Big Issue Vendor

10 ways to say no to racism

While racism may not be eradicated in our lifetime, its impact and legacy can most certainly be weakened by every action we take to defy it.
A placard at a 2017 rally against then-US President Donald Trump in London. Image: Loco Steve/Flickr

Saying no to racism – what’s the point? If many thousands have marched, protested, petitioned, and boycotted to little or no avail, why not just keep your head down and get on with your life?

The problem with this approach is that it means racism is tolerable and you are powerless. Neither of these statements is true. It is precisely because racism is so pervasive and apparently indestructible that silence can no longer be an option – for any of us. Racism touches every aspect of life and society and that is why nothing less than constant challenge will do.

While racism may not be eradicated in our lifetime, its impact and legacy can most certainly be weakened by every action we take to defy it. Here are 10 ways to say no to racism.

Assess your innocence

It’s easy to think that racism is not your problem because you’re “not a racist”. Your reading of this article suggests that you believe in equality and you would never say racist profanities, but this does not necessarily mean that you are free from racial bias and stereotyping.

Put simply, racism is treating someone differently based on their race and this can include any unconscious bias you have towards people of certain races, which can manifest itself in your everyday actions and decisions. For instance, have you ever questioned the diversity in your workplace or friendship circle? Are all your favourite books and films created by people from one racial group?

Acknowledge colour

It is important to acknowledge peoples’ racial differences. Adopting a colour blind approach (by claiming that you “don’t see colour”) is unhelpful as it suggests a lack of awareness regarding the historic impact of racism towards different racial groups and the specific concerns they might have.

Race categories are not the issue here; what you need to rally against are the values and hierarchies that society has attached to different groups.

Increase your exposure

A powerful way to challenge your own racial bias is to increase your exposure of people from diverse racial groups. For instance, if you notice that your mind jumps to certain stereotypes about Asian people, start to read more books by Asian people or watch films or documentaries by and about the experiences of Asian people (regarding any subject, not just racism).

Challenge bias

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How to Say No To Racism by Rasha Barrage is available for preorder now.
If you encounter racist jokes or racial stereotyping, let people know that you disagree and explain your reasons – but do so calmly. You can simply question the basis for the statement or present an alternative viewpoint, to create a discussion rather than a confrontation.

The key thing is not to shame and blame others as this will prevent any progress. By questioning your own racial bias and stereotyping (point 1 above) you will hopefully have greater compassion for other people that have similarly internalised the racial biases and stereotypes we have learned in our unequal society.

Be visible

To elicit change, you need to be a visible advocate for racial equality. This means talking openly about anti-racism and sharing information with your friends, colleagues, or followers. Perhaps you can arrange anti-bias training in your workplace and encourage open discussions about race specifically.

Amplify marginalised voices

Use any privileged position you have to boost the perspectives of people from racial groups that are otherwise overlooked. For instance, you could refuse to participate in any speaking engagements that are insufficiently diverse or use any public platforms you have to showcase people from a variety of backgrounds.

Use your vote

When voting in any election, consider the candidates’ policies from an anti-racism standpoint. Are they trying to address inequality or transform existing policies that have created racial disparities?

Shop mindfully

Consider where you buy your groceries or services. You can make a difference by shopping at independent businesses owned by people from marginalised racial groups. Black Pound Day in the UK takes place every month and the website is a great source of information if you don’t know where to start.

Switch off racism

If you come across a TV show or film that is reinforcing racial stereotypes, stop and watch something else. Better yet, tell all your friends and followers to do the same. A reduction in audience figures is one way that can force producers to reflect on their racial bias and start doing better.

Donate what you can

It has been found that charities led by Black people receive fewer donations than their counterparts with white leaders. To avoid reinforcing racial inequality through your charitable giving, you could donate money to racial justice organisations on a regular basis or perhaps start volunteering your time.

These ten methods are just some of the ways you can start to recognise your power to create change and provide your personal contribution to the demise of racism. As the historian Howard Zinn said, “we don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world”.

How to Say No To Racism by Rasha Barrage is available for preorder now (Summerdale, £6.99).