Psychiatrist explains navigating through tough conversations about race

"Always be kind and ask questions"
Posted at 7:23 AM, Jul 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-19 11:27:45-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - After George Floyd’s death and the worldwide protests which followed, many people are now starting to have tough conversations with their friends who don’t look like them.

Dr. Dion Metzger is a nationally renowned psychiatrist who spoke with News 3’s Samantha German and gave some ways on how we can navigate through these conversations together.

Dr. Metzger says right now in our country there is just a lot of raw emotion and because everything is out on the surface– we can no longer keep it in. It’s something we have to talk about now.

Dr. Metzger: “A lot of people have lots of difficulty just with being able to speak about it - especially other races, because it’s not that they don’t want to say something. What I’ve come to discover is that they don’t know what to say. They want to show their support, they want to show that they’re with us in solidarity and that they believe this is wrong. But, they don’t want to say the wrong thing. So, as a result they’re being silent and we’re viewing the silence as them agreeing with the other side.”

German: “How do we start these conversations? How do we share these negative experiences with our friends who don’t look like us who’ve probably never had the same experiences that we’ve had and keep it civil? I don’t want to offend anybody and I’m sure they don’t want to offend me. So, where do we start?"

Dr. Metzger: “Starting with it is just really an open conversation. But, I always say be careful in your approach. There’s so much hate that has been shared with us and posted against us, our reflex for some people is to shoot the hate back out. But, I say when you’re having these conversations be very, very open and just talk from experience. Unfortunately, sometimes people get defensive when you talk about race. It’s not that we’re accusing you of doing this. We’re just sharing what we’ve been through. So, I think even if you give that disclaimer – if you feel like the person you’re talking to is starting to get defensive – just say, ‘Listen, I just want to share my experience with you. I just want to tell you what’s going on.”

Dr. Metzger: “I had a friend who said to me, ‘I didn’t know it was this serious. I can’t imagine being scared for my sons to go take a run.’ Even her just saying that and just understanding my perspective, it meant the world to me. So, I think just being honest and saying, ‘Listen, I want to learn how I can do better. But, also, I want to learn about your hurt, so I can help you heal.’”

Dr. Metzger says when having these conversations about race, always be kind and ask questions because she says that is a way of showing empathy. She also says it’s a good idea to take breaks from social media and to take breaks within a conversation if it’s getting too heated.