Anti-blackness as a concept exists in all parts of the world as we know it. It manifests itself in different forms and is more entrenched in some cultures than in others. However, the truth of the matter is that we have been socially conditioned to believe the negative stereotypes surrounding black people. The 500 plus years of colonialism and imperialism rooted in the dehumanisation of black people have impacted the way we navigate life today. This history has benefited people of other races, mainly white, who benefit despite very few people alive being the ones responsible for those horrendous acts. The same way all living black people suffer from those horrendous acts today.
The ‘racial privilege’ non-blacks experience comes at the expense of the livelihoods of black people. The internalised racist concepts on blackness and black people affect people’s perceptions of us and our relations.
“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist” – Angela Davis.
Meaning that in order for one to not be racist non-black people need to actively use their privilege to denounce racism and change the current status-quo. Otherwise, your empathy is merely performative, and you are comfortable with continuing to benefit of racial privilege. This includes, but is not limited to, calling your friends and family out when they make racist jokes., understanding how racism as a system works in your country and putting in the effort to not allow it to continue and by being more inclusive of black people, by creating spaces that acknowledge our existence and celebrate it. Allow black people to be the narrators of their stories by actually listening to them.
So, here are 10 short guides on how to be anti-racist:
- No, you cannot say the N-word. And no, it doesn’t matter whether your black friends say it or whether “they allow you” to say it. It is a derogatory term when used by members outside of the black community. Also, getting mad at black people for saying the n-word while you can’t say it stems from entitlement to think that you too have a right to say such a historically filled word and be a part of a community that has been oppressed for 500 plus years of which you want no business in except to benefit from all the “cool” stuff they create.
- Do not try to contradict or argue with black people when they are sharing their experiences on what it is to navigate life as a black person. You are not them and you have no right to deem someone’s experiences other than your own as “right or wrong” or as “true or false”.
- It is not a black person’s job to spend their existence educating you on basic stuff you can find off one google search. They can decide to educate you and share their experiences with you, but it is not your right to receive this “ education” nor is it their job to offer it to you.
- No, you cannot touch a black person’s hair, especially without previously asking and the person accepting it. Apart from having a very long racist historical connotations stemming from the entitlement of black bodies and how our bodies, especially that of black women, have always been seen as public property, it is just weird. You don’t go around touching people’s bellies without their permission, do you? At least I hope you don’t.
- Stop hiding your racist remarks or your racism off your one token black friend. “I’m not racist, I have a black friend. My best friend is black”. Having black friends doesn’t make you not-racist nor does it diminish your racism. The same way being friends with women doesn’t diminish your misogyny.
- Stop dating black people because you want to piss off your parents. We are not interchangeable objects you can use for your twisted revenge on your racist parents and then toss away.
- Stop making racist jokes under the pretence of dark humour. Your jokes on racial stereotypes about a marginalised group of people perpetrate violence, oppression and the marginalisation of these same people. So yes, it is deeper than just “jokes”.
- Stop placing yourself at the centre of attention during talks about racism. Sit back and listen. It is not about you or your experiences, let alone how bad you feel by realizing how entrenched racism is in our society and how much it affects the lives of black people.
- Remember that black people do not need to be “nice” to you, speak softly with you or appease to your ego for you to be anti-racist. Your drive for change should be rooted in wanting equal humane treatment for all human beings and that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”– Martin Luther King.
- Stop trying to be colour blind because you think that will make you less racist or excuse your racism altogether. Denying that skin colour affects the way one navigates the world and our livelihoods under the pretence that you do not “see colour” and only see humans is racist. It is refusing to acknowledge your privilege and ignore racism because it does not affect you. Try investing this energy in acknowledging your privilege and not allow someone’s skin colour to dictate your treatment towards them.
I hope this guide has helped you understand racism or the ways in which you have and can be racist. It may make some of you uncomfortable, but that is a natural reaction to unlearning and hearing the truth. Remember that racism is bigger than just racial slurs or discrimination. It is a predominant system existing in all seven of our continents as a result of colonialism and imperialism. It affects the livelihood of black people every day, everywhere in the world.