This is Not In Our Town’s 25th year. Much has changed in 25 years, bur prejudice, racism and white supremacy are still around. A new generation needs to learn how to fight hate. We have more to learn about how to expose and expel prejudice.
People often ask us how to talk to friends or relatives who make racist remarks. Combating hate is a marathon, not a sprint. Righteous anger can give us a burst of energy, but we can’t sustain it for long. Having a conversation that matters takes some preparation and a willingness to hear people use the wrong words on their way to finding the right ones. Calling someone racist shuts down conversation, makes people defensive, and nothing changes.
Instead, we can focus on their words and actions. We can ask clarifying questions. “I’m surprised to hear you say that. Can you help me understand your thinking?” We can give them a chance to change their language. It’s difficult for people to learn when they feel like they must defend themselves. We can let friends or relatives understand the effect of their actions on the people they love. Understanding the impact of their words on us will move people more than a loud confrontation. The goal is to start a dialogue and make space for that person to take a second look at their attitude.
When we see a political ad that contains racist words and images, we should call that politician and start a dialogue.