Can you unlearn racism?

It is difficult to start a conversation about race and racism. Even in light of current events, it can be hard to say what you really feel. Now, we are talking, people are protesting. Words are being said that may have NEVER been said before. And it must continue. Not just after a black man is killed, not just during protests. The conversation must turn into action and real change… but we have to start somewhere. And that’s what this is… a start. A chance to see real change begin.

And there is most definitely racism here in the UK too.

Recent reports document that since the vote to leave the European Union, racial and religious hate crimes have risen by 23%.

But why are they/we like this? Because we’re taught to be that way… it’s a learned behaviour.

A racist has been taught from a young age to be that way. I don’t believe that someone is just a racist to be racist. Children listen primarily to how their parents talk about others.  When adults use hateful language in the presence of children you can be sure that has an effect. This hate becomes “normalised”.

The source of racism stems from the family. If you teach your child that his race is better than another, you are teaching him/her to be a racist.

Sometimes there are people who break this cycle. But it’s usually going against the grain of their family teachings. It’s very rare to find someone who discriminates when the rest of their family believes inequality.

The media can take a large chunk of the blame here too.  Negative racial stereotypes are perpetrated this way. When you turn on the television certain races are depicted in more negative ways than others. The media coverage of some racial groups lead people to believe that they commit crimes more often than others. Seeing this on television, makes it seem like ALL people of that race are the same. In reality this is only one aspect of any race. All racial groups commit crimes. All racial groups have problems. No one is above anyone else. There are many black CEO’s and CFO’s in the world. White people sell drugs and have children out of wedlock too. There are black “baby daddies” and “white baby daddies”. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Latinos smoke weed or are illegal immigrants trying to take your jobs.

Can Racism be unlearned? 

No. I don’t believe you can completely unlearn racism. But what you CAN do is grow more tolerant and accepting of those people that are different than you. 

In order to do that, you must come to the understanding that the vast majority of people, regardless of race, colour, creed, religion, or sexual orientation, are just trying to take this journey of life …. just like you are. There are good and bad people in every group. Learn to judge based upon your interaction with individuals rather than some preconceived notion that you have about a particular group. Also know that there are those in your racial group that will take advantage of your trust as likely as any other.

Here’s what you CAN do… MAKE IT PERSONAL. People WILL NOT change unless and until it affects them personally.

  1. Read. The internet is your friend. Read all about race relations and the oppression of people from many different perspectives. Even if you can’t completely unlearn racism, you will end up better educated.

  2. Make friends of different backgrounds. Spend time getting to know people from the communities. Many times, it’s fear of the unknown that causes our racism.

  3. Find people who challenge you. This will help you tremendously. It will force you to question their pre-existing biases and opinions.

  4. Vary your news sources. If a news channel refers to people of colour as thugs, see what other news channels are saying about it and try and form an educated opinion based on multiple data sources.

  5. Finally, speak up. Don’t stay silent when you see injustice occur. Practice makes perfect. If you speak up against obviously oppressive or bigoted attitudes, you will force yourself to start questioning your own assumptions (as you already have). Just the fact that you’re reading this shows you want to change.

Unless we have the difficult conversations, nothing will change. Let’s keep the dialogue going let’s talk about it on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram