Here’s the #1 thing you must do when someone shares a racist experience with you

Step 1? Believe them.

In Practice

December 20, 2021
By Mita Mallick December 20, 2021
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Several years ago, I was walking down the streets of Manhattan with a coworker trying to get to a meeting. I was hailing down taxis and she was on her Uber app. I finally got the attention of a taxi. I waved to my coworker to meet me at the corner.

I hadn’t noticed that a man behind me had also been trying to hail a taxi. He seemed annoyed. He walked by me, watching me open the door.

“Terrorist,” he hurled at me. “Come back where you came from,” he then shouted.

I was stunned. I had no time to respond. I was shaking as I closed the taxi door.

“Can you believe he just said that to me?” I blurted out to my coworker, explaining what happened.

“Oh, you probably misheard him,” she responded. “He’s having a bad day, because now he’s late,” she laughed.

I remember watching the man cross the street. I felt a mix of anger and humiliation. I remember my coworker scrolling on her iPhone as if nothing had happened. She dismissed my experience, using humor as a way to diffuse the situation.


Because when you believe me, Flower Purple I know you are supporting me, honoring the truth, and practicing empathy.


Each time I have had the courage to share a racist experience with another individual, here’s the one thing I always want: for them to believe me. Because when you believe me, I know you are supporting me, honoring the truth, and practicing empathy. 

When someone shares a racist experience with you, believe them, and offer the following three things:

Thank the person for sharing

“I am sure that wasn’t easy for you to share with me, and thank you for trusting me.”  By showing your gratitude, you continue to build trust in your relationship. Allow the space for them to share whatever else they feel comfortable discussing. Don’t question, push, or ask for more details if they aren’t ready to disclose. 

Ask what you can do for them 

In a virtual setting, this can be more difficult. For example, sitting in silence with someone might be uncomfortable for you, but of great comfort to them. Ask how you can support them right now. Consider sending a meal, a gift card to a local coffee shop, or a copy of a book you are reading. Let them know you are here for them to continue the conversation if and when they are ready.

Continue to check-in 

Check in after they have shared a racist experience with you. A good starting point can be a text, email, or phone call to ask “How are you doing today?” When someone has experienced racial trauma, they won’t suddenly get out of bed one day and feel better, like they are getting over the flu. The racially charged everyday aggressions people of color face can have a devastating impact on our well-being. Asking them how they are doing today is a reminder that you are still here for them on your journey to be a better ally and friend.

Mita Mallick, Head of Inclusion, Equity and Impact, Carta

Mita Mallick is a corporate change-maker with a track record of transforming businesses.  She gives innovative ideas a voice and serves customers and communities with purpose. She was formerly the Head of Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Marketing at Unilever. She has had an extensive career as a marketer in the beauty and consumer product goods space. Mallick is a LinkedIn Top Voice, a contributor for Entrepreneur and Harvard Business Review, and her writing has been published in Adweek, Fast Company, and Business Insider.

Mita Mallick is a corporate change-maker with a track record of transforming businesses.  She gives innovative ideas a voice and serves customers and communities with purpose. She was formerly the Head of Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Marketing at Unilever. She has had an extensive career as a marketer in the beauty and consumer product goods space. Mallick is a LinkedIn Top Voice, a contributor for Entrepreneur and Harvard Business Review, and her writing has been published in Adweek, Fast Company, and Business Insider.


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