Much has been written about Race and Racism, and what it all means, but we at EYST like to keep things simple. We’ve developed our approach based on ten years of working with BME and white young people in schools, youth groups and community settings. As far as we’re concerned if someone feels, speaks or behaves in a way which is negative about someone else based on their skin colour, culture, or religion, then this can be viewed as racism.
It doesn’t mean, however, that that person has necessarily done something wrong or that they should definitely be punished - although it would in some circumstances. It does probably mean that that person would benefit from a chat, discussion or exploration around why they feel that way, and based on what information or experiences. Once this discussion has been had, then facts can be used to challenge misinformation, and the best way is to provide an opportunity to have a positive experience of diversity – e.g. chatting to a friendly Muslim, visiting an Asian/Polish shop, or starting to volunteer for a BME/refugee organisation.
Telling someone off, belittling them, or being too confrontational in challenging them will nearly always backfire.
The Think Project seeks to employ a non-stigmatizing, non-criminalizing approach to discussing potentially racist views and language. Instead of "You're not allowed to say that", we say; "Ok, what makes you think that?" "Tell me more - what do you mean?"A harsher reaction can result in a person becoming defensive, the conversation shutting down and the deeper entrenchment of negative attitudes. Open dialogue & Open debate is key - keeping the conversation going. Also crucial is respecting the young person's point of view, their experiences and right to their own opinion! Sometimes it's fine to agree to disagree. The Think project encourages young people to question the opinions they hear around them, and the newspaper and media message they read or hear, and most importantly to think for themselves.