How to stand up to racism


1st Jan 2015 Life

How to stand up to racism
Unfortunately racism still exists and plagues our streets on an everyday basis. It isn't going to stop overnight, but we can take steps to help combat everyday racisim on our streets. It all starts with individuals.

What does racism look like?

We are really lucky to live in a modern society that on the whole does not tolerate abuse and violence of any kind. We all want to live within tolerant communities that are friendly and peaceful and do not cause any anxiety. Unfortunately, however, racism still exists, and it is still frequently encountered on our streets, and within ou communities. 
Racism can take many forms and is experienced every day. The most obvious and commonly encountered is casual racism, but there are more abusive cases, which may involve aggressive behaviour such as name-calling and at its absolute worst, violence. All racism is hurtful to individuals and groups.

What is casual racism?

Casual racism involves referencing negative stereotypes about people based on their race or ethnicity. This can include jokes, off-hand comments and social exclusion. Sometimes these comments can seem nice, but are offensive at their core. This is also called everyday racism and microagression. You can listen to people talk about casual racism below.
Video contains language that some might find offensive:
One indicator of casual racism is when a person starts a sentence with "I'm not racist but..." If a person has to qualify a statement with this explanation, it probably is racist. Another good indicator of whether something is racist is if the statement could be said in a friendly manner around a person of colour. If you wouldn't feel comfortable saying it, it's probably racist. Having said that, it is good to have conversations about race and find out what might make a person feel comfortable and uncomfortable.
Sometimes people think that this is about being politically correct, but the problem with casual racism is that it reinforces negative stereotypes and makes negativity socially acceptable and makes racism more common-place. But more than this, it hurts, and causes segregation in the community which can lead to a lot of negativity.
If you witness someone in your social group speaking in this manner, it is good to challenge them and make it clear that you take a different position. Try not to get into a long heated debate, just state your position. If you are looking for a basic reason try "I find these comments unbearable. I believe that all people are equal in dignity and rights, and that those who promote prejudice and racism divide our society."

What should I do if I witness a racist incident

Casual racism makes everyday racism seem acceptable, which can lead to many people suffering more aggressive attacks. Sometimes this can involve name-calling, bullying and taunting, and sometimes this can be more violent.
One important way that we can all begin to combat racism is to ensure that we stand up when we witness somebody being publicly insulted. But it's important to feel safe when doing so. By intervening you make it known that it is not acceptable to behave in this way, but remember showing courage does not mean you have to be a hero. Follow these tips:

When you see racist behaviour:

  • Prepare yourself. Think about how you would feel in place of the victim and how you might want someone to help.
  • Say something. Ask the perpetrator to stop. It could be as simple as "Why don't you leave him/her alone?" In a busy area, you will find that if one person steps forward, others do too, this shows the perpetrator that this sort of behaviour is not acceptable.
  • Don't wait. The sooner you intervene, the better. Things can escalate, and as it becomes more heated, it could get harder to stop. Don't wait for someone else to step in first.
  • Never use violence. It goes without saying, we're trying to discourage violent acts. 
  • Find help. If you feel uncomfortable stepping up alone, perhaps ask someone else nearby to go with you. Address them individually and they will be more likely to go with you. 
  • Record the incident. We live in a wonderful age of technology. Make a video of the incident, or take photographs. You can then show this to the police as key evidence.
  • Do not provoke. Do not provoke the perpetrator and do not allow them to provoke you. It is important to stay calm.
  • Reassure the victim. Make eye contact and let them know that you are there to help.
  • Do not put yourself in danger. No one ever expects you to risk your own health. If you feel the situation is getting out of control, call the police.
  • It is important to always remain calm.

When you see a racist attack:

Attacks are events that would be difficult to confront without putting yourself in danger. But there are still some things that you can do:
  • Remain calm. Do not let fear or anger distract you.
  • Act quickly. As mentioned above, things can get out of control quickly
  • Bring help. Use your phone to call the police. If you are on public transport alert the driver. If you are in the street, draw attention to the incident (shouting "FIRE" calls attention)
  • Record the incident. Again, make a video of the incident, or take photographs. You can then show this to the police as key evidence.
  • Do not provoke or use violence. You will not be of assistance to anyone if you get yourself injured.

The good news is...

Most people are open to combatting prejudice so long as they are aware of it and motivated to do so.
Studies show that people of colour experience casual racism every day, but a lot of the time perpetrators don't realise they have done anything wrong. This can make people feel like their experience wasn't valid and can build up to cause esteem issues, depression, anxiety and generally feeling ostracised.
Sometimes you may make a racist slur without realising you have done so, it's important to listen to how your statement made that person feel. It's okay to be wrong and it's good to admit it and ask how to correct it. This is a positive step to making the world a better place for everyone.
Let's celebrate our diverse society and work together to teach tolerance!