Become Proactive Against Racists and Racism
Racism is a deeply entrenched part of most societies, and it can affect you in ways you aren’t even aware of. Fortunately, by becoming more aware of racism and its impact on your life and worldview, you can start taking steps to fight it and make the world a better place. Look for ways to take action against racism in your daily life, whether it’s calling out racist remarks at work or participating in protests. Another big part of becoming anti-racist is reflecting on your own experiences with race and racism and educating yourself about issues related to race.
Method 1 of 4:Taking Action Against Racism
1. Speak up if you witness racism in action.
Speak up if you witness racism in action. It’s hard to know how to respond when you see racism taking place, but taking action is a huge part of being anti-racist. If someone makes a racist comment in front of you or treats someone badly because of their race, say something. It may feel uncomfortable, but every time you speak up, you help spread the message that racism is not acceptable.
For example, if a friend tells a racist joke in front of you, you could say something like, “That joke was really racist and hurtful. Please don’t tell jokes like that around me.”
If you witness racial harassment in public, try calmly saying something like, “Hey, leave her alone.” If you don’t feel safe addressing the harasser directly, check in with the person they’re attacking, instead. For example, you could go sit with them and ask if they’re okay.
Be prepared for people to get defensive when you speak up about their racist words or actions. Some people may even react by increasing the problematic behavior or lashing out angrily. If this happens, try to stay calm. Remember that their behavior is not your fault, and you did the right thing by speaking up.
2. Report racism if you see it online or in public
Report racism if you see it online or in public. If you see a racist meme or comment on social media, don’t hesitate to report it to the website’s administration. Racism and hate speech are not allowed on most social media platforms. Similarly, if you witness or overhear racist behavior or harassment in a public place, talk to someone in charge about what’s happening.
For example, if you’re in a store and you witness one customer harassing another and making racist comments, alert a manager to what’s going on. Say something like, “I saw a middle-aged white woman arguing with a Black teenager in the electronics section. She was calling him racial slurs and being threatening. I think you should ask her to leave the store.”
If you’re afraid that someone is in immediate danger, call your local emergency services. Your government may also have a specific website you can visit or number you can call to report hate crimes. For instance, in the U.S., you can use this directory to find and contact your local FBI field office: https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices.
3. Share information with others about combatting racism
Share information with others about combatting racism. As part of your journey to become anti-racist, you can also help educate others. If you find an article, video, or book that gives you a valuable perspective on issues related to race, don’t hesitate to share it with your friends, family, or colleagues.
For example, if you see a video that you think explains the concept of white privilege really well, share it on Facebook so others on your friends list can watch and share it themselves.
If you’re worried about the people you’re sharing with getting defensive, try discussing how the information helped you. Say something like, “This article really put racial microaggressions in perspective for me, and I realized I was doing some of these things myself. I just thought I’d pass it along because I found it super eye-opening!”
4. Vote for politicians who support anti-racist policies
Vote for politicians who support anti-racist policies. One of the best ways to combat institutionalized racism is to support progressive politicians and lawmakers. Before hitting the ballot box, research each of the candidates and look at their records on race-related issues. Cast your vote for candidates who have a strong history of fighting for racial equity and justice.
For example, you might choose a candidate who has a record of passing legislation to combat police brutality.
In the U.S., other issues related to racial justice include dismantling mass incarceration and other forms of institutionalized racism in the justice system, supporting voting rights for people of color, closing race-related wealth gaps, and supporting reparations for Native Americans and the descendants of slaves.
If you’re in the U.S., you can use resources like BallotReady to review the different candidates and their platforms before voting. The Center for Urban and Racial Equity also offers scorecards to show how different candidates stand on racial justice issues.
5. Donate time or money to anti-racist organizations and causes
Donate time or money to anti-racist organizations and causes. If you have any money to spare, donate it to organizations that are working to fight against racial injustice. These organizations can use your contributions to raise awareness, help people in need, and fund lobbying campaigns to influence lawmakers and politicians who can enact anti-racist policies.
If you can’t donate your money, consider donating your time. For example, you may be able to make phone calls or distribute educational materials in your community.
