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What to do if you hear racism

by Tone Breistrand 12 months ago in activism

Speak up every time.

What to do if you hear racism
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

It is all of our duty to do our best to defeat racism. Regardless of your ethnicity or the colour of your skin, the world needs you to be an active anti-racist in order to finally get the situation under control. No one should be treated differently because of where they are from or what they look like. Here are some things you can do to help.

There is no denying that racism is a problem with deep roots in our societies. We cannot pretend abolishing it is an easy task, but if we choose to ignore it, it will continue to be a problem. That is why you need to constantly be vigilant and challenge racism every single time you come across it. It means you will have uncomfortable conversations and put yourself in awkward situations, but it really is the racist person who should be feeling uncomfortable and awkward. We need to make people aware of the impact of their attitudes and the words they speak, and have them reflect on their actions.

The number one step you need to do and continue to do in order to call people out, is to educate yourself. Not everyone is going to be easy to convince or get on your side. You need to have facts and knowledge to back up your arguments. Be tasteful and patient. I know you might feel like attacking someone and lashing out at them, but this is not how the conversation should happen. Talk to them as a human being, and keep in mind that they might not know the significance of their own words. Acknowledge that it can take time for someone to change their mindset, so do not expect the process to happen in a day.

There is room for misunderstanding. Ask people to address and explain what they said. They might not know that it is actually a racist thing to say. There are those that do not understand what "All Lives Matter" implies or believe that racism is over because the US appointed a black president. Racism is a problem that has been pushed to the side for a long time, and the lines might be blurred for some people. Inform them that what they are saying is inappropriate every time it happens. Letting it slide is the same as accepting it, which is the worst thing you can do. Racism will not go away on its own.

Accept that you will make or have made mistakes in the past. No one is perfect, and we need to continue to grow and learn together. Listen to what people affected by racism are saying is offensive, and be mindful. It does not matter if you agree whether something is racist or not, if the people affected think it is, then it is not up for discussion. Respect them. Some things are going to be repeated a lot, and you will learn what is acceptable and what is not. Here is a useful list on common racist statements that we hear everywhere. Make sure you are on your toes and pay attention, because this is where the conversations are needed. The second you hear "I am not being racist, BUT..." you need to take action.

Sinead Bovell has made a helpful list of responses to racism that I recommend everyone reads. It includes having people explain why they said certain things, letting them know that their joke is not funny or that their way of talking is inappropriate for 2020. Ask people why they talk about people of colour the way they do, where does it come from? Do they actually believe the things they say about them? A lot of the time, people are ignorant to the fact that their jokes come at the cost of increasing stereotypes, although they were only intended as innocent fun.

Racism is a systematic problem in our societies, and it is our job to educate people. Send them book recommendations, articles, documentaries and other educational material so that they can grasp the impact of racism and how it affects such a large part of our population. It has been going on for far too long, and we need to once and for all stop the ignorance and prejudice.

We need to all take part in the movement. Do your bit to shape the world into a place where everyone can feel safe, and no one is treated differently because of the colour of their skin or where they are from. We need to fight for an equal and safe world for everyone.


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Tone Breistrand

Hi there! I am a Norwegian writer living in London. I like to write about love, Disney and finding happiness.

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