Self Reflection

Becoming antiracist

If you've never considered yourself racist (as we hadn't) then it can come as a shock to hear "it's not enough to not be racist, you need to be actively antiracist". What does it mean?

Being antiracist isn't something we can achieve. It's something we practice daily.

It's tempting to jump straight to action and educating yourself (and both are crucial!), but part of the work of becoming antiracist is to look inwards. If you're white, like us, this includes:

  • Understanding how most systems are built upon the myth of white supremacy
  • Recognising that we benefit from white privilege at the expense of people who aren't white
  • Thinking about the ways in which we've perpetuated racism through our actions or inaction
  • Identifying the gaps in our education or awareness, and working out how to fill them in
  • Making plans for how to bed antiracist behaviours into our everyday lives

Things to remember

Here are some the lessons shared by Black creators and activists (linked wherever applicable so you can read and listen to them directly):

  • Nice does not equal antiracist. (@rachel.cargle)
  • If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. (Desmond Tutu quote, shared by many)
  • If it's a choice between not doing it at all and getting it wrong. Get it wrong. Learn from it. Do better next time. (@officialmillennialblack)
  • You don't have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. (@IjeomaOluo)
  • Do this work yourself! Don't expect Black people to be responsible for telling you what you could or should be doing. All the information is out there (and some of it is collected here).

Where to begin

Watch @ivirlei's IGTV White Women who Truly Want to Help: Here's how. Here are some key takeaways (but please watch her video):

  • Our work needs to start with deep self-reflection. Before we can take meaningful action, we need to have the difficult conversations with ourselves, and ask: "If I'm only just now realising that I need to take action, then what have I been ignoring up until now? What are the parts of myself that have supported racism?" This work will be uncomfortable and it's a process that can take years or a lifetime, but it's critical.
  • Our action needs to begin at home. We have to commit to being the very vocal white friend and family member, who calls out racism wherever we see it. This isn't an easy position to take, so we need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. We can't let fear or discomfort stop us. We need to create a new identity for ourselves as someone who will never allow racist comments or behaviour to go unchallenged.
  • We need to do things beyond simply educate ourselves. By all means we should read books and watch documentaries, but if we're not actively applying any of it in the real world, it's not enough. Stand up for people. If we think "Who am I to try and make a difference?", who aren't you?! We have a voice and influence. We can talk to people. We can raise our children to not be passive when it comes to racism.

On the point of self-reflection, we realise the flurry of action we've taken over the past days (including reading books, sharing posts, donating, signing petitions, and even creating this site) is very likely at least partly a form of distraction from having to sit with the discomfort we feel as a result of not having done these things before now. There's much work to do, and no quick fixes.

Dealing with negative emotions

And on that topic, watch @brandonkgood's IGTV To My White Friends: Guilt, Shame, Embarrassment. Again, here's a summary of some of what he says, but please watch his video:

  • The embarrassment, guilt and shame is connected to our identity as a "good person". We consider ourselves to be kind, loving and empathetic, and if those things are true, how could we have gone this long without actively challenging racism? We're feeling discomfort because we realise that, through our silence and inaction, we have been supporting and perpetuating racism. We're now seeing that we are in fact racist, and our identity as a good person is being challenged as a result.
  • Understand that being an ally is messy and complicated. It's natural that these negative feelings will come up, but it's what we do with them that counts. We need to connect with white friends and family and talk about it openly, and ask "how the fuck did it take us this long to wake up?" We must not unload this onto the Black people in our lives. It is not for them to comfort us, or ease our guilt.
  • Feeling this way is an essential part of the work. We need to sit with it and reflect deeply. We need to force ourselves to confront all the times we thought or did something racist. All the times we made assumptions about people based on racial stereoytpes. All the times we were silent and didn't challenge racism. And then, we need to do better.

Also watch his video Good Ally vs. Effective Ally, for lots of pointers of practical things we can do in our communities to effect real change.

Making it our new normal

Another great video to watch is Ally is a verb by @wastefreemarie. It outlines the difference between performative allyship and doing the actual work to bring about change.

A note on social media use

Here are a few more things we need to consider specifically when using social media.

  • We need to do our research before taking action, and make sure we're not causing inadvertent harm (e.g. how using the #blacklivesmatter hashtag on Black Out Tuesday posts on Instagram had a silencing effect). We should take some time to listen to what different Black people are saying about it. Ultimately, we need to go with our gut, but we should avoid doing something if it doesn't actually help fight racism in any meaningful way.
  • Be mindful of who we're amplifying. There are lots of well-intentioned non-Black people sharing useful links or quotes from Black people, but rather than re-post these second-hand sources, take the time to seek out the original sources and amplify those instead.
  • Ask ourselves if our post is actually helping the cause, or if it's more to alleviate our own guilt or make us look like a good person. Posting about how heartbroken we are doesn't help Black people, and it actually causes harm.
  • By all means we can post publicly, but we should be doing at least as much work if not much more offline. Reading, self-reflecting — more learning and listening than talking.
  • Diversify who we're following and pay attention to and engage with what they share — this is a change we can bed into our everyday life, and will help keep antiracism at the forefront of our minds even after the murder of George Floyd is no longer something people are talking about everyday. This is now a life-long mission.
  • We can go back to sharing our "regular" content if we choose, but make antiracism a part of it! Allow it to infuse everything we do and become part of our identity. We likely already stood for something. Now let's make this something else we stand for everyday.

Further reading