Some civil rights organizations that are highly rated by Charity Navigator include the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Equal Justice Initiative.
6. Support businesses owned by people of color
Support businesses owned by people of color. In many countries, wealth and other resources are disproportionately concentrated in the hands of white people. It’s especially challenging for people of color to thrive as entrepreneurs because of the wide variety of barriers they have to overcome relative to their white peers. Help close the gap by buying from businesses that are owned by people of color in your community. Spread the word about businesses you like to your friends, family, and neighbors.
For example, if there’s a Black-owned bookstore in your town, buy books there instead of ordering them from major retailers like Amazon.
In addition to supporting local businesses, there are also many businesses owned by people of color that have websites where you can order products and services online. For example, check out this list of Black-owned businesses from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/elisabethbrier/2020/06/05/75-black-owned-businesses-to-support/.
7. Participate in local anti-racist rallies or protests
Participate in local anti-racist rallies or protests. Protests and rallies are a powerful way to show solidarity and draw attention to issues of racial injustice. Check your local social media or the websites of activist organizations in your area to find out about upcoming anti-racist protests near you.
You can also do a search online using terms like “upcoming Black Lives Matter protests in Illinois.”
Before you attend a protest, research laws related to protesting in your country. It’s vital to know your rights in case you have an encounter with the police during a protest.
Even protesting peacefully can be risky in a tense political climate, and the coronavirus pandemic adds a new element of danger to any large gathering. To stay safe, take basic precautions like wearing a mask, carrying a list of emergency contact numbers, and avoiding outbreaks of violence.
Method 2 of 4:Developing Your Self-Awareness
1. Set an intention to be anti-racist, not just non-racist
Set an intention to be anti-racist, not just non-racist. Being non-racist is a good start, but in order to be a force for positive change, you need to take intentional action. Start by making a conscious decision to stand up and do something about racism, whether it’s calling your government representatives or speaking up next time a friend tells an insensitive joke.
Even if you aren’t directly affected by racism, it has a negative impact on the society you live in. Remind yourself that racism is everyone’s problem, including yours—which means it’s also everyone’s responsibility to fight it.
Remember, being anti-racist isn’t just about your attitudes, it’s also about your actions. It’s one thing to believe that people of different races are equal, and another thing to work towards making sure that they’re treated that way.
2. Acknowledge your privilege if you’re white
Acknowledge your privilege if you’re white. In most countries, people who identify as white have certain advantages that people of color do not. Think about the ways that being white makes your life easier on a day to day basis. It could be anything from being able to easily find cosmetics that work for your skin color to not having to worry about what will happen to you if you’re pulled over for expired tags.
Having white privilege doesn’t mean that you’ve never had to struggle, and it’s not the same as being biased or racist. It just means that you benefit in some way from the racism that’s built into the society you live in.
There are different types of privilege. For example, you may also experience different advantages or disadvantages in society based on things like your gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or religion. In the context of being anti-racist, it’s important to focus specifically on which advantages you have due to your racial identity.
Once you recognize your privilege, you can use it in your fight against racism. For instance, say you are a white man and your fellow white, male coworkers have been making racist jokes in the break room. They’re more likely to listen to you if you call them out than they would be to a Black, female coworker.
3. Examine your own behaviors and attitudes for racial bias
Examine your own behaviors and attitudes for racial bias. When you live in a racist society, it’s nearly impossible to avoid picking up racial biases. As part of your journey to become anti-racist, it’s vital to become aware of these biases and the ways they affect your behavior. Try to identify ways that you think or behave differently around people of other races. Once you develop that awareness, look for ways to change your behaviors and thought patterns so that you can grow beyond these biases.
For instance, if you’re a white American, you might realize that you tend to assume that people of Asian origin are recent immigrants or foreigners. This could translate into asking insensitive questions, like “What country are you from?” This kind of “microaggression” can feel very frustrating or alienating to Asian-Americans.
Even saying things like “I don’t see color,” or “There’s only one race—the human race!” can be hurtful. These attitudes may be well-intentioned, but they erase the experiences of people of color whose racial identity has a profound impact on their everyday lives.
