6 Steps Toward Eliminating Racism

Race to End Racism photo of group hugging

The purpose of YWCA Charleston’s Racial Justice Program is to help people understand the causes and impact of racism in hopes to create more positive outcomes for communities of color and to strengthen our community. We do this through programming ranging from Implicit Bias Trainings to our Annual Race to End Racism. This list shares what YOU can do to help eliminate racism and stand up for communities of color.

1. Learn the Vocabulary

To fully address racism, we must understand that it’s not just personal instances of meanness towards people of color.

Racism can be put on three levels: individual, institutional, or structural.

Individual level racism is characterized by personal prejudice, racial slurs, intergroup tension, and is often what people divert to when the word racism is used.

Institutional racism refers to discriminatory practices that occur within various societal institutions such as education, the work place, environment, criminal justice and more.

Structural racism refers to the complex way history, public policies, institutional practices and cultural representation interact to maintain racial hierarchy and inequitable outcomes.

Privilege is a special right, advantage or immunity granted to a particular person or group.

Having privilege allows us to disregard and ignore issues related to marginalize groups because we simply don’t have to think about them. We’ve listed a few instances of privilege.

  • “I am never asked to speak for all people in my race group.”

  • “I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own physical protection.”

  • “When I am told about our national heritage or about ‘civilization,’ I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.”

Microaggressions are everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights snubs, or insults whether intentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

Microaggressions include phrases like:

  • Saying, “You’re so pretty for a Black Woman.”

  • Mispronouncing or not saying a cultural name because it is “too hard” to pronounce.

  • Asking a ‘foreign’ looking person, “Well, what are you?”

By understanding these definitions and examples, we can understand the importance of personally helping to eliminate racism and to understand that we are all a part of the solution.

2. Take the Harvard Implicit Associations Test

The Harvard Implicit Associations Test (IAT) for Race measures how strongly we associate different skin colors with positive or negative feelings. Participants are shown single pictures of African American or white facial features along with a words that convey a positive or negative connotation. The test will share with you a break-down of your neutral to strong bias for or against a certain group. Only taking around 10 to 15 minutes to complete, the Harvard IAT gives every participant a starting point.

Upon reviewing your results, take some time to reflect upon them. Whether the test finds you to be neutral or strongly biased, there are always things you can do to become a better ally and to unpack your bias.

3. Get acquainted with local organizations

In Charleston, we have excellent organizations that are committed to working against racism and improving the lives of people of color. As each organization fulfills this differently, there are many different ways to contribute. Please follow the links to learn more about these organizations.

4. Know the issues

Systemic racism impacts the lives of people of color daily. Did you know that African American students are twice as likely to be suspend or expelled nationally and locally? Or did you know that when employers compare equally qualified resumes, white sounding names are more likely to get job interviews? Did you know that there are no recognized Native lands in West Virginia, despite evidence backing the existence of these communities?

These are real life issues that impact the lives of people of color. To better help communities of color, take time to research issues that impact them. For our “Many Faces, One Future” campaign, we worked with residents of Charleston to share their experiences with racism. Watch this video to learn more!

YWCA Charleston’s Racial Justice program has also compiled a list of Racial Justice Resources. We see these articles, books or videos as content to helpfully engage viewers in the topic of racial justice. This list is the perfect tool for those seeking to learn and know more.

5. Speak Up! Especially with those close to you

As we acknowledge, bringing up race is not always easy. In a study conducted by Pew Research Center, almost half of our country rarely or never talks about race. With this information, it is easy to understand why racial conversations are avoided. Like anything challenging, talking about race takes courage and practice. An article from the Southern Law Poverty Center gives examples of how to speak up against racism in everyday life situations.

YWCA Charleston will soon provide Kitchen Table Conversations for those seeking guidance on how to have these tough conversations. Kitchen Table Conversations are a guide to facilitating conversations about race in a comfortable setting with family or friends. They not only help you facilitate the conversation, but they help you to feel comfortable and confident in having it.

Please email dkeysswitzer@ywcacharleston.org to learn more.

6. Bring an implicit bias training to you.

YWCA Charleston’s Racial Justice Program provides a two-hour training available to businesses and community organizations throughout Boone, Clay and Kanawha Counties. Through this training, we provide a historical background of race relations and discrimination, recognize common diversity and inclusion related misconceptions, and define Implicit Bias and discussing how bias manifests in our daily lives.

With the training reaching over 1400 individuals and 25 organizations, we believe that our training helps foster productive conversations about race and serves a great starting point for organization seeking to deepen their understanding of race. By doing this, we create a baseline of knowledge amongst our audiences to help create improved outcomes and opportunities for people of color in the Boone, Kanawha and Clay Counties.

We thank you much for reading our 6 Steps to Eliminating Racism. As we acknowledge, speaking about race can be challenging but is extremely necessary. We hope that this serves as a tool to help break down barriers and to inspire exploration on the topic of race. Thank you for taking a Stand Against Racism with us! Learn more: YWCA Charleston Racial Justice Program