Is debating/trying to change the mind of racist/bigots worth it or a lost cause?

Do you think it’s worth it trying to deal with these people or are they too far gone? Is there any chance to get through them?

Unless you believe YOU could be talked into changing your own position, isn’t it kind of silly to believe they could be talked into your view?

Plus, you’re not their Mama and they’re already raised up.

Save your breath.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

You aren’t going to change their minds. You might influence or comfort others who are listening, though. That’s what I’ve heard as the rationale for correcting bigoted or hateful speech in mixed groups: you want to be heard by bystanders, not so much the bigot himself.

Just start a few more threads asking the same damn question, and eventually you’ll find out.


Le sigh.

Yet again, on a board that is supposed to fight ignorance, when certain subjects come up rote, uninformed answers are given.

It turns out that actually *talking *to people is the best way to change their minds. Not insulting them. Not calling them ignorant. Or stupid. Just talking to them and treating them like regular human beings.



Come on folks, stop jerking those knees and look.


Nope, not possible at all to actually talk with someone like Daryl Davis does and have people change their minds.

The documentary he was in, Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America was really good.

IMO, it’s worth a shot. To make the blanket statement that it’s never possible to change someone’s mind strongly implies that peoples’ minds cannot change. This, as we know, is demonstrably untrue.

So if people have the ability to change their minds, where does that change come from? Exclusively within? Not likely. Minds are changed by racists/bigots in the same way as they are for others: increased information, coupled with the ability to admit that perhaps what they believe is incorrect. There’s very little anyone can do about increasing someone else’s ability to admit they were wrong, all we can do is increase the amount of information they have to work with.

I’ve met people who have told me some variety of, “you know, I used to hate <insert random group of people here> when I was younger, but I’ve met some that I really liked, and learned more about them, and I don’t hate them any more!”

But here’s the thing: it’s not an instantaneous conversion. Sure, on occasion, someone has an epiphany and realizes they were wrong this whole time. But for the most part, the evolution is gradual. I generally try not to associate with people who hold racist ideas. When I do, and the subject comes up, I give them information and I give them examples from personal experience. I try to encourage them to tell me of their personal experiences, too. I don’t expect to change their minds, but I (hopefully) leave them with a little more in there so that they can change their own minds.

Well, the OP expressly states ‘to change their minds’, so I get what you’re saying, but not sure it applies here.

Do you truly believe someone could truly talk you into becoming a racist?

Your argument is weak. It’s based on the premise that racism and non-racism are equivalent and essentially just matters of opinion.

I disagree. I believe that racism is objectively and factually wrong. So an objective fact-based argument could convert a racist into a non-racist if they are open to such an argument. But the reverse is not true; no non-racist can be converted to racism by objective fact-based arguments because there no facts to offer in support of racism.

Let’s use crystal healing as an analogy. You could use a fact-based argument to convince a believer in crystal healing that crystal healing doesn’t work. But you couldn’t use a fact-based argument to convert a non-believer into a believer - because there are no such facts.

That said, fact-based arguments only work on people who are open to them. And people like that aren’t as common as we would wish. And people who are open to fact-based arguments but who also believe in racism (or crystal healing) are exceedingly rare.

Assuming that was meant for me, the answer is no. The breadth of my personal experiences are enough to counteract any argument they might have.

Now, if they had irrefutable scientific proof that people of any other race were inferior to me, and I had personal experiences about that race which reflected that evidence, then…perhaps. But then, they wouldn’t be talking me into anything I wasn’t already close to believing in the first place. So the answer is still no.

That said, I have in the past been convinced/coerced into thinking that I believed things which I knew were wrong (Stockholm Syndrome is a powerful thing, especially when coupled with an emotionally abusive spouse). But once my head cleared and I was out of that situation, my actual beliefs reasserted itself.

You can never reason someone out of a position that they didn’t reason themselves into. For that reason, most of the bigots and racists you run into aren’t going to be persuaded no matter what you say, because their reasons for believing are purely emotional and are thus immune to reason.

That said, there are always those who are reading and don’t participate. I fully agree with Sattua that the bystanders should be the real audience when you are correcting hateful speech.

Did you bother to check the links I provided? Anyone? Bueller?

Look folks, there is a ton of research in this field. Intergroup contact and interdependence appear to be the most effective.


This is just terrible advice. You have a moral obligation to speak up against bigotry, even without the expectation of changing soneone’s mind that particular day. I do admit that my arguments can vary in how passionately they’re expressed depending on how large and terrifying the bigot in question is. But I will say something.

Did you read the links?

Now granted, the article talked about one report that suggested the opposite result is possible.

Got a pointer for you. Don’t start out with the assumption the person you are talking to is a racist or a bigot.
In today’s “civil” discourse anyone can be labeled anything without evidence. If you want to have any hope of getting someone to agree with your opinion, get to know them and start out with the knowledge that you are both human beings with intrinsic value.

The problem with racists and bigots is that (by definition) they are starting out with the “knowledge” that I am less than human and a smaller measure of intrinsic value (if they believe I have any at all).

For me, at this point in my life, it isn’t worth the time and mental energy given the likely return.

First sensible post in this entire thread.

Nobody thinks that *they *are “the bad guy.” If you are disagreeing with them, they think *you *are the bad guy. They might think you are as much of a racist as you think they are. You have to start by finding first principles and understanding where your assumptions diverge.

Not necessarily. Sometimes you cannot change the world by actions nor by words. Only by example.

You know, they kind of think of us as racist/bigots too. Just sayin’.