Everyone has some type of bias, and you don’t have to be white to engage in racist attitudes or behaviors. For example, colorism—or discrimination based on skin tone—is still a problem in the Black community worldwide due to centuries of internalized white supremacy.
4. Talk to others about their experiences with racism to expand your perspective
Talk to others about their experiences with racism to expand your perspective. Talking to other people about race and racism can be really difficult, but it’s a big step towards understanding racism and learning how to fight it. Make an effort to connect with people of other races as well as people of your own race who are also working towards being anti-racist.
If you’re white, check in with your friends and colleagues of color about how they’re doing from time to time, especially during times when there are a lot of stressful and upsetting stories in the news about racial issues. Try saying something like, “Are you okay? Do you feel like talking about what’s going on in the news lately?”
Be prepared to have a difficult and uncomfortable conversation. Talking about race can be very emotional, especially for people who are directly affected by racism.
5. Allow yourself to experience uncomfortable feelings about race
Allow yourself to experience uncomfortable feelings about race. It’s normal to experience a range of difficult and sometimes unfamiliar feelings as you work towards becoming anti-racist. You may feel angry, sad, guilty, embarrassed, frustrated, or scared. As you start to grow and become more connected with others, you might also experience feelings of joy and excitement. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to sit quietly and acknowledge your feelings without judgment. It might also help to write them down.
It’s okay to have these feelings, but be sensitive about how you express them. If you’re white, be aware that expressing feelings of racial guilt to a person of color can have the effect of shutting down the conversation and making them feel bad about expressing feelings of anger or frustration. Remember that it is your responsibility to own your feelings and deal with them, not theirs.
Avoid expressing sentiments like, “I’m so shocked by what’s happening!” or “All this bad news makes me feel terrible.” Talking this way puts the spotlight on your feelings instead of the actual problem. Instead, focus on taking action and finding ways to express solidarity and support.
For example, instead of expressing guilt, say things like, “I want to help in any way I can. I’ll be at the rally tomorrow.”
6. Recognize that becoming anti-racist is a lifelong journey
Recognize that becoming anti-racist is a lifelong journey. Being anti-racist isn’t a simple goal that you can achieve by taking a few specific actions. You’ll need to stay vigilant and keep learning new things about yourself and the world around you for the rest of your life. Be prepared to hold yourself accountable and listen to feedback and criticism from others as you continue to grow.
Try to be gentle with yourself when you make mistakes—they’re a normal and important part of any learning process! Look at them as learning opportunities instead of letting yourself feel paralyzed by guilt.
Method 3 of 4:Consuming Anti-Racist Media
1. Read books about race and racism
Read books about race and racism. Reading is a great way to educate yourself about racism and racial bias. Look for books that will help you understand the history of racism and how it is built into the fabric of your society, as well as the ways in which racism affects different groups and individuals. Try to find books and stories that are written or published by people of color so that you can learn about racism from the perspective of people who are most affected by it.
Some popular books about racism include How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, and So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo.
If you have kids, introduce them to age-appropriate books about race and racism, like Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy or Sometimes People March by Tessa Allen.
2. Check out online resources about race
Check out online resources about race. The internet is a fantastic source of information about race-related issues. Start by looking at educational resources like the National Museum of African American History’s “Talking About Race” website, or the Simmons University Library’s compilation of resources on anti-racism.
Some other good online resources include the Southern Poverty Law website at SPLCenter.org and the Center for Urban and Racial Justice website at UrbanandRacialEquity.org.
You can also learn a lot by following anti-racism activists on social media, such as Rachel Cargle, Ibram X. Kendi, and Nikkolas Smith.
3. Watch movies and shows about the experiences of people of color
Watch movies and shows about the experiences of people of color. Whether they’re documentaries or fiction, films create an intense experience that helps you empathize with and appreciate their subjects on a deep level. Next time you turn on your TV, take the time to watch a thought-provoking or educational movie or TV show that deals with issues related to race.
