How to Talk to Your Racist Relatives about Racism

Okay, ma, pa, aunty, uncle, ya’ll can’t say that anymore.

I know we like to believe that Malaysia is a multicultural land where we all get along forever and ever, but let’s be real: all of us have some racist relatives in our family tree. And most likely, we’ve all struggled to call out these racist relatives too.

And I don’t blame you! Like our parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents are supposed to be the adults tapi kitorang jugak yang kena ajar pasal racism. And we all know how strong Asian values are – I was always told not to talk back, padahal most of the time I’m not even talking back pun and was just tryna share what I feel. And this feeling of kena kaw kaw patuh to my family is probably why I haven’t spoken about racism with my racist relatives before this year.


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But the fact is that there are ethnic minorities in Malaysia who have to deal with daily racism, so walaupun scary, we need to start having this conversation with those close to us. I did some research and have found these 5 tips for you to remember when you’re talking to your racist relatives.

1. Make It Clear Why You’re Calling Your Racist Relatives Out

Jangan tuduh jari je, sis. Just saying yo, you’re wrong usually doesn’t yield positive results! The goal is to start a conversation.

When someone in your family says something racist, it’s good to start with something like, “I don’t think you can say that anymore.” And follow up by explaining why and relate it to your own experience: “I’m bringing it up because I read that many people face daily discrimination because of their race, and I think we should do whatever we can to not add to the problem. Don’t you agree?” This is a good way to get them involved without making them feel like it’s a personal attack.

2. Bring on The Power of Social Media

Another way you can bring up this conversation is by leveraging on the gift of the 21st century. Social media blew up earlier this year with #BlackLivesMatter and managed to get the whole world talking about racism. So kalau nak discuss racism dengan your racist relatives, keep sharing posts about anti-racism on your socials and then at dinner or the next time you see your fam bam, ask them what they think about it. And if they show interest in the topic, even a teeeeeeny weeeeeny bit, that’s a great sign! Keep up what you’re doing and also tag them or DM them more posts like that.


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3. Hit Your Racist Relatives with the Hard Facts

This is gonna sound a little boring but honestly, knowledge is power! Bring out the receipts, sis – I’m talking about facts, data, statistics. These are things that racists will find hard to argue against, especially when there is proof on paper (or on screen!) Not only is it knowledge for them, but it will also help you feel more confident when you’re trying to get your point across. Sumpah – the more you know, the better you’ll be at creating a real conversation with your fam bam. Here’s a few trustworthy links to get you started:

4. Don’t Just Speak – Listen to What They Have to Say

Empathy goes a long way – remember that a conversation is two ways. Ask them questions and give them a chance to speak and feel heard. And I bet that if you listen closely, they’ll appreciate it and you’ll be able to keep the conversation going without it turning into a mess. Remember that this conversation bukan pasal siapa betul siapa salah – it’s about growing together and working through racism together too.

Read >>> Laughter and stereotypes: Should I tell that joke?

5. Lastly, Understand That Its More Than Just One Conversation.

Guys, racism has been around for literal centuries. And though our parents and family members aren’t that old, they did grow up with all these beliefs for the longest time. And it will take time. This isn’t going to be a conversation that you have once and POOF racism hilang. So be patient, with them and yourself, give this change time and most importantly, keep coming back to conversations like this. Over time, it will make all the difference.

Starting these uncomfortable conversations about race with our family is one way towards a more equal Malaysia. And with the International Day for Tolerance being just around the corner this 16th November, kita yang masih mentah ni can no longer buat tak tau.

Because if there’s one thing we shouldn’t just tolerate, it’s racism.

Remember it’s not enough to not be racist, it’s time to be actively anti-racist!


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Tati Wira

A 20-something fierce believer of children's rights!
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