Accept That You’re Racist. Then, Get To Work Dismantling Racism
If it wasn’t clear before the pandemic, Amy Cooper, or the senseless police murder of George Floyd, Western society is defined by an ethos of White supremacy. Our institutions uphold it; our laws reinforce it; our justice system makes it plain. Racism, and specifically anti-Black racism, isn’t merely endemic to White supremacy — under White supremacy, it’s unavoidable.
For White people who wish to be anti-racist, the first step in facilitating change is likely also the hardest: White people need to accept that they’re racist. All White people.
Racism without racists
Very few people would call themselves racist, and getting called out on racist behavior tends to elicit defensiveness. This reflex is so culturally ingrained that its scripts are practically punchlines: “I don’t see color.” “Some of my very best friends are Black.”
Donald Trump — the same president to deride Central American migrants as “animals” and who threatened martial law to stamp out nationwide protests against anti-Black police brutality — has declared himself “the least racist person there is.” As the writer Vicky Mochama points out in Canada’s Globe and Mail, with self-avowed racists in such short supply, one might conclude that racism magically perpetuates itself.
In her bestselling 2018 book, White Fragility, the author and academic Robin DiAngelo argues that one of the functions of White privilege is to advance the myth that racism is an individual sin, as opposed to a collective indoctrination. “[T]he way we are taught to define racism makes it virtually impossible for White people to understand it,” she writes. “Given our racial insulation, coupled with misinformation, any suggestion that we are complicit in racism is a kind of unwelcome and insulting shock to the system.”
If Speaking Up Feels Awkward, You’re Doing It Right
We have to unlearn the habit of staying silent about racism