Racism is a touchy subject for many of us. Most people have experienced it, talked about it, or at least thought about it. However, people often feel powerless when it comes to reducing racism. Luckily,there are many things you can do to help reduce racism in your personal life and in your community.
EditMaking Changes in Your Community
- Speak up if you see racism in action. If you hear someone use racial slurs, make a racial joke, or mistreat people because of their race, step in say something.You might be afraid of someone who is openly hostile, but think about how the other person feels. If you are afraid for your or the other person’s safety, feel free to get an authority figure, such as the police, or an adult if you are a child or teenager.
- If the person sees nothing wrong with what was said, ask the person not to say racist or bigoted remarks around you anymore. Tell the person that you will no longer hang around them if they continue to act this way.
- For example, if someone says “All _____ are criminals,” ask the person, “Why do you say that?” or “Where do those beliefs come from?”
- Try saying, “That was an inappropriate thing to say.” or “How would you feel if someone said something like that about you?”
- If you miss the opportunity to say something or chicken out, do not beat yourself up about it. Promise yourself that you will speak up the next chance you get.
- Address the behavior or the comment instead of the person. Do not resort to name calling or tell someone, “You’re a racist.” This will only offend them and make them angry.
- Support and attend events that celebrate different cultures. Most cities have cultural festivals and events. These events are a great place to learn about different cultures and interact with people from that culture. Invite your friends and family to go with you as well. Educating yourself and others is a way to have a more positive attitude towards people from different backgrounds.
- Events are often held in accordance with larger celebrations such as Black History Month, Asian-Pacific Heritage American Month, National Hispanic Heritage Month, etc.
- Organize a vigil or protest. Protests and demonstrations are powerful ways to combat racism in your community. These can be coordinated in response to events that happen around you. For example, if someone puts racial graffiti on a building, you could get together with some people to paint over the graffiti. If a hate group such as the Ku Klux Klan is coming to town, create a petition to stop them from coming.
- Even if you are not able to organize something yourself, just the act of speaking up and introducing the idea is helpful.
- Always start by contacting your friends, family, classmates, neighbors, etc. You can also contact local law enforcement about your concerns or about what you are interested in doing.
- Lobby and fight for nondiscriminatory laws. Racism happens at both the individual level and at the institutional level. Local and federal legislation can promote racism. Educating others and reforming yourself is more important, but the government does make a difference. Look for laws that promote equal salaries, equal opportunity, and punishment for people who discriminate in housing or employment. Write your elected officials, newspapers, or contact community organizers about the policies.
- Get involved with a local, national, or international organizations. Many organizations are dedicated to working towards these issues. Joining or supporting one of these organizations is another method you can use. You may meet like-minded people or get useful updates. You can volunteer at the organization or donate your time and/or money to their cause.
- America Healing maintains a list of organizations that work on racial equity issues.
- Learn about your community. Having a good understanding of your community will help you identify the best approaches for reducing racism. Read through your local newspaper, magazine, or websites to get some background information. What groups of people live in your community? Do these groups live and work together? Are neighborhoods segregated? Have there been any incidents of racism between different groups?
EditAddressing Your Personal Feelings about Race
- Know your own conscious or unconscious feelings. Every person has stereotypes and biases about people from other races.Think about what stereotypes (i.e. exaggerated belief, image, or distorted truth about a person or group) you may have and ways you may be discriminating (i.e. treating people unequally). You must understand your feelings before you can address them.
- Take the Project Implicit Hidden Bias Tests to uncover any bias you may have. You may feel defensive or upset when you read your results. Just take a deep breath and remember that you can change your attitudes and beliefs.
- Think about the racism you have seen, experienced, and/or contributed to.
- Educate yourself. Read as much as you can about race relations, white privilege, and ways to reduce racism. Read books, listen to music, and watch movies about other cultures as well. Learn about the history of the culture and current happenings. Listen to other people talk about their experiences with racism.
- Talk to people within your racial group about your attitudes and beliefs before you have cross-cultural conversations. There are conferences and alliances that allow you to work out your own feelings before you begin the work.
- Educating yourself is the best way to change your attitudes and beliefs.
- Acknowledge differences among communities of color. People are grouped into large racial and ethnic groups such as White, Indian, Black, Latino, etc., but there are differences within each group. For example, do not assume that all Black people have the same culture. Black can include people from Jamaica, North Carolina, and Nigeria. Each of those areas has a different culture. Ask people questions about where they grew up, what holidays they celebrate, what kind of foods do they like to eat, etc.
- Celebrate differences instead of being colorblind. It may seem like a good idea to pretend everyone is the same color, but you will miss out on how differences are natural and good. Value diversity instead of ignoring it. Race is often linked to cultural differences (e.g. language, holidays, clothing, etc.) that influence how a person experiences the world. If you are colorblind, you are not acknowledging these differences.
- Ignoring a person’s race could be offensive to that person. A person may feel like you are ignoring an important aspect of who they are.
- Make friends with people from different races. Working with, going to school with, and having close relationships with people from different races helps reduce racism. These one-on-one relationships can help correct any misinformation and stereotypes you have about different groups of people.
- Put forth an effort to meet people from different races. Join a club,sports team, or organization where you can meet people.
- Write down your stereotypes and biases. Pick groups that you have generalizations about and write down your opinions about each of these groups. Be completely honest with yourself as you write. Once you have everything written down, write down where these ideas came from. Did they come from your parents? Did you have a personal experience? You may not even know where the ideas came from.
- Share your findings with someone from your same racial group if you feel comfortable. This way you will be free to discuss your feelings without offending anyone else.
- Be kind to yourself. Every person has racist thoughts. Accept that this is normal, and it is a good thing that it bothers you. It will be uncomfortable to think about and talk about racism. Instead of being sad or feeling ashamed, put your energy into changing yourself and learning as much as you can.
- Do not get upset if you find that you are unconsciously racist. This has to do with your culture and education and does not make you a bad person.
- Be patient. Some people are very uneducated about racism and they will not be easy to sway.
- You do not have to fight racism on your own. Find like-minded people to help you.
- It could be dangerous to get involved if someone is actually being attacked. Stay on the sidelines and call the police.
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