Antiracism is actively doing your part to understand, identify and change problems that contribute to racial injustice.
These problems include attitudes, policies, behaviors as well as subtle patterns and messages that sustain societies and subcultures that are — plainly put — racist.
☝️ Stopping racism requires active antiracism
The opposite of racist is antiracist. Antiracism underlines the need for racism to be actively countered with deliberate actions and attitudes.
Beverly Daniel Tatum is a psychologist, researcher and educator about racism. Her ‘moving walkway’ analogy is one of the most useful tools for explaining why someone can’t be a passive antiracist.
1️⃣ Moving walkways, like the ones in airports, move in a set direction based on how they are designed. By analogy, society is moving in a set direction based on how it was designed.
2️⃣ An active racist would see where the walkway is going, like the look of the outcome and start sprinting eagerly ahead. Yikes!
3️⃣ A neutral person might stand still. They don’t want to be seen as contributing to the direction. But they are heading to the same destination.
4️⃣ A passive antiracist would close their eyes or turn around so they can ignore the looming problem and feel they don’t have a part in it. But this has no meaningful impact.
5️⃣ The only way to stop the walkway and the people on it going to its destination would be to run in another direction and get everyone else involved in stopping and redesigning the walkway. This is active. This is antiracism.
🙋♂️ “I want to be antiracist. Can you tell me what to do?”
Don’t feel ashamed if you’ve ever asked this. But do know that there isn’t a litmus test for whether you’re antiracist. We all have different resources, positions, abilities and styles. And so we have to discover antiracist actions ourselves.
Antiracist work is about:
✅ Continuous unlearning and learning
✅ Discussing and challenging mindsets and practices in your sphere of influence
✅ Discovering ways you can change things for the better
Antiracist work is not about:
❌ Being perfect
❌ Asking people for instructions (especially if you don’t experience racism and they do)
❌ Following some out-of-the-box actions and expecting them all to work
For example, hiring a diverse team might be an important piece of the puzzle for you. But if you don’t learn about and challenge the bigger picture of racism, that action only goes so far.
🎓 The value of self-education
An ongoing self-education about racism will help you:
✅ Unlearn racist patterns in your own thinking
✅ Learn to see and take issue with racist patterns in society — this includes thinking critically about media, politics and what happens at work
✅ Stop ‘personalizing’ racial groups, which is seeing disparities as caused by behaviors or qualities of the group members.
For instance, beliefs like “Black neighborhoods are overpoliced because the people are more violent” or “I never meet Asian applicants for interview because they have no interest in my industry” are personalizing racial groups.
✅ Keep open ears and an open mind when someone points out a problem relating to racism
✅ Work to understand to the best of your ability what it is like to not have a privilege that you have
✅ Challenge yourself to think of your place within racism. Reflect and identify any times that you have made racist assumptions, turned a blind eye or upheld a racist practice without realizing.
✅ Explore your discomfort and debrief with someone if you can.
💡 A note: don’t expect help or energy from a person who experiences racism when you’re feeling emotional unless you really know it’s okay. For example, some people of color find it exhausting and distressing when a white person wants to talk about something they just learned about racism.
✅ Ask yourself, “Why did I have to seek this out?” Was there a reason I was not taught this at school or through my upbringing? Did I choose to not see something?”
✅ Trust marginalized voices have a perspective that you don’t have if you’re not part of that group.
✅ Remember that high-profile racist acts often reflect generalized attitudes rather than being an anomaly caused by one evil person. Ask yourself, “Could that have been me doing that racist thing? Or someone I know?”
✅ Pass along resources and inspiration. Lend books, send links and buy gifts for others to share self-education resources. Be vulnerable, humble and share what you unlearned and learned.
✅ Take time, value introspection and make it stick. Self-education is a journey, not a quick fix. There is no Antiracism 101. And we all have to reflect on what things mean for our lives and decisions because only we can do that work.
🔗 There are lots of resources available to help in your self-education. Here are just a few:
A Detailed List of Anti-Racism Resources curated by Katie Couric, Wake Up Call on Medium
The top 10 podcasts to think about race, diversity and equity at work, list, EU Startups
First Encounters With Racism, collection of short essays, The New York Times
Black Lives Matter, playlist, Spotify
Ten “Must Watch” Black History Documentaries, list, PBS
🗝️ Your key takeaway
Antiracism resources give you insight into the problems of racism and sometimes suggest possible solutions. It’s important you reflect for yourself on what you can take from these resources and use in your own life going forward.
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