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The People's Guide To Navigating Racial Awkwardness

We asked how you deal with casual racism. You started from the top.
Leah Donnella
We asked how you deal with casual racism. You started from the top.

This week, the Code Switch team tackled this question: What do you do when a friend, loved one or stranger makes a comment that falls somewhere on the racism spectrum? On the blog and on the podcast, we and friends of Code Switch shared stories about those uncomfortable moments and how we reacted.

The storieswere as varied as they were troubling. They happened in the workplace, at home, in an Uber, online. They involved young white women rapping, "I ain't messing with no broke niggas"; a party guest declaring that someone looked like every Asian actor on Fresh Off the Boat; and a father telling his Mexican-American daughter that "Mexicans are lazy."

Together, we tried to figure out the protocol for responding. Our guidelines could have been pulled straight from an EMT handbook. (Proceed with caution. Assess the threat of immediate harm to yourself and others before engaging. Bring reinforcements and have an escape route in mind.)

So on Twitter and Facebook, we asked you to weigh in.

Turns out, the "Ask good questions, do no harm" strategy was pretty common across the board:

The shade was strong:

Some folks went full IDGAF:

Others went for healing:

While the options are vast, there's no foolproof strategy. After all, racially insensitive comments are like snowflakes in a storm: unique, ice cold and unrelenting.

One woman on Facebook wrote about the frustration that comes with being the only "woke brown woman" in the room:

"When I speak up I am filled with regret that I didn't express myself better, or annoyed that even though I was completely right I didn't change anyone. When I don't speak up I feel guilty for days and sometimes years. Dammed if I do, dammed if I don't."

So, even though we don't have the solution, we'll rest easy knowing that there will be plenty of opportunities ahead to try out different techniques. One user wrote the benediction for us:

If you missed this week's episode of the podcast, check it out here!

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Leah Donnella is an editor on NPR's Code Switch team, where she helps produce and edit for the Code Switch podcast, blog, and newsletter. She created the "Ask Code Switch" series, where members of the team respond to listener questions about how race, identity, and culture come up in everyday life.