7 Strategies to Help You on Your Anti-Racism Journey

two friends walking in nature

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

The Black Lives Matter movement has likely caused you to think more about racism and is probably making you question some of your own beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors.

A little self-reflection might reveal some uncomfortable truths—such as ways in which you might be having racist thoughts or exhibiting racist behaviors without even realizing it. This self-reflection may also come with feelings of guilt and shame, so it is also important to start with forgiveness.

Modern-day racism exists because of the current circumstances that we were all born into. While we did not have a hand in designing things the way they are but we do have a hand in helping rectify the situation.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to embark on an anti-racism journey. Raising your own awareness of any biases and stereotypes can be key to breaking down barriers.

1.  Acknowledge Modern Day Racism Exists

Although some people assume that anti-discrimination laws have eliminated racism from society, studies show that this isn’t the case.

Ethnic minorities still experience a great deal of prejudice and discrimination. Studies have found that minorities are:

  • less likely to receive adequate care from physicians.
  • less likely to receive employment offers.
  • judged more harshly for crimes they commit.
  • more likely to be shot by police officers.
  • treated with more suspicion in public places.

These are just a few examples. Clearly, many individuals experience racism on a daily basis in many different ways.

So it’s important to acknowledge that minorities are still facing ongoing discrimination. Recognizing that racism exists is the first step toward creating positive change.

Listen to the experiences of other people. When you hear other people's situations and stories, be willing to listen with an open mind.

2. Recognize Your Prejudice

If you think things like, “I’d never do anything racist,” you might want to check yourself. Research shows people who claim they’re never prejudiced are the most likely to be prejudiced.

A 2019 study published in Personality and Individual Differences found that “the least egalitarian individuals tended to be those who overestimated their levels of egalitarianism the most.”  

Participants were asked to report how egalitarian they believed they were compared with other people in regard to race. Then, they stated how favorable they felt about Black people in the workplace. Finally, participants completed the Implicit Association Test to measure their implicit biases related to race.

Researchers found that those who reported being the most egalitarian displayed the most implicit bias toward Black people.

Other studies have uncovered similar results. People in privileged groups are more likely to deny the existence of bias. And among young people, there’s an impression that racism is “not that bad anymore” or that it only occurs in extreme circumstances.

Some even believe that prejudice against white people is a more serious cause for concern than prejudice against Black people.

Keep in mind that no one is completely prejudiced or not prejudiced at all. It’s a continuum, and everyone possesses stereotypes and biases to some degree that affect how they interact with individuals from other races.

It is important to remember that our brains are wired to recognize differences, which evolved to protect against the general threats of the world. The biases we have are still running on this same internal system.

3.  Take a Test to Identify Your Biases

Project Implicit is a non-profit organization that helps people identify hidden biases. They offer a free test that can help you discover thoughts and feelings about people of other races that you might not be conscious of.

After all, on the surface, you may think you’re accepting of people from all races. But the truth is you likely have some stereotypes and biases that you might not even recognize.

Take this free test, and discover a bit more about your hidden biases.

Taking this type of test can be helpful, but it is also important to stay alert in order to identify and challenge biases that you may have. Being mindful of other people's responses to your interactions can also be helpful as well. For example, if someone seems offended by something you said or did, inquire about that further.

4. Learn About Yourself

You might think your anti-racism journey should start with learning about others. But developing more self-awareness first can be key to helping you gain insight into your beliefs.

A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Cultural Relations found that individuals can become more culturally competent by exploring their own historical roots and values.

Developing a better understanding of your ancestors and their experiences, and thinking about how your family functions as a group, can help you see the ways these have impacted you. It can make you more aware of your own biases while sparking curiosity about other cultures and races.

In her book The Body is Not an Apology, Sonya Renee Taylor promotes the concept of radical self-love, which involves loving your body and your whole authentic self. She believes that part of the root of biases we have stems from personal shortcomings. By learning to accept ourselves more authentically, we can then improve as a society.

Another way of learning about yourself is to consider enrolling in individual therapy to explore the issue of bias and racism.

5.  Learn About Other People

Educate yourself about other races as well. Learn about the history of racism and discrimination, and strive to learn more about what other people are experiencing today.

Read books, watch movies, and review articles that describe other people’s experiences.

You don’t have to stick to just scientific journals and documentaries. You may find many fiction books give insight into unfamiliar backgrounds too.

Get your news from a variety of sources. Watching the same channel and reading articles from the same website only gives you one view. Learn from many different people, and you’ll see there are many ways to tell the same story.

6. Interact With People of Different Races

There’s no substitute for first-hand experience. Talking to people who are different from you, working with people of other races, and interacting with them in all sorts of circumstances can help you gain the most insight.

You’ll learn a lot when you listen to people. But don’t ask them to educate you on racism. Asking them to do more work—or essentially try to explain their daily experiences—places more burden on them.

You also may need to purposely get involved in new activities so you can interact with people outside your usual social circle. Volunteer, join a club, or attend an event you might not normally attend so you can interact with different people.

Another thing you can do is to visit different parts of the United States as well as other countries, when permissible. Many organizations also organize and host cultural events and festivals, which is something else you might want to consider.

 7.  Enroll in a Course

Whether you sign up for an online course, or you attend a college class, diversity education can help reduce your bias.

A 2001 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that students who were enrolled in a prejudice and conflict seminar showed significantly reduced implicit and explicit anti-Black biases compared with the control group.

This study shows that biases can be changed—even the ones that seem automatic. Learning about your stereotypes can significantly reduce your levels of prejudice. A more recent 2012 study also supports these findings, suggesting that anti-prejudice training and intervention could lead to significant long-term reductions in implicit race bias.

Some resources that can help reduce racial bias:

  • Look around for online courses, or contact your local college to see if they offer diversity classes.
  • There has also been a recent explosion in content designed to educate and inform people about racial issues.
  • There are a number of free programs and webinars available online to the public. 
  • There are also a number of independent scholars that have courses available.
  • Local libraries also often have book clubs and programs designed to promote diversity and racial understanding.

Ideally, you would take a comprehensive approach rather than just selecting one or two of these offerings. Challenging and actively fighting bias is a psychologically intense and long-term dedication, so the more resources you have to support your efforts, the better.

A Word From Verywell

If you’re struggling on your journey to becoming anti-racist, you might find it’s helpful to speak with a professional. Reach out to a therapist. A licensed mental health professional can assist you in identifying the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors you’d like to change and may also be able to provide more resources that can help you learn and grow.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.