What to do when you suffer racism?

Racial diversity.

The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination defines racism as:

any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."

Although, some gains have been made towards addressing the problem, it is still rife in many societies fanned by competing political, economic and social interests.

It's victims have had to endure all manner of humiliating abuses, discrimination and forced evictions, sadly some have even lost their lives.

When confronted by such challenges what can one do?

Here are some recommendations:

1. Avoid vengeance

Why is vengeance not an effective response to racial prejudice?

In order to get a more objective answer to this question, we can borrow from the vast experience and wisdom of the esteemed Gandhi.

He lived in a time period when there was unrest in all spheres of the Indian society i.e. political (between the colonial government and pro-independence forces), social (between the various castes), and religious (between Hindus and Muslims).

Having witnessed countless attacks and counter attack between this various groups Gandhi rightfully concluded that:

 Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary."

Yes, it is ‘momentary’ because it only stirs hate and hate will stir further contentions, thus entrenching the vicious cycle of hostilities and acrimony.

A better approach would be to break this evil jinx by not seeking revenge; it would be like removing firewood from the fire, undeniably this will cause the fire to be extinguished.

2. Avoid generalization

Although certain members of a community may have racist tendencies, it would be unfair to conclude that all members of that community are inherently racist. If you do so, you could be transforming yourself from a victim to a perpetrator of prejudice.

Therefore, do not be quick to judge individuals just from their racial profile as other factors could be at play.

For example, your boss could just be having a bad mood swing and may be race is not really the issue.

Thus, before you make any conclusions, it would be advisable to be familiar with the backgrounds and circumstances affecting other people’s lives.

3. Take precautionary measures

Even with the best of intentions of trying to be impartial and trying to get along with people of all races, there are those who will still harbor resentment against you.

Hence, the need to take precautionary measures to avoid putting yourself in direct confrontation with them.

Sometimes you may be aware of people, places or events that are historically known to trigger racial tensions at the slightest provocation.

This foresight can help you make wise choices about, who to limit your interactions with, where not to visit and where to be, to avoid putting yourself in harm’s way.

Moreover, it will help in reducing the unpleasant encounters, which will only contribute to reinforcing the patterns of prejudice against you.

4. Seek legal redress

Where it is possible; it may be also prudent to seek legal protection to stem the trend of racial discrimination.

Although the legal systems are not perfect, they have help to correct some of the social ill's in the society and upheld civil liberties.

A good example is the 1954 landmark United States Supreme Court ruling, which declared that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional.

This paved way for the integration of the white and black schools.

The plaintiff in this landmark case was just a welder called Oliver brown, whose daughter had to travel by bus 1.6 kilometers to her black school, while a white school was just seven blocks away from her home.

This clearly demonstrates the superiority of legal reparation versus violence; it removes the element of direct confrontation, while achieving the desired outcome in a more binding manner to future generations.

5. Do not be sidetracked

After enduring harsh racist comments and ridicule, you might be a little apprehensive about your worth and relevance to the social order.

However, remember that racism thrives of out of ignorance and those opinions do not accurately portray who you really are.

They are a manifestations of biased views from people who have been unfortunately been exposed to negative ideologies through their upbringing, social interactions or just purely racist propaganda.

Therefore instead of been unduly worried, devote your efforts to achieving your goals in life without being sidetracked by their opinions.

Time will indeed establish if those views were of any substance or not.

6. Do not make mountains out of molehills

Have you ever seen that mouse like creature, the mole?

Perhaps not, for he spends most of his life underground.

A small burrowing mammal, the mole in many places averages only some six inches in length.

Because of his burrowing and insect-eating habits and his fur he is held to be quite a valuable animal.

By reason of his burrowing habits the mole often mars lawns and gardens.

However, his hills can be considered as little more than nuisances, since they average but two to four inches in height.

A figurative molehill, therefore, is something that might be a nuisance but certainly would present no serious problem over which to get greatly disturbed.

To an ant a molehill does look like a mountain, and to those who dwell on petty things any trifling thoughtlessness or injudicious word or act becomes a crime.

Then, why do people at times find themselves making mountains out of racial molehills?

Religious, racial, national or family clannishness or prejudice often causes persons to make mountains out of molehills.

Any nuisance or faux pas committed by their own group is overlooked but when made by one of another race or religion it is exaggerated and made an excuse for unloving, unreasonable words and actions.

Then again, there are those who make mountains out of molehills because they are on the defensive, being sensitive in a certain respect.

If a person is sensitive about his color or his race, he will be quick to take offense at any oversight or slight remark that touches this tender spot, and so makes a mountain out of a molehill.

Still others make mountains out of molehills because of bearing a grudge or cherishing resentment against another.

They have been hurt by that one and so seek to retaliate.

Because of this wrong heart condition anything and everything that the other person may do that is the least bit irregular or that may be annoying becomes an excuse for expressing annoyance, displeasure or indignation, although it would be overlooked if anyone else did it.

But making mountains out of molehills is unwise?


It is unwise because it makes no one happy but only adds to the miseries of life.

So guard against making mountains out of molehills by guarding your heart and thoughts.