I wanted to share with you that before having written this post I had googled the phrase ¨how to be less racist¨, and I found nothing relevant. This means that this article is very needed, and most probably this will be just the first one, since I do believe we need to work more in this area.
Another important thing is that the article has been written by a white, female migrant, coming originally from central-eastern Europe. This needs to be clarified, since there is actually the discussion going on, on who has a right to talk about racism. I will cover it later in the article. The objective of this article is not to make us feel good – doing 6 things mentioned in the article will not make us sin free. The objective is to bring more awareness and to bring more people on board to fight against racism.
So, do you want to be less racist?
1. Recognise that you are racist
This is normally the most painful part, realising and admitting that you are racist. All of us are because of the system we live in, and because we are being taught racism from all the sources around. What you can do is to understand yourself and understand racism inside you. What were 10 last racist incidents you were involved in, what did you do, and what could have been done differently etc. On the other hand, don´t become defensive when someone calls you racist, be grateful for the lesson.
2. Understand how little you know
People sometimes tend to think that they know everything and that they have perfect solution for everything. That’s what while male privilege does to them. But reality is different. It takes a lot of courage for many minority people who face discrimination on a daily basis to openly talk about their experience. Therefore, the majority does not know about it and how much minority people struggle. What is more, people who come from the minority may not even know or understand why they suffer as racism is often socially normalised and even accepted by the members of society. If a fat person is being called fat, or any other word that makes them suffer, they will probably not stand up and react. They will try to hide it, cover, and probably they will not even recognise that they were mistreated, and this kind of behaviour cannot be accepted.
Everybody needs to discover power of diversity, learn as much as possible about racism, ask questions, listen, listen and one more time - listen. And let´s not assume that we know, since probably we really don´t know.
3. Accept that normalised does not mean not racist
There are many examples of racism, which are sometimes called differently as invisible racism, everyday racism or micro racism, and their main characteristic is that they are normalised. What does it actually mean? Well… that for many people it seems normal to tell racist jokes, to decide not to sit next to the black person on the bus, or to keep asking a question ‘where are you really from?’, assuming that the person cannot the from here because of the way she or he looks like. Each of those small acts in the long term can be very harmful. For you it is one-off incident, and often you may even believe that you did something very good, but for the people who are targeted with such comments or actions on a daily basis, the consequences can be terrifying.
In conclusion, if someone tells you ‘it cannot be racism, because everyone does it, or because it was always like this, or how one small joke can do harm’, don´t believe them! Stand Against Racism!
4. Be careful with what you are posting online (and what links you share)
The first thing you can do to be less racist is to focus on not causing more harm. The easiest way to do it is to focus on your communication. Is it what I am posting on social media free from stereotypes? Am I promoting diversity with what I am saying? Have I analysed the hidden message of my posts and re-posts – for example, are people from minorities in the position of power in what I put online, or am I rather reinforcing stereotypes by what I am posting? The only way to break a chain of stereotypes and prejudices that we have learnt from media in our lives is to get rid of them (not media, but stereotypes and prejudices)! But in order to do it you need to learn how to recognise them. Do not share anything that can be harmful, and finally if you see something offensive try to react by, for example, reporting it.
5. Invest in human relationships
I hope I don´t have to tell you now that if you see a black person coming from the opposite direction, you should not go on the other side of the street. This behaviour would be called assumption of criminality (assuming that someone who looks different can be a potential criminal). I highly recommend you to interact. For example, try to get to know all your neighbours; this way you are creating community - depending on where you live the group can be diverse. Look around you, and if you see someone left alone or insecure, you can be the one who can actually become their friend. Having a nice chat with someone who might understand us and getting support in this way, is actually one of the minimisation strategies of coping with racial aggressions.
6. Fight for the real inclusion, not only inclusion for decoration
Whatever position you have, you can always check how inclusive you are – for example in your workplace, at school, in the chess club or fitness centre you go to. First of all, think if you see diversity of people – if you do not see it, most probably there are some hidden rules that make some groups feel not welcome, of there are some institutional problems that make the place not inclusive.
We want to see real inclusion, when all people feel welcome and treated well, and where all places and services are accessible for everybody. And don´t be misled by those who are using the diversity as decoration, and in reality no inclusion policies are being put in place.
So, here are my first few thoughts. I hope that they served the purpose, and I really encourage you to share, comment and give us your thoughts too. Because maybe together we can figure out how to definitely eliminate racism from our lives.