What is Casual Racism and How do we Stop it?

As an immigrant with quite a thick accent, trust me, I’ve been the target of what some people would call “harmless” jokes and comments for years. I try not to give it too much thought or attention until I recently heard the term “casual racism,” which is basically what these “harmless” and sometimes well-intentioned comments are. If you are not familiar with the term, Clinical Psychologist and Social Justice Advocate, Dr. Adolph Brown offers a thoughtful explanation about this phenomenon and how we can avoid it. Especially during holidays when small talk with distant family can lead very quickly to it…

What is casual racism and how does it start?

Casual racism includes subtle acts of racism that go unnoticed. While casual racism may not be overt and even unintentional, it still has a significant impact on the victim. Casual forms of racism include jokes rooted in prejudice, off-color comments, stereotypes, or distasteful forms of cultural appropriation. At the root of casual racism (and all forms of racism) is ignorance or a lack of understanding of different cultures and backgrounds. 

During the Holidays one always tries to avoid confrontations with family members you might see once a year. What can we do to stop a person from doing those racist comments without being too harsh?

To eradicate racism, everyone has a role in calling out racist comments. When addressing someone’s racist comments, these conversations should be handled with tact and empathy. First and foremost, use “I” statements and be sure to listen to their point of view. The conversation should not be an attack. It should be a two-way exchange to gain a better understanding of differing perspectives.

How can we educate people on racism?

Education is a powerful tool for change. There are many resources and books that discuss the topic of racism and the various forms of racism – structural, institutional, and systematic. A great starting place is searching on the internet and searching for anti-racism resources. “Anti-racism” is a new word that’s appeared in academic and everyday lexicon. Anti-racism encourages everyone (regardless of race) to have an active role in dismantling the system of racism.

What does it mean to be an active bystander?

An active bystander is someone who calls out acts of racism especially in indirect situations that may not even affect him or her. It is important to remember that everyone has a role in confronting and addressing racism in everyday and professional life. 

How does being an active bystander support social justice?

If we equate racism as a form of violence, the silent bystanders are complicit in perpetuating an act of violence. Being an active bystander shows that you support racial and social justice. It’s a powerful statement of solidarity. Also, it shows the victim of the racist act that he or she is not alone. 

What is silent complicity and how can we avoid it? 

Silent complicity is the opposite of being an active bystander. It is turning a blind eye to racial injustice and systemic racism. Silence is comfortable, complacent, and neutral. Silence doesn’t push individuals out of their comfort zone. However, everyone at all levels – individuals, corporations, and government has a responsibility to be actively engaged in the anti-racism movement across our country. 

How can we feel more comfortable voicing our opinions about important issues?

Not agreeing or thinking differently than others can be a source of stress. However, it’s important that individuals are confident enough to express their opinion even when it may not be popular. Again, the internet has a wealth of information about sharing opinions tactfully. In addition, I think it’s important to find support groups of like-minded people around key issues. Those groups can foster expression and communication around important issues.



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