The calling out of casual racism is sorely needed. Some people can pass racial slurs and make harmful comments without even batting an eyelid. And whilst it might be easy to not respond, look away, or even give an unamused smile as you internally scream at the person in your head, that kind of response is extremely damaging.
As we’ve learned over the past few days, it’s not enough to silently disapprove of others’ comments; reassuring yourself that you would never make those kind of remarks or think like that. By not being actively anti-racist, educating ourselves on issues of race, racism, and white privilege, and using your knowledge to call people out, we are adding to the problem.
Confrontation is never easy, and calling someone you’re close with out for certain behaviours can seem a daunting task.
Here are some ways we can call out casual racism.
How To Call Out Casual Racism
1. It's Not "Just A Joke"
It would seem that when people’s behaviour, actions or words get called out their immediate response is to claim it was “just a joke.” Implying that your lack of ability to find harmful words or actions funny is a fault of yours, and not their problem. This can often lead to a tension-filled environment (especially if you are in the company of others). In an attempt to save face and redeem themselves, a person can often try and pass the blame for their ignorance on to your absence of a sense of humour by announcing they were joking.
If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to reiterate that you don’t find casual racism in any way funny. Inform the person that you to do not tolerate comments like that. Unfortunately you cannot stop a person from this kind of behaviour, but you can try and educate them by sharing your knowledge and suggest resources.
2. Explain Anti-Racism
As Angela Davis explained, we live in a racist society. Racism is embedded in every aspect from education systems to justice systems. When living in a racist society “it’s not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.” If you feel someone is being casually racist and you call them out, they’ll more than likely respond with “I’m not racist.” Explain the notion of anti-racism to them, and encourage them to educate themselves.
3. "Don't Finish That Sentence"
Similarly to the point above, when someone you are with starts a sentence “I’m not racist, but…” cut them off straight away and inform them that you do not want to hear the rest of the sentence. Inform them that by adding a “but” to the end of that sentence they are, in fact, engaging in racist behaviour.
4. Keep Calm
When you’ve taken the time to educate yourself and are actively anti-racist, it can be infuriating to listen to people you respect engage in casual racism. It’s important to not lose your cool when calling them out. People can get very defensive when being called out, so it’s important to not take the bait and have a level head. It’s ok to be angry, but let that anger fuel your need to educate others, don’t start ranting and raving or lecturing, as the response could be very negative.
5. Understand That You'll Never Understand
If you’re a white privileged person, it’s important that you understand that although you’ve read, watched and listened, you’ll never understand what it’s like for black people and PoC to suffer casual racism on a daily basis. However, your position of privilege gives you the voice to stand up against casual racism, and amplify black and PoC voices.
When you call someone out they may hit you with comments like “Why does it bother you?” or “you don’t have a right to be offended.” But as a person of privilege you have a responsibility to use your anti-racist knowledge and voice to call out casual racism.