How to Fight Racism as an Individual

Excerpted and adapted from a workshop handout from the Southeast
Uplift Neighborhood Program, Portland, Oregon
"If we have no peace, it is because we have
forgotten we belong to each other."
Mother Teresa

Interrupting racism can be done with good manners. The fear of being thought rude should not be used as an excuse for silence. To express your feelings about a racist remark or joke is not rude. Attacks upon the dignity of other human beings is rude.

Some guidelines may be helpful to keep in mind when telling a person that his or her remarks are unacceptable.

1. Believe in your right to express your feelings.
Take a deep breath and try to relax your muscles. Expect to succeed!

2. Look directly at the person.
If you look down or away, you appear to lack confidence.

3. An erect posture facing the person lends strength to your message.

4. Let your facial expression match the message.
A serious commitment should be delivered seriously.

5. A level, firm conversational tone is convincing and conveys the idea that you mean business.

6. Hesitation or postponement of speaking may diminish the effectiveness of the message.
However, if the right moment slips by, it is appropriate and important that it be brought up later.

7. Practice, practice, practice!
Although spontaneity is recommended, practice is necessary until spontaneity can be achieved. Give yourself some phrases in your own words such as;

8. To disown or deny a racist comment is a natural human response.
The speaker may try to cover up, put you down, or trivialize what you are doing. Even though they don't accept it graciously, you did the right thing.

9. Don't buy into trivialization.
Nothing about racism is trivial. Be firm. You have the right to your own feelings and the right to express them. When faced with racist comments, silence is approval.

10. It is less intimidating to interrupt racism expressed by children; however, we should not concentrate on kids because of our own inability to cope with adults. Children who express bigotry have learned it from adults and must be taught tolerance. Adults who express bigotry must be interrupted because the are the ones who are teaching the children by their actions and examples.

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Silence in the face of bigotry and racism means acceptance.
By not speaking out against it, you are speaking for it

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