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Diversity and Inclusion

Addressing common questions about antiracism

📌 A quick disclaimer
This forms part of our ‘How to be antiracist’ pathway in our Inclusion Works programme. For this pathway, we’ve made a conscious decision to focus on racism directed at Black people, given the current climate and Black Lives Matter movement.

We appreciate that racism is a major issue for other groups in America and around the world, and we’d love to do that justice in future content.

For now, we’d welcome your views and experiences on all forms of racism — please join the conversation here.

We also appreciate that people have different experiences of racism and are at different points in their journey learning about what they can do to combat it. This learning pathway is best suited to white people and non-Black people of colour that consider themselves at a beginner or intermediate level of their antiracism education.

When you delve into antiracism with yourself, your teams and your colleagues, there are many interesting points that will come up.

This card will equip you with some starting ideas and, in some cases, counterpoints for common queries in a conversation about antiracism.

1. “Who has to do antiracist work?”
Some experts believe that since white people are responsible for racism in Anglo countries — through their ancestors’ choices and their compliance in a system that benefits them — they alone should fix it.

White people are often in a safer position as they are less likely to be judged, ostracised or criminalised for speaking up against racism. They are also more likely to have a set of privileges that they can use to create change.

Plus it isn’t just or fair to expect people of colour to correct a system that actively, specifically disadvantages them.

But, of course, many people of colour already do incredibly important antiracist work.

People of colour share their lived experiences. They actively design and lobby for better practices and policies. They work hard to unpick internalised mindsets. They lead movements like Black Lives Matter.

The perspectives and contributions of people of colour are vital to any future that is antiracist. And, rather than charity, antiracism needs solidarity.

Our bottom line: everyone should consider antiracist work that they are equipped to do and can safely do. In practice, white people may have more work to do to shift their consciousness, confront racism and leverage the privileges at their disposal.

However, this isn’t black and white (pardon the phrase) since everyone is at different points in their journey learning about and confronting racism.

2. “Antiracism sounds anti-white and isn’t that racist or prejudiced itself?”
In the nitty-gritty of antiracism work, white people can feel called out and scared they will have to give up things like their wealth or position. But antiracism is all about equity and equal playing fields, not stripping the privileged of all their privileges to punish them.

Plus, a fear of not being dominant is a ‘psychological projection’. If someone has that fear it means that, deep down, they know they’re benefitting from unfairness and they’re scared of being treated the way their society treats others.

Tweet by @BOSSdowdell on Twitter. Text: Why are white people scared about becoming a minority in the 2040’s? Are minorities treated badly in America or something?

3. “I want to be antiracist. Can you tell me what to do?”
There isn’t one tiny litmus test for whether you are antiracist. We all have different resources, positions, abilities and even styles.

Broadly, 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 (yes, we said this was broad!)

Antiracist work does not entail:

❌ Asking people of colour for instructions if you are white

❌ Following some out-of-the-box methods and expecting them all to work. For example, voting for a particular political party or hiring a diverse team might be important pieces of the puzzle for you. But they have limited power if you don’t learn about and challenge the bigger picture.

4. “Can’t we just move on from the past?”
Knowing your family and community were direct victims of colonialism, slavery or oppression (which were not that many generations ago) is traumatic. Knowing that the direct repercussions affect your community and living family today is traumatic.

One of the most insidious parts of racist messages in our education, politics and media is that we are already at our goal of a just society. This tricks people that don’t live this trauma into thinking that antiracist actions aren’t important.

⚠️ Watch out for ‘moral licensing’! Sometimes signs of progress trick people into thinking that they can do no wrong. Research from Stanford suggested that after Obama was elected in the US, a sense of racial harmony and credentials for voting for a Black president made people more positively biased towards white people!

However, moving on is possible. The charity MoveOn champions moving on from inequality through political progress and diplomacy. That’s an antiracist mindset to moving on. Suggesting we forget the past is not, especially if it ignores that oppression has simply been redesigned.

Solidaarisuudesta Naistenpäivä by @annasalmi.

5. “Antiracism seems so political and like it’s about making our country socialist…”

Let’s get this straight: racism is a human rights issue. And antiracism is compatible with a diversity of perspectives and voting tendencies.

But many objectors think antiracism is a Trojan horse for left-wing ideas, a push for multiculturalism or idealistic young people being radical. They worry this might undermine other things they want.

Jonathan Haidt is a researcher and author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. He reminds us to step back from the issue, back from the specific friction or policy and look at the values that underlie someone’s views.

💡 If you are trying to ‘win over’ someone to join you in antiracist work, focus on values. Explore what actually matters to you and to them. Which of these values is really at stake if we do or don’t do antiracist work? For example, if a competitive work/national culture is important to them, discuss the economic business case for equal opportunity.

Harness the power of Black Lives Matter

We've taken a close look at how the Black Lives Matter movement is leading to lasting change. How can you harness the movement's power in 2021 and beyond?

Read more here

Inclusion Works

This resource was taken from our Inclusion Works programme, which was created with a network of more than +100 diverse contributors and advisers. We learn from, amplify and cite creators of different races, ethnicities, genders and cognitive styles and continually work to represent all dimensions of diversity.