How To Know If Someone's Racially Gaslighting You — And 10 Ways To Respond

Don't be afraid to speak out when you're experiencing racism, it's your truth.

10 Ways to Respond to Racial Gaslighting Daniel_Dash / Shutterstock

People of color are tired of being told the same things:  

"Are you sure it was about race?"

"Not everything is about race!"

"Why do you always have to make everything about race?"

This is called racial gaslighting. 

According to YourTango expert Dr. Jennifer Sweeton, "Gaslighting is defined as a form of manipulation (on the mild end), emotional abuse, or even psychological warfare (on the extreme end) that results in the slow dismantling of a gaslightee’s self-trust."


In other words, if someone is questioning you about an experience you had and is invalidating that experience, they may be gaslighting you. 

Racial gaslighting, more specifically, is when someone questions you about your experience with racism.

RELATED: Racial Gaslighting: What Is It And Why We Need To Stop Doing It 

Racial gaslighting can occur across different racial communities and contrary to popular belief, it's not just something that is committed by white people. People of color can gaslight each other, which adds a layer of complexity to the situation. 

It’s especially hurtful when people close to you, such as friends or family, don’t believe you when you say you’re experiencing racism. 


Experiencing racism can be a lonely experience at times. And It's exhausting to have to defend your experience. But in moments like these, it's important to stand your ground and speak your truth. 

There are ways to respond to racial gaslighting that allows you to stand up for yourself while encouraging a healthy discourse. 

Here are a few ways to respond to racial gaslighting:

1. “My experience is not up for debate.”

2. “This is my truth of what happened, please don’t try and invalidate that.”

3. “I would never question if you experienced racism, please don’t question if I did.”

4. “I don’t need to explain my experience to you.”


5. “That’s not what I remember happening, I know what happened.”

6. “I’m no longer interested in this conversation.”

7. “I’m walking away now.”

8. "Maybe to you this wasn’t about race, but to me this was. I won’t let you invalidate that.”

9. “I won’t engage with someone questioning my truth.”

10. “I’m speaking my truth and this is what happened.”

The key to standing up to racial gaslighting is speaking your truth, regardless of what other people say. 

RELATED: What Is Gaslighting? Here's Everything You Need To Know About The Term (And If It Might Be Happening To You)

Gaslighting is a tactic used by abusers when they want to have control over someone else, therefore racial gaslighting is a tactic used by racists. It’s a way to perpetuate white supremacy and keep white people in power. 


As people of color, we can either be complicit in upholding white supremacy, or we can fight against it. Speaking our truth is the way to actively fight against it.

Fighting against and responding to racial gaslighting can be really exhausting, to be quite honest. 

Sometimes you don’t owe people an explanation for what you’re experiencing and that’s okay and valid. It is up to you whether you feel the need to deal with someone who is invalidating your experience. Walking away is always an option, too.

But standing up for yourself is also an option, and if you choose to take that route, speaking out and refusing to be silent is a small step towards dismantling white supremacy. 


RELATED: Why 'Gaslighting' Is Such A Powerful Weapon Of Emotional Abuse — And What To Do If It's Happening To You

Angelique Beluso is a sex educator and writer who covers feminism, pop culture and relationship topics. Follow her @AngeliqueBeluso.