What does it mean to be anti-racist?
First, let’s define “racism.” Merriam-Webster defines racism as, “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race… behavior or attitudes that reflect and foster this belief : racial discrimination or prejudice… the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another… a political or social system founded on racism and designed to execute its principles”
Now let’s differentiate “anti-racist” from “not racist.”
“Not racist” is passive and doesn’t require the system or individual to take any active or measurable steps towards disassembling racism in its many forms.
“Anti-racist,” on the other hand, is when individuals and systems actively advocate for racial equity while working to dismantle systems that perpetuate racism.
How can I become an anti-racist?
If you want to be anti-racist, you must want to make the time to educate yourself while understanding that becoming anti-racist is an ongoing, challenging process. You can begin wherever you want, but we think it’s helpful to view our past through the eyes of the oppressed. Look at the course of history and how it has shaped where we are today. More fully understanding our history will help you to understand systemic racism and how racism has influenced our society over time. We hope that you will feel inspired to make change, in whatever ways you can. When you decide to take action to promote racial equality, then you are understanding what it means to be anti-racist. We have carefully selected and gathered resources with the intention of guiding you on your journey.
Can a system, which has been built on generations of white privilege, be equalized to benefit all people, regardless of their skin color?
In short, we say “yes,” but it won’t happen overnight. Just as we have systemic racism to dismantle, we have an anti-racist system to assemble. The work begins within, and after shifting your thoughts and behaviors around racism, you will be better equipped to begin helping to replace practices and policies that perpetuate inequality with ones that promote equality.
What exactly is “white privilege?”
As described by Wikipedia, “White privilege,” or “white skin privilege” is the “societal privilege that benefits white people over non-white people in some societies, particularly if they are otherwise under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. With roots in European colonialism and imperialism, and the Atlantic slave trade, white privilege has developed in circumstances that have broadly sought to protect white racial privileges, various national citizenships and other rights or special benefits.”
Showing Up For Racial Justice describes the differences between white privilege and white benefits, and goes on to state that “It is not that white Americans have not worked hard and built much. We have. But we did not start out from scratch.”
What is “white fragility” and “white guilt?” Do they mean the same thing?
If you have heard the term “white fragility,” it may be because of the popularity of the 2018 book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, written by anti-racist scholar Robin DiAngelo who coined the term. In her book, DiAngelo describes white fragility as “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves… Includ[ing] the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt.”
According to Wikipedia, subtypes of “white defensiveness” include white fragility, white denial, and white diversion: “White defensiveness is a term developed by scholars to describe allegedly defensive responses by white people to discussions of societal discrimination, structural racism, and white privilege. The term has been applied to characterize the responses of white people to some portrayals of the Atlantic slave trade and European colonization, or scholarship on the legacy of those systems in modern society.”
“White guilt,” on the other hand, is defined by Wikipedia as, “the individual or collective guilt felt by some white people for harm resulting from racist treatment of ethnic minorities such as African Americans and indigenous peoples by other white people, most specifically in the context of the Atlantic slave trade, European colonialism and the legacy of these eras.”
While white fragility and white guilt are not synonymous terms, they are related and connected by the common thread of some white persons’ mental and emotional responses to the discomfort that can arise when confronting racism.
Are there any simple, practical actions that I can apply to myself, my family, or any of my friends to reinforce anti-racist thoughts and actions?
Absolutely. Check out the resources we feature on our site. Make some time to watch a film or television series, start reading a book for yourself, read or buy a book for a child or teacher, confront and shift some of your own thinking and behaviors, or diversify your child’s group of friends. These are just a few examples of simple places you can start your journey.
What does it mean to be an ally?
Wikipedia states that an ally “is a member of an alliance,” and that an alliance as “a relationship among people, groups, or states that have joined together for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose.” We think Guide to Allyship does a great job of explaining what it means to be an ally, which firstly involves taking on the struggle of others as your own. When you choose to be an “ally in struggle” to people of color, then you are making a commitment to participate in racial justice.