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How would you handle a friend who makes racist remarks?

I have recently become friends with a neighbor who is a friendly guy with a good sense of humor.  We seem to have interests in common and he’s fun to hang out with.  My guess is that we could, over time, become close friends.  However, because he’s had some unpleasant experiences with members of a particular race, he is prejudiced toward it.  As a result, he sometimes makes racist remarks that make me very uncomfortable.  Thus far I have ignored the remarks but I think I need to respond to them.  How should I handle this?

If you were the shrink, what advice would you give? 


Comment from RMC
Time: October 16, 2007, 11:50 am

If it’s a racial remark that the neighbor thinks is humorous, don’t laugh, smile, or show any facial appreciation. If it’s not intended to be humorous, don’t show recognition of the remark and continue the conversation seriously and on the proper level. This should give your neighbor indication of how you feel but yet give him opportunity to discontinue the offensive behavior on his own. If he continues, say something like, “Please don’t be offended. I really enjoy our conversations. But, racial expressions kind of bother me.” If he still continues, make friends with your neighbor on the other side.

Comment from K
Time: October 17, 2007, 10:34 am

I would handle it this way…
I value your company and I enjoy our conversations and sometimes I feel very uncomfortable in myself when you use racist comments. I understand that your own experiences with some people of this race have caused you some grief and I can understand your reasons for feeling as you do. However, I would feel much more comfortable with you if you would consider keeping those comments to yourself whilst I am in your company. How do you feel about this?
1. Own your feelings and be honest.
2. Respect your friend’s right to feel how he does and to have his own judgments on a subject.
3. Keep judgment of your friend out of it.
4. Say what you would prefer.
5. Give your friend an opportunity to voice how he feels about what you have just said.
6. Keep your voice tone respectful and friendly.
In light of what you have just read, how would you word what you need to say to your friend? How can you both respect his needs and yours here? If a friend was asking you for the same advice, what would you say to that friend?

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