Could You Be Racist And Not Know It? 10 Ways To Change For The Better

03/25/2015 01:47 pm ET | Updated Mar 25, 2015
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Just because you cringed in disbelief and outrage when you watched the viral clip that recently made headlines of a racially offensive chant by some of the SAE fraternity members at University of Oklahoma doesn’t mean you don’t have work to do when it comes to race. According to Dr. Charles Gallagher, a professor and chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at La Salle University, we’re all a little racist. Is it possible you draw on racist stereotypes to shape your views? Gallagher, who recently faced off with David Wayne Hull, an Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the KKK, on a heated episode of Dr. Phil suggests you answer these questions to determine how you define race, and if you might draw on racist stereotypes to shape your views:

1. If an Asian person walks into a classroom, do you believe he or she is good in math?
2. When you see two to three black men walking down toward you at night with hoodies on, do you cross the street? Or think about going in another direction?
3. Do you believe that most of the Latinos who live in California are undocumented?
4. Do you believe that populations such as Jewish, Latino, Asian, or black are over 30 percent in the U.S.?
5. Do you believe whites are the minority in America?

Do you still question whether racism and prejudice play a part in your life? Further explore it here.

If either of these tests has given you concern about your use of racial stereotypes, Gallagher — who’s currently writing a book called Colorblind Nation: The Denial of Race and The Rise of Racial Inequality — suggests you might want to consider these tips for improving your attitude about those who may be different from you.

1. Talk to your family: Think about the history of your privilege. What advantages have you been afforded because of your race? Look into your past and see where you come from and the role it plays in your personal success today.

2. Avoid stereotypical language: Be mindful that words and phrases that a person uses to describe a group can easily fall into being a stereotype. When you hear someone say, “All black people do …,” or “Latinos always …,” or “I never met an Asian person who …,” that should raise a red flag. Ask the person if he/she is referring to an individual or speaking for the 40 million Latinos, 10 million Asians, or 38 million black people in this country. Does he/she really believe every person in these groups shares the same behaviors and beliefs?

3. Don’t tolerate racist jokes: Racism isn’t funny. If you listen, you’ll see how people around you really talk about race. We filter out the people we love and give them a pass. Don’t give them a pass.

4. Be introspective: Be honest about your own biases and where they come from. Overcoming racist attitudes in a society starts with you.

5. Vote: Young people historically don’t vote. Be engaged politically, educate yourself on the issues and a candidate’s rhetoric before you give him/her your support.

6. Don’t let the media dictate to you: TV writers have a huge rolodex of stereotypical and hyperbolic characters. It’s lazy. They roll out the “Latino domestic” or the “all-wise black woman,” and the viewer fills in the rest.

7. Learn your family’s history: The only way not to repeat the past is to learn from it. What may have been normative for your grandparents may be different from today or much the same. Eighty percent of blacks are mixed race, and that’s true for many whites as well. Knowing the history helps to shape the future.

8. Teach through example: As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” You can set a positive example or be the role model of more accepting behavior.

9. Step out of your comfort zone: Take yourself into communities you don’t normally visit. Walking in another’s shoes is the best way to understand someone different from you. Try new food, listen to new music, try a new place of worship, shop at a new produce store; anything you can do to branch out and learn about different cultures.

10. Know thyself: Ask yourself these questions: Are your friends a diverse mix of people, or do you stick with your own kind? If you’re in the racial minority, how does that make you feel? Take some time to have a conversation about these questions with people around you, and learn what their views are.

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