The dark, August days in 2017 after the events in Charlottesville saw a surge of internauts searching my posts for ideas on how to build vibrant, healthy communities. In the ensuing exchanges of emails with some of my readers, I came to realise that, although I do not believe in racism, very few posts address the issue of how to eliminate it. And since many events both before and after Charlottesville clearly indicate that we have a really bad racism problem on our hands, I reached out to some of you to develop a list of things that can be done to start addressing this illness corroding our societal bonds.
Volunteer in a place of worship other than your own
Many of us love volunteering, but we all seemed to volunteer in places that we already naturally frequent. This is normal, of course, and nothing to be ashamed of. But in the spirit of understand “the other” and going beyond our own prejudices, it was suggested that we start volunteering in places of worship of religions others than ours.
Attend events at a centre celebrating cultures other than your own
By the same token, why not attend events celebrating cultures other than you own? Especially if you live in or near a big city; there are so many events that are open to the general public related to other religions and cultures. A quick look through my neighborhood’s list of places of worship and the events they were hosting in the upcoming months yielded a number of opportunities that surprised me greatly. Plus they also usually serve food, so… Why not?
Reach out to neighbors, colleagues, and others who are of other cultures
You know that neighbour, colleague, cashier, librarian, etc. who is of another culture and with whom you always exchange smiles and pleasantries? Reaching out to them and asking them to meet up for coffee to talk about their culture and/or religion could be a lovely, intimate way to get to know a whole other world—and potentially make a great friend. Next time you are chit-chatting, ask them where they are from, and tell them you would love to know more about their country over a cup of coffee. I was surprised by the number of people who were open to this!
Plan simple cultural sharing evenings in your home
Some of us have friends from different cultural and religious backgrounds, but keep our conversations to topics we have in common. Why not create a space dedicating to sharing, instead, what we don’t have in common? Guests can bring pictures of their home countries, share music, bring a dish, etc. You can even explicitly share that this type of evening is being organised to help participants overcome any prejudice they might have about another culture or religion. Guests can be invited to share embarrassing questions about various cultures and religions anonymously.
Read up on racism in your country, region, and city
It’s surprising how many think that racism is a problem, but not in their neighborhood or city. And this is not something I have only heard from white people; people of colour have told me this, including people of colour who live in the same area as me, where I was subjected to some pretty intense prejudiced people. Reading up on racist incidents in your area will help open up your eyes to the reality. Turning to social media can also help; doing a hashtag search on racism and the name of your city can yield some very interesting and eye-opening results.
Have conversations about the racism around you with the objective to find avenues of action
Once you have found out a little more about the racism in your area—either present or past, for that matter—have conversations with like-minded people sharing this information; then, put your heads together to figure out what could be done to address the day-to-day racism in your lives.
This is not at all a list of things that are going to solve racism. But I do feel that they are a good set of first steps. No doubt that, once we take these steps and keep at it, other steps will become clearer.
What first steps have you taken? What are some other steps you are thinking of taking?