Allowing a racist remark to go unchallenged conveys the subtle message that whatever is being said is somehow acceptable.
That’s not good. Racism won’t stop until enough people take a stand and offer a negative response to every racist remark they hear.
Responding to someone’s racist comment may be a little intimidating, but it’s worth it. Doing so can:
- Make you feel better about yourself because you’re contributing to change
- Show support for the victims of racism (even if you aren’t one of them)
- Cause the perpetrator of the racist remark to examine his or her actions
- Let others know that you don’t support racist views
However, it’s important to respond in a way that doesn’t endanger you:
1. First, decide if it is safe to speak up
You shouldn’t speak up if you have any reason to fear personal violence by doing so.
2. Consider responding with an exploratory question
“What do you mean when you say that?” or “Can we talk about what you just said?” are great ways to call out a racist remark. Most people make remarks not expecting to be challenged. Racism often relies on stereotypes and assumptions — asking someone to articulate those stereotypes and assumptions often makes them think twice about what they are really saying.
3. State your truth simply and quietly
You don’t have to get into an argument and you don’t have to change the other person’s mind. All you have to do is make it clear that you don’t appreciate racist comments. Don’t get invested in the outcome of the conversation. Instead, just say, “Well, I don’t appreciate those kinds of remarks.”
Racism in the workplace is never acceptable. It limits you from achieving your full potential. If you’re exposed to repeated racists comments by co-workers or a superior, an attorney can help you determine if you have a cause of action for workplace discrimination.