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How do you confront racist comments in the workplace?

Are you wondering what you can do to help stop racist comments and jokes in the workplace?

Racism is a community issue and it will only end when it becomes clearly unacceptable by community standards. That will only happen when enough people decide to take a stand and call out racism whenever they hear it.

However, you need to do that in a constructive way if you want to be successful. Here are some tips on how to confront racism that you can use for guidance:

  1. Don't go into the conversation angry: It's easy to get angry when you hear something that seems blatantly racist. However, an angry response from you is just likely to provoke more anger in return. Most people are inclined to be somewhat defensive when they're called out about a statement they've made and told it's unacceptable, so you want to try to diffuse that anger -- not add fuel to it.
  2. Assume that the speaker didn't mean any offense: If you operate on the assumption that someone doesn't realize that they're being offensive, you give the other person a way to back out of the statement without hurting their pride. Even if you're entirely sure that the other person did know what they said was racist, give them an opportunity to walk back on the comment gracefully.
  3. Start with your perspective: Giving the speaker your perspective gives them an opportunity to respond in a positive way and think about what was said. For example, you can say, "That makes me really uncomfortable when you say that."
  4. Do not be in a rush to use the term "racist": There are few people who identify themselves as racist -- even if they are. The speaker may have a drastically different idea of who -- and what -- a racist actually is, so you don't want to draw comparisons. It's better to start with something like, "Do you know that comment can offend people?"

Ultimately, if your efforts aren't successful, you may have to resort to filing a complaint. If the workplace discrimination is affecting your ability to do your work, you may even have to consider your other legal options.

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