How to Stop Racism in Teenagers

Teens see and hear the messages of racist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads, neo-Nazis and the White Aryan Resistance, in popular culture and news reports. These groups focus on hate and sometimes call for violence. Martin Luther King Jr. looked forward to a time when "the clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away," but clearing the clouds means adults must model acceptance of diversity and make a commitment to teach teens ways to battle prejudice and racism.

Expose your teen to diverse cultures. Attend diverse cultural events with your teen to learn appreciation of cultures other than his own. Encourage your teen to see films that address racism with friends and talk with your child about the film in an honest discussion. Develop a library of books on cultures at home and make up lists of books available at the library on dealing with racism. Volunteer with your teen at events that encourage participation from a cross-section of the community.

Talk with your teen about racism honestly. Create an environment for an open dialogue that encourages your child to discuss racist events at school or work and news reporting about incidents of racism. If you don't feel you can start the dialogue with your teen, pursue group discussions hosted by professional facilitators from the YWCA and other community groups.

Challenge incidents of public and private racism and encourage your teen to do the same. Confronting racism and racist practices tells others that you and your teen do not participate in racist comments or behavior that discriminates. If your teen repeats racist comments, draw a clear line against racism with a comment such as, "We don't speak that way in our family." Take time to discuss the inappropriate language and the reason your teen used the term or made the comment.

Encourage your teen to participate in events at school that stress multiculturalism and appreciation of diverse races. School clubs focused on culture and participating in annual events, including the Mix It Up lunch meeting sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center and signing the YWCA's Stand Against Racism petition circulated every April, help students understand the dangers of racism 12.

Model behavior that includes acceptance of others for your teen to use as a guideline. Create a circle of family friends that includes people representing a range of races and cultures. Demonstrate open acceptance so your teen learns to look at people without judging based on race.


Ask family members and friends who enjoy telling racist jokes to join you and your teen in discussing racism. This might help your teen develop a deeper understanding of what motivates racist behavior.