Anti-racism is a process of actively identifying and opposing racism. It takes the form of challenging and actively changing policies, stereotypes, ideas, beliefs and social behaviours that perpetuate racist actions and produce harmful outcomes. Anti-racism is rooted in action; it is about taking steps to eliminate racism at the individual, institutional, and structural levels, rather than passively claiming to be non-racist.
The goal of anti-racists is to work towards ultimately cultivating a much more egalitarian, emancipatory society. This can only be achieved from a collective, historical understanding how years of federal, provincial, and local policies have placed Black, Indigenous and Racialized communities in the crises they face today, and rightfully identifying those policies for what they are: racist.
People often mistakenly believe that simply being “not racist” is enough to eliminate racial discrimination. The problem with this perspective is that white people are often unaware of their own unconscious biases. People often don’t fully understand the institutional and structural issues that uphold white supremacy and contribute to racist behaviours, attitudes, and policies.
Saying “but I’m not racist” also allows people to avoid participating in anti-racism. It’s a way of saying “that’s not my problem” while failing to acknowledge that even people who are not racist still reap the benefits of a system that is biased against other people.
As Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Centre at American University, notes in his book How to Be an Antiracist:
“One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist’ ; the claim of ‘not racist’ neutrality is a mask for racism.”
“The opposite of racist is not ‘not racist’, it’s anti-racist”.
Action: Start by being open to educating yourself, and viewing anti-racist education and action as an on-going process. It is important however to remember that it is not the job of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour to always be educating you, as the problem does not exist within them, but rather within the system that white people benefit from.
Anti-racism requires looking at your own beliefs and actions critically. Research has shown that even people who support racial equality often unknowingly hold racist attitudes. This discrepancy is often explained by the existence of implicit biases, or attitudes that are largely unconscious but nevertheless influence behaviour.
Anti-racist resources for White people.