If you are planning to study abroad, one of the things you should be ready to deal with is racism. Although it’s 2014, racism still exists as much as it did in the time of Martin Luther King. You need to be prepared for it. Learning how to deal with racism will ensure that you have a smooth stay in the country where you intend to study.
The first thing you need to know is that racism comes in different forms. There is direct or individual racism where the other party makes it clear that they are treating you badly because of the colour of your skin. You can see this in the form of condescending behaviour or obvious racist language. For example you walk into a store and all the sales attendants follow your every movement because they think you are more likely to shoplift and they don’t do this to people with other skin colour. Another example is when you’re stopped indiscriminately by the police and they ask you questions that they ordinarily wouldn’t ask someone who has a different skin colour. There are students who have shared their experience of having supervisors who were racist and that had an impact on the grade they received for their thesis or course work.
Then you have institutional racism. Unlike individual racism, institutional racism is harder to detect and can have more serious consequences if it is not dealt with properly. Institutional racism includes policies and practices that are entrenched in established institutions which results in the exclusion of a designated group. Depending on the country you choose to study, you may find that you are excluded from certain things merely because you are black or a Nigerian. Or you just find that there is a ceiling in place that prevents you from getting certain jobs or achieving certain heights.
Now that you know the major forms of racism that exists, how do you deal with it? The first thing we would say is never result to violence. If you feel that you are being treated badly because of the colour of your skin, don’t use violence as a means to stand up for yourself. It only escalates things and makes things worse for you. If you are discriminated against on campus, find out the appropriate channels you can use to make your complaints. Most universities have a good structure in place to deal with racism and other kinds of discrimination. State clearly that you will not accept being discriminated against and make your complaints early.
Also, know when to pick your battles and know when to walk away. There are some people that are just ignorant. There is no point picking up fights with such people. It would simply be a waste of your time. If you find that a shop attendant has a condescending behaviour towards you, you have a choice to walk away from that store and go somewhere else. Rather than cause a fight, you can raise awareness using social media and call out that particular store and attendant. You will soon find others who have had the same experience as you. That is more powerful an effective than being a lone voice causing violence in an obscure store.
Although we want you to be aware of the fact that racism still exists, you should be mindful not to tag every action as being a result of racism. When you do that, you will prevent yourself from enjoying your stay in that country and in your university. Be aware but don’t get paranoid.
If you have experienced racism, how were you able to deal with it? Share with us in the comment box or send us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also tweet at us (@1Plify) or post on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/1plify).