Tools and Tips for Anti-Racism Work
Below are some initial steps you can take right now to begin anti-racism work
- Think through how white supremacy impacts the issues you work on. How do the issues you work on affect communities of color? How is leadership structured in your organizations or networks? How do these structures challenge or reinforce white supremacy? Are the folks at the table of decision-making the same folks who experience the impacts of those decisions?
- Being an ally/accomplice is different than simply wanting not be racist. Being an ally/accomplice requires you to educate yourself about systemic racism in this country. Read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me (which was just read this semester by the new First Year course- Bulldog Foundations) and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and so many other great books and articles that illuminate oppression and structures of white supremacy and white privilege. Use your voice and influence to direct the folks that walk alongside you in real life (or follow you on the internet), toward the voice of someone that is living a marginalized/disenfranchised experience. (Note: the reading listed here provide a very wide array of thoughts and perspectives on how to do anti-racism work. You may be challenged by some, you may disagree with some, you hopefully will have questions about a lot of it. All that is totally OK and good. The important thing is that you’re reading up and educating yourself). Being an ally/accomplice requires you to educate yourself about systemic racism in this country.
- Ask when you don’t know — but do the work first. This is nuanced. Some marginalized/disenfranchised folks will tell you not to ask them anything; don’t be offended by that. Folks are tired, and that is understandable because it is exhausting to be a marginalized person in this world. However, there is something special that happens within human connections and relationships. In a nutshell, don’t expect for people to educate you. Do the work to educate yourself. Ask questions within relationships that feel safe, and do so respectfully.
- Critique/question the notion of colorblindness in regards to racial justice. Many of us have grown up with this notion. Rather, consider embracing the ideas of equity and inclusion. Here are Drake’s institutional commitments to equity and inclusion. Consider what your personal commitment to equity and inclusion might be, or that of your organization. Maybe take a few minutes and write out what those would be.
- Engage in questions and understanding what scholars call intersectionality. Study the thought of Women of Color and queer people of color and develop your understanding of the intersections of oppression and privilege. Angela Davis, bell hooks, Andrea Smith, Audre Lorde, Audre Lorde Project, Barbara Smith, Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, Betita Martinez, Incite! Miss Major, Women of Color Against Violence, #BlackLivesMatter, Sylvia Rivera, TGI Project.
- Learn about social movements led by people of color and indigenous people past and present in the U.S. and around the world. Look for examples both inside of and outside the U.S. These are all great resources for learning about social movements: Black Girl Dangerous, Colorlines, Feminist Wire, Leaving Evidence Blog, Left Turn Magazine, Upping the Anti, Organizing Upgrade, Left Roots, Freedom Archives, Social Justice Journal.
- Get on email lists, go to events, volunteer to support, and/or become a donor. Liking the Facebook pages, following the Twitter/Instagram accounts of racial justice organizations is a great place to start. If you’re already connected to a social justice organization, you could start finding more organizations by seeing who they work in coalition with.
- Explore your own stake in collective liberation. How have you been negatively impacted by systems of oppression, even when you’re on the “benefitting” side? How would you benefit from the success of freedom struggles? Practice talking about racism and other systems of oppression, as well as your vision for the world you’re trying to build.
- In mostly or all white organizations, work to build relationships of trust and accountability with anti-racist organizations and communities of color. See if there are ways to do solidarity work and eventually, if there are ways to collaborate. Develop your organization’s work with goals of challenging white supremacy in society and building anti-racist principles in white communities.
- Practice humility and receiving feedback with an open mind. One of the side effects of privilege often means we are told that all of our opinions are the most valuable, smart, and right. Hearing otherwise gracefully is an important skill to gain. The mistakes are inevitable; the process of learning from those mistakes requires humble and honest reflection. The more work you do, the more mistakes you will make. Remember that feedback on our practice of anti-racism is often someone who we’ve impacted, but who is still willing to give us feedback. This is a gift toward our growth. Don’t be distracted if the wrapping is hard to look at.
- Study the history of white people working against racism. You could start by watching “Southern Patriot” about Anne Braden, or read “Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power” by Amy Sonnie and James Tracy.
- Find an anti-racist mentor who has more experience than you, who will share lessons from their history, help you learn from your own experiences, and support you to think through questions you have and challenges you face.
- Build intentional relationships with white activists or organizers who share your values and politics. Having a support network of other white people striving to practice anti-racism is crucial to this work, so we are not relying on people of color to hold our learning or emotional processes when we make mistakes.
These resources are accumulated from various sites such as- Sojourners: For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies; Psychology Today; Colorblind Ideology is a Form of Racism; Catalyst Project; 15 ways to strengthen anti-racist practice;