Racism; how to respond politely but firmly to a loved one’s opinions

Racism; How to respond politely but firmly to a loved one’s opinions

The news of the protests in America have sickened so many of us over the last few days. It’s hard to believe that the even after more than 65 years since the civil rights movement begun that acts of racism are still being carried out like this.

But as so many of us are aware, racism doesn’t need to be on such a scale to be devastating, even day-to-day comments from others, often said in jest, can be hurtful to so many.

But being accused of racial discrimination is upsetting as well. A few years ago, I posted an image on social media of a course that I had just delivered to a small group of ladies. It happened that on that particular occasion all my attendees were white. Sadly, a woman left a comment stating, “it stinks of white middle-class elitism”.

I was sorry that she felt that way but also hurt because, had she taken the time to understand my business, she would have learnt that ladies of all races attend, and I have worked hard over the years to ensure that’s the case and that the subject of British etiquette is not preceived as something that is elitist.

So, how should we respond if someone makes a racist comment to us about others, either specifically or generally?

It’s worth pointing out that in the UK it’s quite a generational issue. You may well experience older people speaking more candidly about their views and sometimes this is due to psychic determinism, meaning it’s been learnt from their parents.

Below are 5 suggestions to help you establish your boundaries as to what you feel is acceptable, whilst preserving the loving relationship that you have with someone.

  1. Try not to point the finger at them and accuse them of racial discrimination as this may cause them to be defensive.
  2. Remember that they may be attempting to ‘push your buttons’. Try not to let them rile you!
  3. Ask them why they feel like this way and encourage them to explain their impression of certain ethic groups. It may transpire that they don’t have any experience at all, but rather their point of view has been formed during childhood and is based on stereotypical opinions.
  4. By showing interest in someone else’s views it opens up the conversation resulting in an opportunity to understand their point of view and, hopefully, vice versa.
  5. By asking the person open-ended questions which require a fuller answer, it can potentially help them to realise that their opinions may not be based on sound evidence.

Do try and remember though that we can never change anyone, only our responses to them. Our job is to lead by example and hope that our actions and attitudes influence those around us and, perhaps, lead them to question their own.