Some powerful documentaries about race include I Am Not Your Negro, Freedom Riders, Slavery by Another Name, and Eyes on the Prize.
You can also check out fictional stories that deal with race issues, such as Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, or the historical drama by Ava DuVernay, Selma.
Series like Black-ish, Dear White People, and Insecure explore the everyday experiences of people of color, including racist microaggressions that they deal with on a regular basis.
4. Listen to podcasts that tackle racial issues
Listen to podcasts that tackle racial issues. Podcasts are a great source of thought-provoking discussion on a wide variety of cultural issues, including race and racism. Tune into podcasts like Code Switch, Hear to Slay, or Pod Save the People.You can access podcasts online through the websites that host them, or listen to them on the go using iTunes or the Google Podcasts app.
Method 4 of 4:Communicating Productively about Racism
1. Listen to people of color without interrupting them
Listen to people of color without interrupting them. Good communication is vital to breaking the cycle of racism. When you’re talking about racism, especially if you’re a white person speaking to a person of color, it’s very important to listen actively and openly to what they have to say. Allow them to say what’s on their mind without talking over them, interrupting, or planning what you want to say before they are finished speaking.
Even if you feel uncomfortable with what the other person is saying, wait for them to finish speaking before you chime in. Show that you are listening by nodding or saying things like, “Uh huh,” or “Okay.”
If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. For example, you might say something like, “It sounds like you’re saying that your opinions aren’t as valued at work because you’re not white, is that right?”
It’s important to show that you understand the validity of the other person’s feelings. Say things like, “That sounds extremely frustrating,” or “I can tell you’re really upset by this.”
2. Ask questions to clarify your understanding
Ask questions to clarify your understanding. Asking questions is a vital part of broadening your perspectives and getting a better understanding of racial issues. When you’re talking to someone about race, ask a lot of open-ended questions and listen carefully to the answers.
For example, you might ask things like, “Why do you feel that way?” or “What do you think about what’s happening in the news lately?”
If you’re talking to someone whose perspective you don’t agree with, asking gentle questions can help prevent them from becoming defensive. For example, if you’re talking about an incident of police violence, you could say, “I understand the point you’re making, but what do you think the police officer could have done differently?”
3. Accept corrections and rejections from people of color gracefully
Accept corrections and rejections from people of color gracefully. If a person of color corrects you or criticizes you about something you’ve said relating to race, resist the urge to get defensive. Remember that their perspective is informed by experiences that you may never be able to fully understand. Think carefully about what they have to say, and don’t hesitate to apologize if they tell you you’ve said or done something hurtful.
Say something like, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that was an inappropriate thing for me to say, but I’ll keep it in mind from now on. Thank you for letting me know.”
4. Look for common ground when you’re having a difficult conversation
Look for common ground when you’re having a difficult conversation. If you’re having a disagreement with someone about a racial issue, it can help to point out something you do agree on. That way, the other person will be more likely to listen thoughtfully to your perspective. Try to find a point you both have in common and build the conversation from there.
For example, you could say something like, “Okay, I get that you don’t agree that defunding the police is a good approach, but it sounds like we both agree that racially-motivated police brutality is a problem. What do you think we can do to fix it?”
5. Offer alternative perspectives when someone makes racially insensitive comments
Offer alternative perspectives when someone makes racially insensitive comments. Sometimes, offering an alternative point of view can make an impact on how someone thinks about racial issues. If you see that someone is arguing from a limited perspective, try to encourage them to think empathetically and look at another side of the issue.
For example, you could say something like, “I understand that you felt threatened when you saw that group of Latino kids walking down the street. They were being loud and you didn’t know what they were up to. But think back to when you were a teen. Imagine what it would feel like if people were always suspicious of you because of your race, even if you were just having fun with your friends.”
6. Take breaks occasionally if you have to
Take breaks occasionally if you have to. Whether you’re a person of color or a white ally trying to fight racism, having conversations about race can be emotionally draining. Don’t be afraid to step back and take a break if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Say something like, “Okay, I don’t think we’re getting anywhere right now. Let’s continue this conversation tomorrow.”