It can be difficult to talk to people who have a different opinion to you about racism – particularly if you feel strongly about your beliefs.Our tip for avoiding an argument is to never call somebody a racist. If you do this, the person will become defensive and not listen to anything else you say. Instead, you should tell them that you disagree with what they have said, and explain why. You should only criticise the comment, not the person.

 

Ask an open-ended question

 

If you feel the conversation is turning into an argument, stop and take a breath. If you become emotional it will be more difficult for you to respond, so it is best to try and stay calm. Continue the conversation by asking the person an open-ended question, like:

·   “why do you think that?”

·   “why do you think that’s funny?”

·   “why did you say that?”

Sharing how you feel about what they have said may also help:

·   “It makes me uncomfortable to hear that, what did you really mean?”

·   “That comment offended me, why did you say that?”

·   “I always considered you to be a fair-minded person, why do you think that‘s funny?”

You may be able to use their response to continue the conversation constructively because their answer might reveal that their prejudice is based on an assumption or incorrect fact that you can put right.

 

Stay safe!

 

However, you must always stay safe (emotionally and physically). If the person responds with a glib or angry answer, it might feel safer to nod and finish the conversation quickly. While you cannot change the way this person thinks on the spot, they may go away and self-analyse their comment later. Try not to become discouraged, because some people will take longer than others to understand the impacts of racism. It may also be useful for you to ‘debrief’ about these situations with like-minded people so you can better prepare for them in the future.