Recognizing that you have held racial biases and have denounced racism is the cornerstone of becoming anti-racist.
You realize that not being racist is not enough, it is time to not be silent.
As Angela Davis says “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
And it definitely isn’t enough to just say a quote and make a statement, we need to walk the walk and talk the talk.
What is the difference between being “not racist” and “anti-racist”?
Being not racist is making a personal choice to not participate in believing that any person that belongs to a skin color group is the same as all the people in that color group. Along with that, refusing to believe the common negative perception of those people.
Being anti-racist is choosing to not stay silent on the matter. It is not enough to just make the choice to not be racist.
You also need to be willing to speak up, to make it known that racist comments and systems will not be tolerated around you.
Being anti-racist is being committed to educating yourself on the issues of racism so that you can be more informed and be willing to inform others on the matter.
Please know, even if you’re starting out with no information other than you just don’t want to be racist, you can still be anti-racist.
There is so much depth and complexity to racism. It is commonly misconstrued as just a feeling of hate towards another race.
But let’s break it down into bite-size pieces by the different types of racism.
*Please do not skip over this, even if you are not racist, in order to be anti-racist you need to understand the different types of racism so that you can recognize them and help dismantle them.
This is about someone’s personal beliefs. These beliefs can be conscious or subconscious. Subconscious racism is also referred to as racial bias. You can read more about racial bias here.
- These beliefs can be something as simple as believing black people are dangerous and so a person will avoid them at all costs.
- It could also be believing that this person’s race is superior to other races. Or that if people of a different race get any power, that they will somehow lose power.
- A person who is ok with telling racist jokes
- A person who thinks they know that a person of color, is up to no good, they don’t belong, etc.
- A person who just does not like people of color
- A person who refers to people by their skin color or ethnicity. (For example: “I met someone she’s Columbian but I really like her” instead of “I met someone, her name is Claudia”)
This is how you interact with and treat other people
- This happens when a person distances themselves from people of color
- A person doesn’t hire someone based on their race
- How a person speaks to people of color including calling them racial slurs
- How a person acts towards others, including hateful acts or even not smiling towards or making eye contact towards people of color
- Having stereotypes affect how a person treats people, for example instead of a teacher seeing a black child as having a bad day they label him a bad child and continue to treat him as such.
This deserves it’s own post but for the sake of keeping things brief and bite size:
This is how a system is set up to give better outcomes to white people over people of color.
These systems are discreet and built into the fabric of our nation. The system isn’t broken, it was intentionally built this way.
These systems include:
- Our criminal justice system
- The rate in which people of color, especially African Americans and Latinos are put in prison is disproportionate to the rate of white people. “Although African Americans and Latinos comprise 29% of the U.S. population, they make up 57% of the U.S. prison population. This results in imprisonment rates for African-American and Hispanic adults that are 5.9 and 3.1 times the rate for white adults, respectively—and at far higher levels in some states.” –The Sentencing Project
- The prison population is also directly related to the way that police interact with their community. By targeting black and brown people. The numbers are astonishing. You can check them out here. And just to pull a small quote out of that article: “Police are twice as likely to use force against people of color“
- Our school system
- Have you ever heard of the school-to-prison pipeline? In a nutshell, this is the criminalization of children that lead them into juvenile detention centers and then into prison. This is especially prevalent among minorities. -ACLU
- Not to mention the racial bias in teachers that label black and other minority children as problem children, or teachers who just blatantly commit racist acts against children because of their own racist ideologies.
- Access to education. When living in poor neighborhoods (check the redlining reference below) because of the gross disparity of wealth where schools are funded by property taxes, children of color have fewer resources and less access to almost everything compared to their white counterparts. This also affects college acceptance.
- 67% of doctors have racial biases against African American patients. source
- Institutional racism also affects wealth disparities, income, and employment. It literally touches everything, the entire system is infested with rules, laws, and systems that purposefully work against people of color.
Systemic racism is seen today mostly as economic inequality.
For 300 years African Americans were not allowed to build wealth in this country. Anything they did belonged to their slave owners. So while white people were buying land, black people did not have that same opportunity.
