explainer

It's not enough to say "I'm not racist." 5 antiracist things you can do in your daily life.

“I’m not racist but…” How many times have we heard that in our daily lives?

The words that follow are usually an insult about a particular race, a reductive joke or a sweeping generalisation.

Take Amy Cooper, the New York woman who made international headlines last month after she called police on black man, Christian Cooper, after he requested that she leash her dog: “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she was heard saying in the viral video of the incident.

In her public apology, Amy Cooper trotted out a predictable defence: “I’m not a racist. I did not mean harm to that man in any way.” [But…]

Watch: The problem with simply saying “I’m not racist.” (Post continues below.)


Video by BBC


This why author, historian and academic, Professor Ibram X. Kendi, suggests that we need a new way of uprooting inequality. It’s called antiracism.

What is antiracism?

First, Kendi argues, it’s important to understand a key thing about racism: it’s not a fixed part of a person’s identity; it’s not who they are.

“Racist is a descriptive term. It’s a term that identifies someone based on what they’re saying or doing,” he told NPR. “And so if you’re saying something that’s racist, if you’re supporting policies that are racist, then you’re being racist.”

Racial inequality is so deeply embedded in all levels of our society — individual, institutional, and structural — that people of all races, social groups and political persuasions will have been racist at some point, even if only by remaining silent or passive in the face of a racist action, policy or structure.

That’s where antiracism comes in.

Antiracism is about actively fighting against those racist actions, policies and structures.

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It means examining yourself and your world, being constantly self-aware, self-critical and willing to adjust.

As Kendi sums it up in his bestselling book, How To Be An Antiracist: “The opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘antiracist.'”

Listen: NITV political correspondent, Shahni Wellington, is determined to help address issues that Indigenous people face every day. (Post continues below)

How to be antiracist.

The concept of antiracism centres around accountability and action.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture puts it this way: “When we choose to be antiracist, we become actively conscious about race and racism and take actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives.”

That last part is key.

In her book, Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing, Dr Anneliese A. Singh explores the work of antiracism thought-leaders and offers a few conclusions about how we can strive for it in our day-to-day lives.

Here are just a few.

1. Read and educate yourself on the effects, impacts, and other structures of racism.

Seek out information and stories and perspectives about race and white supremacy in history, modern society, politics, media, economics, education, entertainment and more. Particularly seek out those offered by people of colour.

For example, here are 12 books to read about racism abroad and in Australia.

The resources below are also a great place to start, but there are thousands upon thousands more.




2. Identify new ways to challenge everyday racism and work on racial justice initiatives.

This may be interrogating the structure or policies of your workplace, or championing a local politician or community leader who is working to remove barriers to equality. Or by volunteering for organisations that are doing the same.

3. Identify internalised racial attitudes you have about people of colour.

“Remember how you participate in the thoughts, beliefs, and actions that uphold racism, whether you intend to or not, and how you ‘forget’ that racism exists.” —  Dr. Singh.

Microaggressions — or ‘casual racism’ — are key here. These are the everyday slights directed at minority groups, usually without the intention of causing offence. They’re little actions, but they can cause deep hurt.

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Asking to touch a black woman’s hair, for example (Mamamia‘s Kee Reece unpacks that here).
Or commenting on a person of colour being, “well-spoken”.
Or saying, “I’m not racist; I have a [insert minority race] friend.”
Or asking where a person of colour is “really from”.
Or using phrases like “those people” or “you people”.
Or saying “all lives matter” in response to a Black Lives Matter message.

And plenty more.

4. Take risks to challenge racism when you see it or realise when you are participating in it.


“Interrupt racial stereotypes when you hear them, and support people of colour in your personal and professional settings when they speak out about their experiences with racism.” — Dr Singh.

Next time someone makes a racist joke, for example, speak up; tell them you don’t find it funny and why. Another approach is to pretend you don’t understand it; forcing them to explain the joke makes them confront its racist premise.

5. Build relationships.

“Relationship building is a part of what you do along the way — with white folks and people of colour who are somewhere on their journey from nonracist to antiracist.” — Dr Singh.

This is vital to holding yourself accountable and continuing to learn. Because being antiracist is not something anyone will fully, perfectly achieve; it’s an ongoing, lifelong process.

But as Prof. Kendi writes in his book, “[We must] believe in the possibility that we can strive to be antiracist from this day forward. Believe in the possibility that we can transform our societies to be antiracist from this day forward. Racist power is not godly. Racist policies are not indestructible. Racial inequities are not inevitable. Racist ideas are not natural to the human mind.”

If you have the means to do so, you can actively help the Black Lives Matter cause in Australia and the United States by donating to organisations working towards racial justice, such as the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance and the Justice for David Dungay Fund to support the family of David Dungay Junior, an Aboriginal man who died in a Sydney jail. You can also donate to the Black Lives Matter Global Network here. If you can, consider regularly donating to Indigenous-run organisations and First Nations causes.
Other active ways to help include signing petitions, attending peaceful protests, listening to BIPOC, raising their voices, educating yourself on racism and privilege and ensuring we are all taking part in the conversation to dismantle systemic racism.

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