The Difference Between Being "Not Racist" and "Antiracist"
The events of the past few months have fueled a unified focus and energy behind the problem of racism. As we begin to move from a desire to make things better to the actions needed, many of us are working on what it means to be a more effective part of the solution.
Ibram X. Kendi, an author and historian on the topic of racism, suggests that neutrality on the topic is not enough. Specifically, he explores the idea that "not racist" is not the opposite of "racist." Instead, "anti-racist" is.
In his work, he describes, "A not racist is a racist who is in denial. An anti racist is someone who is willing to admit the times in which they are being racist, and who is willing to recognize the inequities and the racial problems of our society, and who is willing to challenge those racial inequities by challenging policy."
How do we move from, "I'm not racist" to "I'm antiracist?"
From the book's website, "Ibram X. Kendi's concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America--but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. Instead of working with the policies and system we have in place, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it."
Personally, as the work-in-progress that I am in my own antiracism, I found the following reflection Professor Kendi ends with in his podcast helpful as a starting point: That if you want to be a change maker, you have to have hope, and there's no such thing as a cynical change maker.
I'm energized by the hope I see around me at UCSF, and the way we are beginning to take the steps needed to actively become an antiracist organization. No matter where we are individually on our own paths, our support of each other in this will help us achieve that shared vision.