Ten Rules For Winning Arguments With Racists

Steven Barnes
2 min readMay 13, 2024



(Note: it would be hard to adjust this for gender bigots. I leave that as an exercise for the reader)

You may not agree with mine, but you need to have your own version of each of these.

#1: Winning is not convincing the “opponent”. It is convincing enough of the audience to accomplish your ends.

#2: Racism is not being a foaming, hateful monster. It is holding an opinion that different races or ethnicities have, on average, less capacity or worth.

#3: Most of society has agreed racism is a “bad thing”. This is the reason that people work so hard to hide it behind statistics and tricky rhetoric. Calmly expose it, and more than 51% of the audience will shift to your side. PEEL OFF THE MASK.

#4: If you devolve to insult or lose your cool…you lose.

#5: Your core job is not to refute their facts. It is to clearly lay out your position, and force them to reveal their attitudes.

#6: One of the best ways to force them to reveal themselves is the question: “under the same historical circumstances, would white people have been damaged as much, and complained as long?” Anything other than an enthusiastic “yes” is probably indicative of racist attitudes. This includes talking about successful immigrants and insisting that it is impossible to answer a theoretical question. They are avoiding saying what is really being thought.

#7: The core of racism is not information-based. It is philosophical and metaphysical, a question about the basic nature of the soul. Essence versus existence. Nature versus nurture. Learn to identify the “masks” over this belief, because they will try to distract you from the hard reality: at the base, there is no logical argument that can sway them for long. Not if the core belief is spiritual, with politics just being an outer layer.

#8. Never play a game you cannot win. If you define “winning” as “convincing a troll” they will tag-team you to death, keeping you bouncing around from one to another until you are exhausted and disheartened. Your game needs to be winnable REGARDLESS of their ultimate opinion.

#9: Work backwards from your goal. For instance: to be happy. How? To avoid pain and pursue pleasure. How? To create a fairer, healthier society. How? To create and support a voting bloc capable of winning elections. How? By creating a positive vision of the future that can engage minds and hearts.

#10: Be both strong and loving. Some of your “tribe” will be discouraged, traumatized, bruised, frightened. Be a beacon of hope to them. Show them by your words and actions that you have an open heart, a clear mind, and a willingness to fight for your dreams. That you will not allow snakes and monsters to frighten you from speaking your truth, or coming from a place of love. It will encourage the tribe…and drive the snakes crazy. They cannot fight it. No force is stronger than love. And nothing is more beloved than strength. Be kind…but take no shit.




Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts. www.lifewritingpodcast.com.