Racism is the belief that your race (skin color, heritage, etc.) makes you better than other races, which leads to prejudice and discrimination against those of other races. However, not everyone believes in racism, and you may have friends or family members who are racist and don’t even realize it. If you have a friend or loved one who believes in racism, it can be hard to figure out how to approach this subject with them respectfully and lovingly.
Have an honest conversation
You may not have chosen to engage or interact with someone who has racist beliefs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an honest conversation. This will likely be easier if you can speak to them without others around, so that you don’t put yourself at risk of further injury or embarrassment. It is also helpful to realize that just because someone believes in racism does not mean they are inherently evil.
Focus on Empathy
When we talk about race and racism, it’s important to keep emotions under control—anger and frustration won’t get us anywhere. When you talk to someone who believes that racism isn’t real or that everyone is racist, you need to understand where they are coming from. You may be shocked by what they say, but try not to react emotionally or lash out at them—it’s a conversation, not an argument.
Avoid Trivializing Their Feelings
Remember that your friend is dealing with these complex emotions. No matter how well-intentioned, trivializing their experiences will only make them feel worse. If you have to say something like I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think, don’t. Make sure to listen to what they have to say and validate their feelings.
Find Common Ground
Sure, you may not agree with someone’s point of view, but don’t let that stand in your way of making friends. Just because you hold a different perspective doesn’t mean you can’t connect over something else. When getting to know a person who holds a different perspective on something important like race, find common ground and establish respect. You might even discover that you share more similarities than differences!
Don’t Argue, Just Listen
It can be tempting to try and change someone’s mind, but trying to convince someone of your beliefs is a roadblock to any real progress. Changing someone’s mind requires finding common ground, working together and developing mutual respect. Arguing with them will not help you develop that relationship or convey your beliefs effectively. Instead, listen carefully, ask questions and let them know that you care about what they have to say.
Watch your Tone
Tone is a big deal when it comes to talking about race. Unfortunately, it’s not just racists who say offensive things—people on all sides sometimes don’t realize that they’re being racist.