How Do You Respond to Racist Talk?

I tend to waver between two extremes when it comes to responding to racist words. On one hand, there’s the fire and brimstone approach, a definite favorite when I was younger; on the other hand, there’s the calmer and more patient talk it out strategy, which can also be useful and probably the better strategy for dialogue with friends/family.

Of course, there’s also the grin and bear it method, but I don’t think that’s healthy or helpful. You end up feeling pretty emotionally crappy and the other person feels like it’s okay to continue to say, think, and believe such hateful and hurtful things.

So what do you do?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about this quite frequently especially as it pertains to loved ones (you may remember from this post that some of my family members are subscribers to the colorblind racist belief system.) This makes it somewhat more delicate to address these issues. John Metta’s “I, Racist” post summed up the relationship of racism and White family members and why it’s so difficult for White people to talk about racism. It was such a fab article that I shared it on my Facebook page and I wish my family would read it, but I have the sneaking suspicion that they’ve muted my Facebook feed.

I, however, have not muted theirs (and for the most part don’t agree with unfriending or muting people) and therefore get the pleasure of seeing all sorts of bigotry in meme form. As I’m trying to figure out the best way to address it, I found this post, which gives some good advice for how to respond to racist talk on Facebook. I also stumbled upon these notes, which give an in-depth review of research on race, privilege, Whiteness, and action, from a panel presentation at the University of Oregon and this article on how to respond to a racist joke. Another great resource is from the Southern Poverty Law Center and can be found here.

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