It’s taken me a while to figure out exactly how I wanted to respond to what’s been happening across our country. Yes, I donated and I signed some petitions, but I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I felt that by not truly educating myself and sharing my thoughts, I wasn’t really doing my part. So I decided to approach the topic of racism the same way I would approach any topic I wanted to learn more about. I began consuming content and trying to synthesize that content in a way that could help me learn and create a plan of action and hopefully provide some value to anyone who reads it.
For reference, some of the most influential content for me has been the following:
- How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man with Emmanuel Acho
- 5 Lessons I’ve Learned about Racism by Ali Abdaal
- Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
And here are some of my biggest learnings and ideas for what you can do to be a part of the movement:
The opposite of racist is antiracist and these identities are not fixed
In Kendi’s book, he emphasizes the point that the opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist,’ but rather antiracist. A racist endorses racial hierarchy while an antiracist endorses racial equality. These identities can change from moment to moment. You can’t become racist or antiracist. Rather, in any situation, you can express either racist or antiracist ideas and can only strive to be one or the other. I found this point to be powerful because it opened up my eyes to see that defaulting to the status quo and simply being ‘not racist’ is not enough. The book also sheds light on many other types of racism that I wasn’t aware of such as Color Racism, Class Racism, Space Racism, and Behavioral Racism.
Behavioral Racism was a concept that stuck out to me and is when someone is making individuals responsible for the perceived behavior of racial groups and making racial groups responsible for the behavior of individuals. As long as the mind thinks there is something behaviorally wrong with a racial group, the mind can never be antiracist. Instead, we should treat and remember to treat individuals as individuals and to separate culture from behavior. There is no black gene.
“As long as the mind oppresses the oppressed by thinking their oppressive environment has retarded their behavior, the mind can never be antiracist.” — Ibram X. Kendi
You don’t need to worry about being cliché or not knowing everything
This is not to say you don’t have an obligation to get educated. However, you don’t have to be a complete expert on the topic to start getting involved and having discussions. In these last couple of months, I’ve been a little worried about what other people would think of me if I posted about BLM. Would they think I’m just hopping on the bandwagon for ‘clout’ (See great article on what other people think of you) and I’d just blend in with every other post? What I learned is that if people judge me for making a post about something important like BLM, that’s on them. If my posting has an impact on anyone that reads it and causes someone to change their perspective even slightly, then it was worth making.
“Before we can treat, we must believe. Believe all is not lost for you and me and our society. Believe in the possibility that we can strive to be antiracist from this day forward.” — Ibram X. Kendi
It’s not too late
Another worry of mine has been that since I didn’t make a post about BLM during the early weeks of the protests that I had missed my chance to say something. If I said something now, it would be out of place. My realization has been that it’s not too late; there is no moment that I missed. This is a long-term movement that requires as many allies as possible to take action. So if you haven’t had the courage to start a discussion, just get started now.
“What gives me hope is a simple truism. Once we lose hope, we are guaranteed to lose. But if we ignore the odds and fight to create an antiracist world, then we give humanity a chance to one day survive, a chance to live in communion, a chance to be forever free.” — Ibram X. Kendi
I also wanted to highlight the steps Kendi laid out in his book for what it takes to be an activist for antiracism:
- Admit racial inequity is a problem of bad policy, not bad people.
- Identify racial inequity in all its intersections and manifestations.
- Investigate and uncover the racist policies causing racial inequity.
- Invent or find antiracist policy that can eliminate racial inequity.
- Figure out who or what group has the power to institute antiracist policy.
- Disseminate and educate about the uncovered racist policy and antiracist policy correctives.
- Work with sympathetic antiracist policymakers to institute the antiracist policy.
- Deploy antiracist power to compel or drive from power the unsympathetic racist policymakers in order to institute the antiracist policy.
- Monitor closely to ensure the antiracist policy reduces and eliminates racial inequity.
- When policies fail, do not blame the people.
- Start over and seek out new and more effective antiracist treatments until they work.
- Monitor closely to prevent new racist policies from being instituted.
I am not a person of color. I don’t expect or claim to know everything on the topic of racism or to understand the experience of black people in America. I also have certainly not explained every important point that I have come across on the topic. I am on a journey of educating myself and figuring out how to best act in ways that are antiracist. I hope that this could either act as informational or as an impetus for education and positive action.