When you hear the words ‘White Supremacist’ or ‘Racist’ which images come to mind?
Are you imagining the picture the below?
(Photo: KKK night rally in Chicago c1920, Wikimedia Commons)
A lot of people find race (actually all protected characteristics) difficult to talk about. This is (at least with race) in part due to the ‘racist bad – non-racist good’ binary.
‘I’m not a white supremacist, racists are bad people who walk around in hoods with burning crosses.’
However, like most binary labels the ‘racist bad – non-racist good’ binary is really unhelpful. We would all be better served looking at racism as a spectrum between racist and anti-racist.
Note: I did not say non-racist, I said anti-racist, staying non-racist leaves us on the racist side of the spectrum. Yes, being neutral makes you part of the problem. A common analogy I like to use is replacing the ‘c’ in racist with a ‘p’.
Hopefully, you are seeing the issue here; removing yourself from the equation actually doesn’t change anything. It is certainly not good enough to be a non-rapist. Every human being on this planet should be an anti-rapist. The inaction normalises the racist/rapist environment by default.
On this scale, place the following incidents in order of least racist to racist and then,
|‘I don’t see colour, I am colour blind’.
Ostracism of the person calling out racism.
Cultural exclusions/Hair Policies
|Silence while racist jokes are being said.
The ethnocentric curriculum.
‘All’ lives matter.
We live in a post racial society.
Not shortlisting a candidate based on race/name.
Far right Neo Nazi Politics
|Indifference||We live in a post racial society|
|Minimisation||‘I don’t see colour, I am colour blind’
‘All lives matter’.
Silence when racist jokes are told.
|Veiled Racism||Ostracism of the person calling out racism.|
|Discrimination||Not choosing a candidate based on race
|Incitation for Violence||Far right Neo Nazi Politics|
|Acts of Violence||Hate Crimes|
All of the above incidents are racist. All of them including: ‘I don’t see colour’ and ‘staying silent while racist jokes are being said’ put you on that side of the spectrum.
f you look at the table, The bottom 3 rows (and partially the discrimination row). These rows are what is (generally) socially acceptable. Think about this and reflect; most acts of racism (that people are subjected to) are socially accepted.
Fragility Warning: The above incidents (which are all racial discrimination) may not occur in the microcosm of your experience but we know systemically they certainly do. It is important to remember what racism (or any type of oppression) is.
Racism is an epistemology (the way gather knowledge) that has been inculcated through a curriculum and societal system.
We should move away from individual acts and move towards dismantling the system as a whole. This concept is difficult to grasp after we have all been taught and told that this is the way things work.
I too, promote a white supremacist agenda.
I will accent the ‘we’. I too, even as a person of colour, have been educated through ethno-centric curricula and subject to the same societal norms. I too am prone to the same micro-aggressions and acts as everyone else.
The spectrum is a dynamic scale where people will move regularly. Remember that the natural tendency is to fall towards the racist end of the spectrum; to move the other way takes work.
Becoming more of an Anti Racist.
When I first thought about being an anti-racist and which actions encompass this; it took longer than the above list. This exercise process was a great tool to bring clarity to my thinking. Interesting that even as an activist this was difficult. What are the elements of anti-racism? I conclude these range from Awareness to Allyship and finally to becoming an Accomplice.
This is primarily around the recognition that pupils and staff of colour will have a different experience when compared to white people in your organisation, no matter what other characteristics they have.
In schools, this is around the teaching pupils and staff about the systemic power structures and the simple fact they exist.
Systemic racism is very real. We must end it. To do this I will amplify the voices of people of colour, without raising my own profile of taking that very space.
In schools, I advocate starting with the curricula you teach, this is not including people of colour, this is teaching pupils a truer more accurate narrative of history and the achievements in our humanity.
You should be analysing your behaviour and sanctions logs, to see if you or your teachers have let racial bias into their day to day practice. A great example is the defiance sanction and the perception of tone. Concentrate on the words that are said as opposed to ‘tone’. As we know perception can impact on reality (See You are Biased) as well as a comparison of pupil achievement against pupil attainment, teacher assessment versus external examination.
Talent management; with people of colour. Are you letting leadership profiles impact on your appointments and recruitment decision? We know that leaders are more prone to bias (a future piece is being written, be sure to look out for it).
This is the aim. Where people advocate and use their privilege to amplify the people of colour without the limelight and to sacrifice. Elements of this will be around teaching pupils to empower themselves to redress the balance.
Complete the following resource with your teams. This should give you a better idea about what racism is, then add the above 3 titles to your action plans and work out how you get there.