It’s been one week since the demonstrations and protests broke out in Charlottesville, but Americans are still trying to process the violent event. Without a doubt, America is far from being the land of the free and the home of the brave. And while it’s only natural for people to feel both disbelief and disgust, neither of these responses is enough to heal the deep divide slicing through the US. Researcher and bestselling author of "Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection," Brené Brown, offers inspiring, yet uncomfortable advice for Americans.

Brené Brown taps into decades of multicultural experience

On August 15th, Brown took to Facebook for a live event on her page, “Brené Brown” and addressed the situation in Charlottesville. She brought to the table her 20+ years of experience as a university professor at the University of Houston, Texas – a very multicultural and diverse institution. Her research, combined with her knack for being blunt and bold, made it a recording worth watching for everyone, irrespective of race, culture or background.

America has never owned its story and is falling victim to it

Much of Brown’s research involves shame and vulnerability, and she’s identified “the power of owning your story.” According to Brown, when you own your story, you get to write the ending. Otherwise, the story owns you.

This principle isn’t just a “micro-lesson”, for individuals. It can be applied to a “macro or community concept”. And Brown believes that America hasn’t owned its story. And the violent outbreaks, like the one in Charlottesville, are only devastating proof that America is falling victim to its own story.

The story of America is white supremacy

What is the American story that is taking over (and destroying) the US? White Supremacy, and while that makes most white Americans squirm, Brown refused to use softer terms. As she put it, unless we acknowledge the truth of American history – which is sewn together by an unswerving vein of white supremacy– we will continue to live in denial and prevent peace and equality from ever taking hold.

Brown explains how to dismantle white supremacy with the three P’s

Brown's message may have come as a rude awaking for some people because even if they don’t actively march on the side of white supremacists, white people silently reinforce this hate group by failing to come to terms with the three P’s: privilege, perspective-taking, and power.

Do Americans deny that they have privilege?

Privilege is a word that hardworking, white Americans resent, especially those who have paid their own way by the sweat of their brow.

But this isn’t the privilege that Brown is talking about. Privilege, when it comes to race, is all about unearned rights, and white people have many unearned rights. This isn’t a finger-pointing game, however. Brown gets vulnerable and shares her own personal experience of privilege.

It’s time for white people to start believing African American stories and experiences

When it comes to perspective-taking, Brown said it’s not enough to try seeing the world through the lens of an African American (or any other person of color, for that matter).

In fact, it’s nearly impossible for white people to even understand the world in which black people live. That’s why it’s better to just believe their stories at face value. Brown said that to develop real empathy, you have to believe that their stories are as “real, honest and truthful” as our story.

White supremacists are clutching at the straws

In explaining the final “P”, power, Brown claimed that America has long played the “power-over” game, as opposed to “power-with” or “power-to”. And the riots, like the one we witnessed in Charlottesville, are the fearful and desperate last stand of America’s power-over system.

What are white supremacists so afraid of? Brown says they believe that power is finite, and they’re afraid that if you share power, you lose it. Instead, Brown wants Americans to change their beliefs around power. Power is infinite, and it doesn’t run out, especially if you share it with others.

Does Brené Brown have a viable solution for America’s racial divide?

American has an incredibly long way to go, but Brown’s compelling perspective could be the solution to our long and painful racial divide. It’s a simple solution, but not an easy one. As Brown confided, “owning your story is painful”, but unless you do “the pain and discomfort are worse when you have to live out that story.”

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