How to Deal with Racist Parents

26 Jul 2019

*Disclaimer* This blog post is fundamentally flawed. We should not have to write an article on how to deal with racism… Instead of teaching people how to deal with it we should be teaching people “how not to be racist”.

Telling someone how to deal with racism, implies that the problem lies with the victim, not the perpetrator. It says, in a roundabout way, that “racism is here to stay kids, so you better learn to deal with it” – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the problem here.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where racism does exist and we do need to talk about it.

Dealing with racist parents is really difficult. Very few people actually acknowledge their own racism. So, let’s start with the fundamentals:

What is racism?

Well, according to our old trusted friend Google, the definition of racism is “Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

Prejudice, if you break it down, is a ‘pre-judgement’ of a person or group of people. It refers to the act of assuming something about someone based on their appearance or demeanor before actually finding out anything about them as a person.

For example, assuming that an Asian person is good at maths would be a prejudiced assumption.

Actively hating an Asian person because they are Asian, is racism.

Most of the time, racism comes from ignorance. Feeling threatened or being unfamiliar with a particular race or culture can lead to racist behaviors.

Racist behaviours include physical attacks, verbal abuse, damage to property, racist jokes, unwanted comments towards someone’s race, culture or religion, threats and online abuse.

Racism is a hate crime (check out our Ultimate Guide to Hate Crime for all you need to know) it is illegal and is a learnt behaviour.

But let’s be clear, no one is born racist.

Are your parents racist?

Racism appears to be a little more common among older generations. This by-no-means, excuses racist behaviour.

Often with older people, it can be as simple as unintentionally using an outdated term to refer to a person’s race or group of people with no real offense intended.

Sometimes, however, it can be much more than this. Whether it is a nasty comment, assumption or outright abuse if a parent or adult in your life is being racist, here are a few things you can try to tackle it.

Remember, they are the problem.

First up, remember that it is their problem, not the person or people who are at the receiving end. 

Secondly, always remember that you are not your parents. Use your critical thinking and remember that your opinions do not have to match your parents’.

If it feels safe to do so, challenge them about their racism.

This is difficult especially if you are young, and trying to speak to an older person about their racist behaviour. Try explaining that when they use racist language, it offends you.

Even if you are not the subject of the comment, explain that you find this language offensive and so do other people.

Try to explain why.

Don’t be too quick to label them as a racist, instead use this as an opportunity to educate them.

It’s likely that they’ll get defensive about it.

People don’t like being told that they are wrong. In fact, people don’t like to hear that they are being offensive.

The vast majority of the time, people won’t even think that they are being racist. Start by suggesting that they use politically correct terms, but don’t force it on them as they may continue to get defensive.

Walk away from them.

We’ve all been there. The heated discussion at the dinner table which turns into a full argument. We’re powerless over other people’s behaviour but we can try to educate them by leading by example.

Just to reiterate, only ever challenge them if it feels safe to do so. If you don’t succeed, walk away and try a different approach some other time, once the dust settles.

Inspire them with different perspectives

Why not watch a film that shows characters addressing racial inequity or characters from minority groups in a positive light?

Talk to them about people, books and stories you’ve learnt about in school or when reading the internet. Inspire them with news throughout the world that they may not see themselves.

Stay aware.

Try to stay educated and make sure you’ll be able to spot it when it does happen.

Instead of randomly bringing it up with them out of the blue, wait until they say something and if appropriate, give them an example as to why it is offensive. 

Most importantly, be an ally to those who face prejudice and racism.


If you are looking for help, join our forum community to talk it out with other members of the Ditch forum or get advice from a Ditch the Label digital mentor.

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