Then when slavery ended, and black people tried to build their own wealth it was taken away from them.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma black people built what was called Black Wall Street. It was made up of prosperous black-owned businesses.
White people came in and bombed it and burned it down leaving 9,000 people homeless. You can read all about it here.
So for 300 years, white people were able to buy and sell land while black people could not. Then segregation happened for 100 years, and black people were only allowed to buy property in the most undesirable places and of course- away from white people. While still being subject to redlining and refusal of home loans based on the color of their skin.
Segregation ended only 70 years ago with lasting effects and institutional racism still built so deep into the system that it has been near impossible for black people to build the same wealth as white people.
Keep in mind that 70 years is 2 generations. So while white people have been afforded the opportunity to build wealth for far longer, black people have literally only had 2 generations, that have also been crippled by our continued racist system designed to still hold black people back from building wealth.
Here is a wonderful video on systemic racism:
“The complex system by which racism is developed, maintained and protected is often referred to as structural racism.” – Racial Equity Tools
Understand that it is an entire system made up of multiple components to essentially “keep racism alive” but also behind the scenes.
The purpose is to keep inequality working like a well oiled machine in our country.
This includes and is not limited to intentional divisiveness against the black community.
An example would be how the crack epidemic was caused by the CIA pouring crack into black neighborhoods. Seems too crazy to be true right? And yet it is, you can read about it here. This of course will never be outright admitted by the CIA.
How to be Anti-Racist
Being anti-racist is a choice. A choice to recognize that if you have any racial biases, racist ideologies, or contribute to any of the components of racism in our country that you will stop and speak out against them.
- Understand that racism is everyone’s problem.
- We are seeing that now in 2020 as people begin awakening to the fact that our country has never removed racism from our systems, that it has never reconciled for the sin and atrocious acts against black people in this country and that has left our country and especially our police force with apathy towards black lives.
- Do not choose silence.
- Whether that is taking a stand right now and announcing that you are against racism and denouncing anyone who is racist. Letting it be known that you will not stand for racism anymore so that people know that they should not make racist remarks around you- or maybe even being able to change the minds of people with racist ideologies.
- Start listening
- If you are white, this isn’t about you. This is about the hurt and the marginalized people of color that need their voices to be heard and amplified. Black people have been silenced for too long, and silencing someone or dismissing them because you don’t like their approach isn’t ok. Understand that black people are angry. If all of this happened to you, you would be angry too.
- Start educating yourself
- There are many people of color that are willing to take the time to educate you. But please understand that this is not the responsibility of the oppressed to educate the oppressor. There are plenty of books and resources for you to find to educate yourself.
- Think about the change that you can make in your corner of the world
- Who can you reach out to and have those tough conversations with? Did you realize that your job contributes to institutionalized racism? If you’re going to be anti-racist it’s not about quitting, it is about changing the system. Who can you talk to, what changes can you make? Make changes happen.
- Stand alongside the fight for racial inequality
- What petitions can you sign? Who can you call? What can you do? What unique voice do you have in this? Use it.
- Stop furthering the dehumanizing of black people
- This is one of the main facets of systemic racism. If your viewpoint of a black person can be changed then that can also change how you value their life. So when there is another murder of a black person, do not share the agenda of how they committed a crime 13 years ago so that makes the murder justifiable. Recognize when media, articles, podcasts, radio commercials, your friend’s Facebook posts, etc are being shared in order to distract from injustice and are meant to dehumanize a victim of injustice. You can read more about this in my post about The American Marketing of Black People.
- Pay attention to who you’re voting for. Racism isn’t only an issue for one political party of the other. It’s the whole system. Vote for politicians who are actively anti-racist.
- And don’t just vote for a president, vote for congress, vote for your mayor and the governor, and your sheriff.
In order to be anti-racist, you have to choose to not be silent, learn how to recognize the different ways racism prevails in our country, and actively help dismantle them.
If you need help confronting your own racial biases you can check this out.
If you would like to look through anti-racism resources click here.