In 1991, a California motorist named Rodney King was brutally beaten by four police officers in an incident widely regarded as racially motivated.
The next year, the YWCA USA initiated the Day of Commitment to Eliminate Racism in response to that incident, the subsequent acquittal of the police officers charged in the case and the ensuing riots in Los Angeles.
The observance is meant to draw attention to how racism still harms our communities and to move the nation to racial justice. The YWCA feels that it’s important to fight racism year-round. One of the most pernicious ways racism is exhibited is in jokes and remarks that all too often don’t even register. By calling people out on even racist remarks that may be meant jokingly, we can help eliminate the attitudes that cause discrimination and hatred.
Here are some things you can do to combat bigotry:
• Be inclusive when planning meetings, activities, posters, and surveys to ensure everyone is represented, while avoiding tokenism. Make sure your organization has truly embraced diversity.
• Racial jokes aren’t funny. Don’t laugh. Interrupt and ask the person to stop telling the joke.
• Do not tolerate prejudiced talk or racist action. Intervene and tell those involved that their behavior is unacceptable.
• Make a list of injustices and commit to fighting them.
• Start looking at each individual as an equal and as an individual.
• Write letters to newspapers, magazines, and TV sponsors about public statements and actions that demean people.
• Set an example for your family and friends by showing an unbiased respect and acceptance of others.
• Be proud of and share your heritage so others can learn about you.
• Find others who are taking active steps to eliminate racism and join them.