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Dealing with Stereotypes and Racism

Photo Credit: Edward S. Curtis

Most of us know that racism and stereotypes suck. Some of us have been discriminated against because we are Native and most of us have heard negative comments directed at us, our family members, friends, or other tribal members. But there are things that we can do to learn more about racism and stereotyping, and figure out how we can be a positive influence.

For those who don’t know – racism is really complicated. Racism happens when you base your beliefs about a person or group on their race or ethnicity. Sounds simple, right?…

Well, the crazy part is that racism and stereotyping are not just something that one person does to others – for example, sometimes without realizing it, we absorb racist beliefs unconsciously and they affect how we feel about ourselves. Or sometimes racism is built into the way our society works.

Here are some things you can do to address racism and stereotypes:

  1. If you feel safe in a situation, speak up when you hear a racist comment or joke. People often ignore jokes because they don’t know what to say. But staying silent can make some people think that you agree with the comment.
  2. Be a role model. People around you respond to how you deal with racism. Treating others fairly sends the message that no one should be treated differently.
  3. Work to recognize stereotypes in television, movies, and other media. And refuse to watch television programs or movies that contain racism.
  4. Start an equality club at your school to encourage other youth to talk about racism and what you can do to make your school and community a safer place for everyone.

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