So, you want to be Anti-Racist?

Photo by Brett Sayles

Being anti-racist requires sustained reflexivity and commitment to lifelong learning. There is no template or formula to follow as each social period will have its own contexts and challenges. Language will change, attitudes will change, people … change. There are no short cuts, no answers, and no certifications that will help you become an ‘anti racist’. To be against racism, you must look within yourself, to question yourself, to process those difficult realisations, to overcome a narcissistic need to centralise yourself in the narrative through guilt, defensiveness, tears, or struggle comparisons. To really think about the part you have played consciously or subconsciously just by holding the invisible privileges you have been socialised into taking for granted.

Whether it is class, race, gender, or something else … we all hold privileges to some degree. Yet, it is our struggles that we use to define ourselves, not our privileges. Isn’t that funny? We are consciously drawn to our narratives of victimisation rather than empowerment. We look to each other for allyship but are often drawn into a struggle comparison disguised as relatable empathy. We find ourselves caught in social performativity, whether we are performing allyship or activism, our lives, and oppressions, are narrativised for us through the privileged gaze. If social performance is the status quo, then the alternative is usually physically inaccessible or framed as strange, paranoid, angry, or irrational.

Equating this point to racism as the socialised byproduct of whiteness, and whiteness as a model that upholds white supremacy – the ‘alternative’ to this would be anti racist activism. ‘Activism’ being the operative word. To be anti-racist, one has to remain active in their engagement and continue to do the work on themselves. This includes people from within our melanated communities who perform expertise but may hold unresolved prejudices or ignorances about the communities they claim to speak from, or for. Melanation is not a guarantee to holding anti-racist attitudes or inclusion expertise, no more than being a white liberal is a guarantee to holding allyship skills.

As individuals we occupy complexed positions that are informed by our experiences, cultural exposures, schooling, familial and social environments, personal socialised identities, and so on … as a people, we are not engaged in a battle of good versus evil but a battle of ideologies which determine our ways of being and social interactions.

In this context, this article returns to the earlier points raised around anti racist positions. To be anti-racist, one must begin by doing the work on themselves – because to not do so, is to hold on to a privilege that allows ignorance. It is only when we have truly begun to engage with this difficult dialogue with ourselves, that we can begin to interact and communicate on these issues more meaningfully as a whole. In the meantime, we risk performing anti racism, while those few communities, voices, and spaces that are committed to this work are left to hold the mantle of the expert, forever having their work and ideas basterdised for the profit of another. A racism within anti-racism …

Human pain and suffering is not a commodity, and activism is not a marketisation of pain. To be an anti-racist, you must decide on the values that drive you and use them to underpin your engagement. An engagement that requires lifelong learning, that emerges from humbly observing, listening, and then dismantling prejudice within self and beyond.