Racism is a harmful and horrific part of many societies. Instead of celebrating and learning from our differences, some people feel compelled to criticise and alienate others because of their race, religion, culture or ethnicity. Racism takes many forms, from directly offensive comments and actions to more subtle prejudices and discrimination. It’s never acceptable, as it can be damaging, upsetting, and exhausting.
What is racism?
Racism is when someone holds prejudice and believes another person to be inferior because of their race, nationality, ethnicity or colour. This may result in them treating that person unfairly or differently. This type of racial discrimination can sometimes lead to racial bullying, where someone’s bullying focus on their victim’s race.
Racist behaviour can include:
- The use of racist names, in person or via messages.
- Damaging belongings, including racist graffiti.
- Physical violence or assault.
- Being excluded or treated differently.
- Assumptions being made based on your culture, race or colour.
- Racist jokes.
Dealing with racism
We’ve outlined some methods which might help you to protect yourself against racist behaviour, whether you’re directly or indirectly affected by it:
Know it’s not you
Racism towards you is never your fault. You don’t have to put up with it, and it’s not just a part of life. The person bullying you is the one with the problem, and it’s their attitude that needs to change. You’re absolutely fantastic just the way you are.
It might help, however, to understand why some people exhibit racist behaviour. Very often, it’s a product of many different factors. Those who grow up in families where racist views and remarks are made regularly, or have friends who think it’s funny to make racist jokes, may believe that the behaviour is normal and acceptable. It never is. Sometimes, these racist sentiments or stereotypes come from people who feel threatened by a culture or race that’s different to their own, and have a limited understanding of it. They’ve not been taught to embrace the diversity of people, and this can then lead to a negative reaction.
Try to react calmly
Much like bullies, those who are overtly racist are often trying to get a reaction from you. If you’re the victim of racist abuse, it can be upsetting, enraging, frustrating or scary. Your first reaction might be to lash out and get angry. If you can, try to avoid this, as it will only give them the satisfaction of seeing you upset. Instead, hold your head up high and walk away from the situation (providing you actually can). Of course, not all forms of racism are overt – racist jokes, off-handed comments, and excluding people based on race are all examples of what’s known as casual racism.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of racist bullying or abuse, or if you’re a bystander to such an incident, it’s often a good idea to tell someone in a position of authority. This can be a teacher at school, a manager at work, your parents, or anyone else who holds responsibility. If you’re in the UK and the incident becomes dangerous, threatening to your wellbeing, or if a crime has been committed, you can report it to the police.
In the UK, you can call 999 in an emergency or 101 at other times.
If you feel that a teacher you’ve reported the racism to doesn’t want to help, you can speak to the head teacher. Your school should have a policy to deal with racist and/or bullying behaviour, and it’s there to protect you.
Challenge the behaviour
The person who’s being racists towards you may not fully understand the impact and inappropriateness of their actions (remember, this type of behaviour often comes from ignorance). If the situation isn’t threatening and you feel comfortable doing so, you could try talking with the person being racist.
A good tactic here is to challenge the person’s behaviour and not them personally. Explain how their words or actions are racist and have upset you. Tell them that it’s not ok. You could also try asking something like, ‘why do you think that?’ Having such a discussion may make the person think about their actions and prevent further incidents. If appropriate, you could also ask a friend or teacher to mediate the conversation.
Record the behaviour
The racism you experience may not necessarily be directly to your face. Online chats, messages, social media posts and other methods can be used. If you can, try to keep a record of the offensive behaviour, whether it’s a video of someone being racist, messages they’ve sent, notes of the exchange or any other evidence. This can help to resolve the matter more quickly and means that anyone you can get a good idea of what’s going on.
Useful links and resources
Remember, you are never alone in these situations. Your family, friends, and various organisations are available to support you. We’ve outlined some useful links and resources that might be useful.