By  Miriam Aliberti —

Racism is a subject that can be tough to talk about and even tougher to know how to handle. Because Arizonans come from so many different ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, we have lots of opportunity for getting to know people who are culturally and racially different from us. Along with being lucky enough to live in such a richly diverse culture is the disturbing side effect of racism.

Racism happens because there are people who believe their race is superior to other people who are different in ethnicity, color, or nationality. It’s not a belief that people are born with, it’s a learned attitude. Many teens experience suffering in the form of bullying, discrimination, stereotyping and jokes because of racism.

Unfortunately, there will always be people who cannot learn to value and appreciate differences. Racial intolerance can take many forms and sometimes people aren’t even aware that they are doing something that may seem racist to another person. It can be as serious as physically attacking someone or as simple as telling a joke. Other forms of racism can include graffiti, name-calling, making a person feel there is something wrong with their appearance or clothing, excluding a person because of their ethnicity, and stereotyping or making assumptions about who a person is because of the way that they look. Whether you’re a victim of it or watching it happen to someone else, it’s difficult to know what to do about racism. When it happens, you can feel angry, sad, alone, and sometimes powerless. Awareness and education can help you to cope with racism.

How do I cope with racism?

  • Don’t change who you are to please someone else -Don’t let other people define you with their expectations. Be your authentic self.
  • Educate – Let someone know if they have offended you. Explain to them why you feel something was offensive so that they can be aware and not do it again. Keep it from turning into an argument by talking about their words or actions and avoid calling people racist. Prepare some responses in advance so you are not caught off guard and can keep your cool when addressing racism.
  • Assume good intent -If you think someone has made a racist comment, ask them what they meant. It’s possible they didn’t mean what you think.
  • Look for Support -Rely on friends and family to keep you grounded in positive self-esteem and pride in your ethnicity.
  • It’s not about you – Remember racism is not your fault and has nothing to do with you. Racism is a misguided attitude and really is about the person doing a racist behavior, not you.

  How can I help to minimize racism?

  • Recognize racism and avoid participating in it -Be aware of what racism looks and sounds like.Observe who is around you and how words or actions might make them feel.
  • Don’t make assumptions – Avoid stereotyping people. Understand that stereotypes are not facts and not always true.Get to know people of different races and misconceptions will melt away.
  • Be a good listener –If someone tells you they are offended, try to understand why they feel that way.