Ibram X. Kendi once said “The opposite of racist is not ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’”” Within the pages of his book, How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram further explains that being anti-racist involves confronting racial inequities and locates the root of problems in power and policies. Anti-racism is not a stagnant quality, but rather a verb that involves constant action at both the individual and institutional levels, enacting change to ultimately promote equity and dismantle racism at the structural level. You can’t just be anti-racist — you must do it.

While reading, maybe you are asking yourself, how do I do this? Where do I even begin? Fortunately, there are actions we can take individually and collectively in order to dismantle racism and promote equity. These steps involve educating yourself, continuously being open-minded and seeking clarity, and advocating to promote equity.

Educating Yourself:

The first step you can take in being anti-racist is to educate yourself about systemic racism and the black experience as well as the ways that racism can present itself in daily life. This step involves learning, understanding, and recognizing ways to change how racism embeds itself within laws and policies. Learning about historical context also allows us to comprehend how laws and policies create inequity for black individuals. Here is a list of books that focus on anti-racist work:

  • Ibram X. Kendi — How to Be an Anti-Racist

  • Reni Eddo-Lodge — Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

  • Ijeoma Oluo — So You Want to Talk about Race

  • Michael Eric Dyson — White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

Reading these books can be the starting point to gaining knowledge and understanding from the page that we can implement concretely into our own lives. Additionally, we can also turn to videos that can help us learn and understand how to be anti-racist, such as these below:

At the individual level, you can start by educating yourself through these different mediums and beginning to have conversations with others about your gained knowledge — however, the work does not stop here. Being anti-racist is a ongoing process that requires us to continue learning, be open-minded, and question what we know in order to keep on seeking understanding and clarity. Intentionally practicing anti-racism requires attentive and continuous action to pursue understanding and knowledge.

The Institutional Level:

At the institutional level, we can work towards being anti-racist by not only educating ourselves on laws and policies that promote inequity, but also by lobbying for the change of those inequitable laws and policies. At a structural level, it is important to dismantle unequal power structures in order to work towards a more equal society.

In the Chicagoland area, there are organizations that work towards this goal by developing policies promoting racial justice — one of these organizations is Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism, or Chicago ROAR. Chicago ROAR offers various ways to work towards dismantling systemic racism, including workshops, consulting sessions, and strategic planning sessions. If you live outside the Chicagoland area, a quick Google search can help assist you in finding anti-racist organizations near you. If there are no anti-racist organizations in your area, starting an organization with the help of others can be beneficial for your town/regional area to learn more about anti-racist work and how it impacts the area in which you live.

Personal reflection, gaining knowledge, and having hard conversations are catalysts for anti-racist work. Together, these steps open the doorway for us as individuals to unite and use our knowledge and our voices to work towards putting anti-racist work into action to promote equity.


References

Being antiracist. National Museum of African American History and Culture. (2021, May 7).

Center for antiracist research. Antiracism Starts with You | Center for Antiracist Research. (2021, March 16).

Chicago, IL. Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training. (2021, July 7).

Goodreads. (n.d.). How to be AN Antiracist quotes by Ibram X. KENDI. Goodreads.

Haynes, S. (2020, June 2). Books to read to educate yourself about anti-racism and race. Time.

Kirsten Ivey-Colson The AntiRacist Table Kirsten Ivey-Colson, Follow Kirsten Ivey-Colson The AntiRacist Table Kirsten Ivey-Colson, & Follow Lynn Turner The AntiRacist Table Lynn Turner (she/her) is a native Washingtonian. (n.d.). 10 keys to Everyday Anti-Racism. Greater Good.

What you can do to create an anti-racist organization – recruiting – harvard business school. (n.d.).

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