Racist Prejudice: Why It Hurts


Racist Prejudice: Why It Hurts

Approved by Shirlette Wint, psychotherapist and social worker

You’ve surely seen videos, images or comments on social media that talk about certain communities using hateful words, jokes or preconceived notions about the way they look or act.

You may have told yourself that these were just minor attacks and they weren’t that serious. And yet, these offensive words can deeply hurt the people they target.

So, why do these preconceived notions hurt? How long have they been around? And how can we get rid of them? Here are some ideas to help you.

What is racist prejudice?

What is racist prejudice?

You probably already know, but a reminder is always helpful.

👉“Racist prejudice is a preconceived notion held by a person or a group of people that is based on the idea that certain people are inferior to them because of their race or skin colour. Mistrust, rejection, mockery, physical and verbal violence—people from diverse backgrounds suffer many injustices.”

Remember that there are no scientific, social, economic, religious or cultural reasons to say that one race is better than another.

In fact, these preconceived notions usually stem from ignorance, a lack of curiosity about others or fear of the unknown. They often appear during times of social crisis (health, economic, political): it becomes convenient to single out certain communities to blame them for the situation.

❌The effects of these racist stereotypes are extremely negative: violence, lack of open-mindedness, the entire society becoming unable to internalize new ideas and stopping progress in its tracks.

Why can racist stereotypes hurt so much?

  • Imagine you’re working as hard as you can, you get lots of good marks, but your teacher doesn’t congratulate you or invite you to certain extracurricular activities.
  • Or your classmates never ask you to be part of their team for group projects at school.
  • Or several times per week, the police stop you for a check while you’re just walking home, minding your own business.
  • Or you can’t go shopping with your friends without a security guard following you around.


How would you feel?

As they experience this again and again, young people from diverse backgrounds can feel threatened all the time: they have to watch their behaviour and others’ reactions even though they’re in safe places like school, malls, parks or public transit.

Too much worry can lead some to be:

  • sad,
  • discouraged,
  • anxious,
  • angry.

And this can even lead to more serious problems like depression, eating disorders or violence.

What should you do if you’re a victim of discrimination?

What should you do if you’re a victim of discrimination?

If you’re a victim of racism, speak up, because it’s unacceptable.

If you’re a victim of racism, speak up, because it’s unacceptable. At school, on the street or in stores, think about surrounding yourself with witnesses who can confirm what’s happening to you. Report the situation to an adult you trust, like an educator, teacher, nurse or other school worker, so they can help you. Know that there are also resources available in many community and athletic centres.

If you’re 16+ visit the Carrefour jeunesse-emploi’s website.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking about your situation with an adult face-to-face, you can contact free, anonymous hotlines to speak to a worker who will listen:

Resources where you can get help

🙅‍♂️Don’t give in to the temptation to resolve the situation on your own using violence, for example. This could cause you more problems and would not help move things in the right direction.

In any case, don’t keep your suffering to yourself—talk about it 🙏.


Do you sometimes have prejudices?

Do you ever hesitate to approach people who are different from you?

Can you put your finger on what’s stopping you?

  • You’re scared of being rejected
  • You’re afraid of being judged by your friends
  • You’re shy
  • You’re concerned about your reputation

Even without meaning to, we can unconsciously internalize prejudices about certain communities because of what we hear in the media, at school or in our family. Therefore, it’s important to become aware of them so they’re easier to get rid of.

Here's a test to help you see whether you have any prejudices so you can act on them:


Some people are better in math or science at school because of their background.

How can you get rid of hateful ideas?

The best ways to start getting rid of hateful ideas and act:


👀 Try not to rely on your first impressions: prejudices warp reality.
🌎 Take an interest in other people’s cultures: their language, history, customs, etc.
📺 Take a step back from media that always presents certain communities in a bad light.
🙅‍♀️ Stop racist ideas by not repeating jokes or remarks that you hear around you.
🚩 Think about reporting all racist content on social media and not commenting on them in order to stop them from spreading.
💪 Use your voice on social media to speak up against racism and open the minds of your followers


Speak with a Tel-Jeunes worker: it’s anonymous, free and accessible 24/7