First Steps Toward Anti-Racism

Minneapolis is burning.

Anger is rising.

When Jefferson said, “ I prefer dangerous freedom to peaceful slavery,” he didn’t intend the enslaved to take it to heart. But several hundred years later, people of color continue to move forward toward a more dangerous freedom, often at immense personal cost. In reality, it’s those of us who participate in systems of oppression, some built so deeply into our society that many of us don’t even acknowledge they exist, who should be doing this dangerous work.

It’s whites who should be doing the grunt work of pushing freedom forward.

“In a racist society, it’s not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist, Angela Davis says.

Ibram X. Kendi, an award-winning historian and author writes: “No one becomes ‘not racist.’ We can only strive to be ‘anti-racist’ on a daily basis, to continually rededicate ourselves to the lifelong task of overcoming our country’s racist heritage.”

“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist,” writes Ijeoma Oluo. “Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”

It’s in this spirit that I share 8 imperfect steps toward becoming more anti-racist.

  1. Identify more of your own biases. Few of us like to think we’re racist, but evidence often shows otherwise. Harvard University’s Project Implicit helps users identify their implicit, or not plainly expressed, biases. Take their test titled “Race”, which indicates that most Americans have a preference for white faces over black faces.
  1. Confront America’s history. We like to think America is all about freedom, but our country was founded on tyranny, specifically the oppression of indigenous people and black Africans. This is not just an unfortunate truth, it is a foundational fact of America’s story that must be confronted and engaged with. I have not yet read Jill Lepore’s, These Truths, but it comes highly recommended. In addition to learning more about America’s history of oppression and enslavement, email your local government or write a letter to the editor to push for Columbus Day to be replaced by Indigenous People’s Day as has happened in other cities.
  1. Read about race from the perspectives of black authors. I was profoundly changed by Michael Eric Dyson’s “Tears We Cannot Stop: a Sermon to White America.” A great list of additional anti-racist books can be found here.
  1. Gather your family and watch 13th, a documentary that analyzes the criminalization of African Americans. Watch slowly and pause often. It will break your heart.
  1. Learn from black voices and center black faces. When you scroll through Instagram or Bacebook, how long does it take you to see a face that is not white? How many people of color do you follow? What voices are you listening to? This resource list includes organizations to follow on social media. Personally I highly recommend Rachel Cargyle.
  1. Push for increased accountability for local police. Call and email the Redding Police Department and contact each of your local City Council members to ask why the Redding Police do not yet wear body cameras. Lack of finances cannot be the real answer: we afford what we value. Maybe Bethel Church would like to sponsor the project?
  1. Join a local movement for justice. Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is “a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people to undermine white supremacy for racial justice.” Rural SURJ of NorCal can be found here.
  1. Stand up to your president. Trump tweeted this week, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Americans nationwide gasped as they read the President’s words. Twitter said the tweet “glorified violence”. The same phrase was previously used by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley, during the civil rights era and is thought to have intensified race riots. This is not normal and it’s not okay. It’s time to Stand Up.

*Some of the above ideas were gleaned from this incredible resource list: 75 Things White People Can Do For Justice.

Take one step. Take all the steps. Suggest other steps we could take in the comments. Tell me what’s wrong with the ones I’ve chosen. This list is in no way comprehensive or complete. The ideas are not original. This isn’t necessarily the best place to start. But in the work of pursuing dangerous freedom, silence is complicity and inaction is apathy. Let’s move forward toward a more dangerous freedom for all people. One step at a time.

Even better if we do it together.

Annelise Pierce
Annelise Pierce is fascinated by the intersection of people and policy. She has a special interest in criminal justice, poverty, mental health and education. Her long and storied writing career began at age 11 when she won the Louisa May Alcott Foundation's Gothic Romance short story competition. (Spoiler alert - both hero and heroine die.) Annelise welcomes your (civil) interactions at AnnelisePierce@anewscafe.com
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