There is no quick way to snap swathes of the country out of racism. Derek’s story, though, does suggest to us that personal ties are crucial. We can probably stop arguing whether civility or incivility is more effective. We can legitimately choose to try to engage with racists or to express our outrage firmly. The ultimate lesson should always be to remain clear-eyed, straightforward, and open in our knowledge of what is right and wrong—and to always bear in mind that it is possible that some people, even those with much to lose, can change for the better.
Your article is instructive, in that it demonstrates, perhaps somewhat indirectly, that we can approach racism with empathy. People who are racist lack empathy for the target of their hate.
Empathy is a skill, just like anything else we learn from our parents . Racist people were taught racism, a lack of empathy for certain others, by their parents, caregivers, role models, mentors, etc, how not to have empathy.
By responding with empathy, Derrick’s girlfriend taught him a skill, how to have empathy for the people who were targets of his racism. Once Derrick became aware of the suffering he was causing, he had to develop empathy for himself. And along the way, he developed empathy, more empathy for others.