities for individuals to have conversations about race. Listen to their stories. Share your own.

Educate. Read works by authors who write about the Black experience. These include Ibrahim Kendi, Michelle Alexander, Ta’nehisi Coates and poet Amanda Gorman. Also, find ways to stay informed by following the issues.

Advocate. Resolve as leaders to do what they can do. It may be through an organization or by making personal connections with those you work with.

Decide. Become – as Dr. Dibinga writes – a partner, one with shared interested in working for equality.

Dr. Dibinga is fond of saying “LEAD stands for Learn Everything and Do! If you learn everything and don’t, then you are not a leader. You simply possess knowledge, but knowledge is not power. The application of knowledge is where real power comes into play,” writes Dibinga. Leaders who care can help their team discover the issues, determine what is possible, and become involved in ways that will help your community.

“The categories of race that we know them as today were created in the mid-1400s in order to justify enslavement and to justify black oppression,” Dr. Dabinga told me in a recent interview. “And that idea that black people are inferior has been at the heart of so many issues that black people still face today.” This sense of inferiority that Blacks feel is unrecognized by majority cultures. Yet this erosion of self-esteem is at the heart of many problems that plague our society today.

The book’s subtitle underscores its message — “How to Combat Racism and Why It Matters.” The book explores and debunks myths (okay, lies) about non-Black people’s perceptions of Blacks. In short chapters, many containing his poems, Dr. Dabinga punctures myths about Blacks with research, stories, and humor. The book’s point is to make it safe to discuss issues in ways that illuminate the issue to create a more profound understanding. 

The pain of racism can erode a sense of the future. “And what I’m seeing [at the university level), many [students] are angry. They’re, they’re frustrated.” Dr. Dibinga’s work calls for engagement. “It gets them organized to be activist minded. But the hope part is it’s, it is kind of diminishing a little bit, but they’re inspired to be activist minded.”

“Many people who do this work say it’s not enough to just say, ‘I’m not racist… Well, I didn’t own slaves, my grandfather didn’t own slaves, or whatever.’ If you don’t actively fight it, you are part of the problem,” says Dr. Dibinga. “If you see racism happening in your job towards somebody, and you don’t say anything because you are not racist, then you’re condoning racism.”

Finding solutions

The problems abound, but what are the solutions? In a word, become an UPstander – the opposite of a bystander. Dr. Dibinga offers a call to action in the form of an acronym: LEAD.

Learn. Engage in conversations with Black in your workplace. Listen to their stories. Share your own.

Educate. Read authors and journalists who write about the Black experience. Stay informed by following the issues.

Advocate. Resolve to do what you can do. It may be through an organization or by making personal connections with those you work with.

Decide. Become – as Dr. Dibinga writes – a partner, one with shared interested in working for equality.

Dibinga is fond of saying “LEAD stands for Learn Everything and Do! If you learn everything and don’t, then you are not a leader. You simply possess knowledge, but knowledge is not power. The application of knowledge is where real power comes into play,” writes Dibinga. If you care, you will discover the issues, determine what is possible, and become involved in ways that will help your community.

Finding solutions

The problems abound, but what are the solutions? In a word, become an UPstander – the opposite of a bystander. Dr. Dibinga offers a call to action in the form of an acronym: LEAD. Learn. Educate. Act. Decide. If you care, you will discover the issues, determine what is possible, and become involved in ways that will help your community. One of the lessons that Dr. Dinbinga teaches is that when Black kids learn, everyone benefits. We know from where we come and where we must go to ensure a more equitable and just society.

“The story of black people in this country has been the story of grace under pressure,” says Dr. Dibinga. “We fought in every war. We’ve committed to every single [freedom] movement. We are out there standing in lockstep. So the story of black people in this country has been a story about grace.”

Near the end of the book, Dr. Dinbinga closes with this poem, from which I quote the opening.

If I want to change the world, I have to change myself

For a change in the mind is true wealth, it’s true health

My environment will never change until I change me

Rearrange me, my thinking can never be the same, see

Gandhi went from lawyer to leader, changed his mind

King, from preacher to Nobel Peace Prize, changed his mind

In fine time, align your mind and align the world

Note: Here’s a link to the full LinkedIn Live interview with Dr. Omekongo Dibinga.

First posted on SmartBrief.com 00.00.2023