Race isn’t something that exists biologically, yet the importance we have given it in society manifests in our everyday experiences and continues to shape our lives. As we live in a society that gives privilege to white people, racist ideas are normalized throughout the media, social systems, culture, and institutions. We are led to believe that racism is caused due to individual mindsets; however, racist policies contribute to the polarization. Racist ideas in policies threaten the fairness of our institutions and the equity of our systems. In order to have a fair and just society, we must make unbiased choices and practice anti-racism in all aspects of the world.
In order to successfully vanquish systemic racism, we must continually work towards equality for all races, striving to undo racism from our mindset, personal environment, and the wider world - in other words, we must practice anti-racism. Indeed, this is not a new concept, but the Black Lives Matter movement has helped focus the spotlight on the importance of anti-racism. Especially in this age of social media, where everything is at your fingertips, many influencers have supported anti-racism by posting their views as Instagram stories and posts. However, anti-racism goes beyond simply reposting a graphic.
Rooted in action, anti-racism is the process of consciously identifying and opposing racism. It is about actively taking steps towards eliminating racism at a personal, systemic, and structural level. The goal of anti-racism is to change policies, behaviors, and beliefs that perpetuate racist ideas and actions. In a true sense, being anti-racist is believing that racism is everyone’s issue, and we all are equally responsible for putting an end to it.
People often mistakenly equate being “not racist” to eliminating racial discrimination. However, this is not true. Anti-racism is a way of life. Just like inculcating a new habit, anti-racism is a goal that requires consistent and conscious dedication to achieve. This is especially difficult because systemic racism is all around us. We are born into it and it is deeply embedded in our culture and communities including educational institutions, justice systems, government, and medical facilities. It is so pervasive that often times we don’t even notice how institutions and policies disproportionately favor some while acting as a disadvantage to others.
In his book “How to Be an Antiracist”, Ibram X. Kendi, a leading scholar on race and racial discrimination, examined many individual attitudes held by both white and non-white people that play a role in perpetuating racism. According to him, it is impossible to be “not racist” if you hold negative attitudes about groups of people depending on their race, ethnicity, or cultural heritage. As Kendi explains in How to Be an Antiracist: "The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it — and then dismantle it.”
No one is born racist or anti-racist, it results from our choices and behavior. Being anti-racist requires making choices involving self-awareness and self-reflection as we move through life. By not making anti-racist choices, we unconsciously uphold aspects of white supremacy and unequal institutions of the society. Being racist or anti-racist is not about who you are, it’s about what you do!
Some simple but consistent actions would help create an anti-racist society. Firstly, at the heart of racism is denial. It is not possible to acknowledge or change something that you deny or choose not to see. The very first step is to challenge the notions inside us - looking at our own beliefs and actions critically. It is observed that people who support racial equality also often unknowingly hold racist attitudes. This occurs due to implicit biases, which are largely unconscious but have an influence on our behavior. Even though we do not intend to pass racist comments or make racist choices, it is still possible to be a part of microaggressions and harbor unconscious racist biases. Thus, it is necessary to actively identify our actions and behavior.
The next step is breaking through denial by educating ourselves about the history of African Americans and the Black experience. Learn the history of racism and anti-racism, especially in America, to educate yourself about the complexities of the issue. Browse through the internet to find articles and books about the history of African Americans and racism.
Just as denial is at the heart of racism, seeing humanity in others is at the heart of anti-racism. Supporting humanity is like re-humanizing African Americans. Our intentions bring mindful presence and awareness to our thoughts and actions. Setting the intention to have an open heart and mind helps pursue the goal of anti-racism.
As stated previously, commitment to being anti-racist is displayed in our choices. When encountered with interpersonal racism, there are ways to respond and interrupt. Asking questions is a powerful tool to seek clarity or offer a new perspective. Seek clarity, offer an alternative perspective, speak your truth, find common ground, and set boundaries. These actions will help understand each other's beliefs and thoughts better, in turn making it easier to spread the idea of anti-racism.
Choosing love and healing over hatred and oppression is a path of courageous exposure. Having an attitude of gratitude, joy, and an open heart are components of love that help one bring anti-racism into daily life. However, being anti-racist at an individual and interpersonal level is only one aspect of the work.
To end racism, we must work to dismantle the root cause: racist policies at structural and systemic level. As an anti-racist, one must actively work on creating anti-racist policies. One must consciously promote equity by supporting policies that reduce racial inequity. Find local organizations involved in anti-racism efforts and help uplift their voices and ideas.
Because anti-racism is an active and ongoing process, it has the potential of creating impacts on the individual, community, and societal levels. Some potential effects of having an anti-racial society include: reduced obstacles to employment, improved educational experience, reduced racial disparities within the criminal justice system, improved interventions for at-risk youth, increased access to public facilities, encouraged social and political participation, and reduced hate crimes and racially motivated violence.
It is crucial to remember that anti-racism is not a one-time or occasional action, it’s a lifelong commitment towards fighting against racial inequality. The world is at a critical moment. It is a call of our time. We must do more than put out a story or read “not racist” comments - we must understand our shared history and collectively work to support humanity by eradicating racism in the many forms it exists.