Image credit: Tucson.com
As Angela Davis put it, “in a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist”. If we are going to dismantle a human history’s worth of the white supremacist, imperialist and colonialist policies, attitudes and institutions that led us to where we are today, we must be anti-racist.
What does it mean to be anti-racist? It means doing the work to educate yourself on the privileges you have and benefit from, while trying to understand the lived experiences of those who do not hold these privileges. It means understanding the levels of individual, interpersonal, institutional and structural racism that exist. It means reflecting our own biases, privileges and platforms to strategise how we can confront racism at each of these levels, from talking with family and colleagues to curating the media and products we consume.
For me and the work I do with Variety Pack, it means starting conversations with private and public sector leaders who want to do better. It means encouraging them to ask questions and take an honest look at the institutional racism present at so many of the UK’s most influential organisations. In this way, being anti-racist can be as simple as challenging a colleague on a racist statement they made or starting a difficult conversation with a family member.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder in the US, there has been discussion in UK media about differences between racism in the US versus the UK, which misses the point. Racism leads to murder. Failing to recognize the humanity of another individual leads to murder. It takes active anti-racism, particularly among the non-black community to dismantle our racist society that knows no borders.
In the words of James Corden “White people cannot just say any more, I’m not racist and think that’s enough.....how can the Black community dismantle a problem that they did not create?”
Which brings me to #BlackOutTuesday, a social media campaign that has united as much as it has divided. It was criticised as being a superficial means of performative activism at best, and a harmful distraction from and silencing of vital #BlackLivesMatter demonstration updates, at worst. While it’s important that our activism does not end with black squares filling social media, a mass digital demonstration can be a powerful tool to bring in new supporters. Solidarity needs to start somewhere. A call for patience is not what we need right now, but through my work, I have seen the need for meeting people where they are to build the understanding and trust that lead to constructive allyship. Change takes time and collective effort.
For those who participated in #BlackOutTuesday and are looking for further actions to take, I recommend:
Reading up on race and racism in the US
Checking out @EmmaDabiri ‘s helpful post on the colonial history of whiteness
Donating or volunteering with anti-racist organisations in the UK
Frank Starling is the Founder and MD of Variety Pack | Diversity and Inclusion Consultants