The murder of George Floyd. Monkey chants at European football matches. Anti-Semitic attacks and stereotypes. Despite half a century of progress, racism is still alive and kicking in society. In America, the election of Barack Obama was supposed to signal a new era of racial harmony. Yet, in 2017, hate crimes surged 23% - the biggest annual increase since the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, Jewish people saw hate crimes rise by 37% compared to the prior year.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the initial welcoming of migrants in 2015 has now soured after extremist terrorist attacks and a clash of cultural values. The prophesied multicultural utopia is rapidly fading.
How then can we bring society together and make racism history? These are the suggestions from some of the world’s most prominent experts.
1. Rethink the Problem
Dr. Philip Atiba Goff, a social psychologist focusing on racial bias and discrimination, has questioned past attempts to “combat ignorance.” That often means ignoring the “accumulation of harms” happening to vulnerable communities. Instead, Dr. Goff suggests measuring behaviours and actions.
To him, racism is “an accumulated pattern of behaviours that disadvantage one racial group and advantage another racial group.” The benefit is that rather than fixing the ephemeral hearts and minds of racist actors, behaviours can readily be measured and changed. Racism shifts from the intangible to the fixable.
2. Decrease inequality
Recent research from UC Berkeley found that as incomes became unequal in a state, racial bias also increased. Though the effect is small, it makes intrinsic sense. Humans, when economically stressed, develop higher mistrust. That means societal differences become accentuated. Inequality isn’t the primary cause of racism, but it fuels the fire. Thus, by creating a more equitable and prosperous society, racism and racial bias will naturally decrease.
3. Realize How Much We Agree
Contrary to news media, public attitudes to racism are encouraging. In the US, 76% of Americans saw discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities as a “big problem,” including 57% of conservatives and 71% of whites. And support for peaceful protests is overwhelmingly positive.
Media and the internet have primarily driven increased societal divisions across the world. In reality, however, societal views have never been more tolerant.
4. Combat Misperceptions
People understandably are put off by racist views. Indeed, the majority of people claim to be firmly against racial discrimination. Yet, more diverse societies will have more diverse perspectives. That means we need to be more tolerant, more empathetic, and more diplomatic in how we handle racial tensions. Failure to do so means difficulties in combating the underlying misperceptions fuelling modern racism.
Take Daryl Davis, a famous black musician who engaged with Ku Klux Klan members, leading them to denounce their former views and life. As Davis said, “You cannot hate the hate out of a person… But you can love it out of a person.”
5. Look Inwards
Robin DiAngelo, the author of White Fragility, recently noted how her obsession with avoiding being racist led to racism. On one occasion, she told every racist joke her family had ever said to a black family with whom she was having dinner; such was her guilt. Though extreme, the example shows us a simple lesson: change begins at home. Marinating in white guilt is not a solution. Indeed, it may be part of the problem.
Nor can minority communities ignore inter-community hate. Middle-eastern and black communities have been found to exhibit high levels of anti-Semitic views. Only by looking inwards at ourselves and our communities can we truly make racism history.