top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureStaff

Race, The Culture of Niceness, and Caregiving

Written by Laurie Nordahl, MSW Intern for SMUMN



In October, I attended the Kente Circle Training Institute's annual conference. It is a conference intended for social workers, therapists, and helping professionals. This year's conference was entitled, "Race and Identity - Go Deeper to Grow Stronger."

 

Both of the keynote speakers, Dr Manijeh Daneshpour (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and professor) and Robin DiAngelo (author of White Fragility), spoke on the importance of the awareness of historical oppression and its effect on our clients, ourselves, our work, and society as a whole. They fostered an environment of candid discussion, insightful challenges, and important takeaways for us to carry with us to our own circles.

 

One of the takeaways I'd like to share with you is the idea of the Culture of Niceness. As Minnesotans, we are very familiar with the idea of being nice. Often, we pride ourselves on being known for this specific quality. At this conference, we peeled back the layers of the Culture of Niceness and examined how it intersects with race and oppression. 

 

What is niceness?

Niceness, unlike kindness (which is about demonstrating genuine care and concern for others), focuses on the idea of being polite. It is a surface-level engagement designed to uphold what we expect from polite conversation. We expect pleasant exchanges, general agreement, and to quickly extinguish any topic that might be controversial or bring up unpleasant feelings. Politeness is about keeping everyone's smiles on.

 

When we prioritize niceness when it comes to discussing race and oppression, we are prioritizing comfort over justice and policing delivery instead of focusing on content. We are communicating to Black folks, Indigenous folks, and People of Color (BIPOC) that it is more important to avoid being disruptive and avoid unpleasant feelings than it is to address traumatizing injustices against historically marginalized groups.

 

This idea can be directly applied to caregiving.

 

You may be thinking to yourself, "Race doesn't really come up in my life." It may not be obvious to you, but race and oppression intersect with your life on a daily basis. 

 

My challenge to you is to notice the BIPOC people that show up in your caregiving spaces, whether that is physically, on TV, or referenced in conversation. What roles do they play? What jokes are said? What assumptions are made?


 Notice the BIPOC people that show up in your caregiving spaces, whether that is physically, on TV, or referenced in conversation. What roles do they play? What jokes are said? What assumptions are made? 

Once you notice these things, I encourage you to ask yourself: How is niceness being prioritized over authentic care and engagement?

 

My hope is that you notice these moments, engage with these moments, and set your natural desire for politeness aside and, instead, respond with Minnesota compassion, Minnesota kindness, and Minnesota self-reflection.

 

Niceness isn't bad by itself. But when it comes to race and oppression, we can definitely go deeper and, by doing so, we can indeed grow stronger.

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Kommentarer


bottom of page