We know this can be a tricky subject, so here’s a few small steps for tackling this huge issue:
1. Speak out against racism, big and small
It’s easy to go on record condemning the new wave of Neo-Nazism in America. It’s not as easy to speak up when your uncle makes a side comment about his new African American neighbors. Racism is most dangerous when it goes unnoticed. It’s all too convenient to shrug subtly racist comments from your friends and family aside and say “well, they didn’t mean it like that.” One ignorant side remark doesn’t make your uncle a violent racist, but it is indicative of a problematic outlook on race. You don’t have to start a family brawl, but even a gentle comment about how what was said may be offensive can encourage people to take a closer look at their thoughts and actions.
I’m not just talking about the big ones: presidential elections and the like. I’m talking about local elections. That’s where your vote really counts; where your voice is the loudest. Local government is also where prejudice rules and regulations go the most unnoticed. If you’re not old enough to vote, don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to get involved. So speak up, take a stand, and participate in your local politics.
3. Don’t pretend to be colorblind
It may seem like claiming you don’t see race is a positive step in the direction of equality, but it’s actually completely the opposite. The only thing more ignorant than discriminating against people based on the color of their skin is pretending that color doesn’t matter at all. There’s so much more to race than racism. There’s culture, history, identity. Saying you don’t see color is willfully blinding yourself to the value that diversity brings to society. So, instead of turning a blind eye, acknowledge and respect all of the wonderful parts of what makes us different, as well as the humanity that makes us the same.
4. Start a dialogue
Talking about race can be uncomfortable. It’s complicated and delicate and intricate, but just because something is hard to talk about doesn’t mean we should stay silent. In fact, it’s probably most important to talk about racial issues when it makes us feel awkward. Ask questions. Get talking. Get uncomfortable.
5. Be self-aware
Nobody’s perfect. Just because you’re a believer in equality doesn’t mean you won’t sometimes have racist thoughts, or say racist things. I’m not talking the “I hate black people” kind of thing. I’m talking the “Did you know I dated a black girl in college” kind of thing. Fight the urge to get defensive when someone points out your prejudice. Instead, make a mental note to think about your subconscious racism and actively try to change it. White privilege is real. You are not exempt. Worry less about whether or not you seem racist and more about whether you actually are.
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