Cara Mazzola writes…
1. BACK THAT ASS UP: GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT
Stats are your best friend when combatting racist mythology. Common misperceptions can easily be debunked with numbers.
For example, the inevitable “reverse Apartheid” argument that BEE is stealing jobs, land and education from white people is very easily exposed as a fantasy; according to the Institute of Race Relations, BEE benefits only 15% of the black population.
Also, over 58% of white South Africans enter some form of higher education, compared to a meagre 12% of blacks and 14% of coloureds. As far as land reform is concerned, only 1% of land has changed hands since reform policies were introduced.
Overall, white households average an income five and a half times more than that of a black household.
Do your research and arm yourself with statistics that will help you reinforce the strength of your argument.
This will eliminate “just-stating-my-opinion” arguments, which are circular and don’t have any capacity to reach a conclusion.
Contrary to popular belief – opinions can be wrong, if they are based on fallacies masquerading as facts. It might be helpful to distinguish this early in the discourse.
2. LEARN TO IDENTIFY A BRICK WALL (AND REFRAIN FROM ATTEMPTING TO CLIMB IT)
You can’t move mountains.
If you’ve used every stat in your artillery to convince Uncle Pat that BEE isn’t stealing jobs and education from white people and he still won’t give in – realise that he’s too far gone.
Let’s be honest, asking someone who believes reverse racism is a thing to grasp the fact that they benefit from the system is asking for a miracle on par with the second coming of Jesus.
Sometimes humans lack the capacity to dismantle thought processes that are so concretely reinforced by our environment – especially when ignoring them is comfortable.
There are times when the most you can do is change the environment so that it is no longer one where racism is tolerated or brushed off.
3. PRETEND YOU DON’T GET IT
This is one of the most elegantly simple tips – ask them to explain racist jokes as though you don’t understand them.
This will force the person to unpack the stereotype they are playing on, and will allow you to challenge the validity of it.
Racist jokes rely on a mutual and silent knowledge of racial stereotypes; so if you pretend not to possess that knowledge, you will have to have it explained to you.
In the process of explaining why the joke is funny because “black people steal a lot” or “Muslim people are terrorists”; the person will be forced to take responsibility for their prejudice.
This can be pretty cringeworthy for all parties involved, but that’s the point.
Remember that it is our responsibility to create an environment where prejudice is unacceptable and met with consequences.
4. KEEP IT TOGETHER: RAISE YOUR ARGUMENT, NOT YOUR VOICE.
This is pretty difficult to do, and rightfully so. Getting mad is important! If bigotry rustles your jimmies, you can consider that a side effect of Having a Damn Conscience.
However, it does not add to your credibility in this context. If you are too visibly emotive, it is easy for your opposition to dismiss your argument as a tantrum or outburst. Of course, your anger is likely well-founded – but it won’t do you any favours here.
As difficult as it may be, try your absolute hardest not to shout or raise your voice. Maintaining a good attitude will win the respect of your opposition, hence making it easier for them to understand and accept your points.
Although protecting racists’ pride is not your responsibility or priority, they are unlikely to agree or even listen when their ego is hurt – even if you are providing irrefutable evidence.
Give them a chance to state their arguments and show that you are genuinely listening and taking them seriously.
Show empathy and use body language to show that you understand where they are coming from before providing a strong counterargument.
Never resort to insults or assaulting the individual’s character. Stay focused on the problematic behaviour in question.
5. SPEAK YOUR MIND EVEN WHEN YOUR VOICE SHAKES: DON’T LAUGH IT OFF
Last but not least: Choosing silence is choosing the side of the oppressor.
We all have a social responsibility to change our parameters for what is socially acceptable.
It is easy and comfortable to avoid conflict and remain silent, or just awkwardly laugh off a bigoted comment – but this is just as harmful as being actively racist.
It is our job to make our environment one that is intolerant of intolerance. Leaving bigotry unaddressed is the equivalent of endorsing it.
Don’t be afraid to make others acutely aware of the fact that you are ready and waiting with all the rebuttal you need to shut them down.
Make others acutely aware that prejudice will not go unchallenged in your presence.