Everyone needs antiracism
Everyone needs antiracism. This may sound like the understatement of the year, but there’s good reason to state this idea explicitly: because everyday people of color, primarily Black people, across America have the cops called on them for “looking” or “behaving suspiciously.” Just this morning I read one such story about a family who had rented a vacation house in Rehobooth, Delaware–an upscale resort town–and found themselves targeted by a police officer following up on a call about “suspicious activity at the rental.” The author described the stroller in the driveway along with the beach ball and other toys–all signs of a vacationing family. The White officer broke the family’s quarantine by allowing himself into their space, demanding that they show paperwork of having rented the property.
This is just one of the many stories of Black people going about their everyday lives and having to deal with being racially profiled by either scared civilians or scared law enforcement officers. Elijah McClain’s story did not survive the racial profiling of a “well meaning” civilian who saw Elijah, a young Black man, walking down the street and saw him as a threat, calling the police, resulting in Elijah’s death. Elijah would still be alive today if it weren’t for that civilian. I’m guessing that if you were to ask any of these people calling the cops if they were racist, they would balk in response and say, “No, I’m not-racist!” But if instead you asked them, “Well, are you an antiracist?” I’m also guessing they would hesitate a moment.
I honestly don’t think I heard the term “antiracist” before learning of Kendi’s book, and in the words of at least one highly regarded scientist, I’m a very well educated person. This term was not used in any of my Chicana/Chicano, sociology, critical thinking, or Global Citizenship courses. My wondering of why this term had evaded me for so long ended in Chapter 10 when I read Kendi’s recounting of a smear campaign in which billboards with the words, “Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white,” had popped up across America. Or how Robert Whitaker, a prominent politician of the American Freedom Party, built his campaign on the “Mantra”–an idea that frames the White race as victims of genocide and racism at the hands of anti-racism. Americans have shied away from antiracism over fears of being labelled anti-White, and it’s easy to appreciate how being anti- the dominant, oppressing race might put someone in harm’s way. Just look at what’s going on in Portland, Oregon. Protestors of all colors are being tear gassed by unidentified federal agents for stating that black lives matter.
This type of racial profiling can also come in so-called “less harmful” forms. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a White man try to make claims about the natural athletic abilities of Black men. It seems to be well intentioned. “Kenyans are just great sprinters.” “Oh you must have a great jump shot.” “Oh I bet you know how to throw the pigskin.” Yes, stating that someone must be a great athlete because of the color of their skin is racist and it takes antiracist education to be able to identify this form of racism. If we really want to move past racism and evolve into the next stage of social consciousness, we have to call-in racist behavior in all forms–even the seemingly innocuous ones. That’s what antiracist work is all about, and is why we all need it. The cops aren’t the only ones responsible for the brutalization of Black people. The non-Black people who call the cops out of concerns of suspicious persons, behavior, or activity–all based on the color of someone’s skin–are equally culpable.
The recent wave of support for Black Lives Matter the movement and for declaring that black lives matter came in response to police brutality. Many non-Black allies have put energy into showing support in various ways, some more directly helpful than others. I’ve seen witty critiques of these efforts in the form of, “We don’t care if you call your bedroom the master bedroom, what we really want is to end police brutality.” Seeing these critiques motivated me to come full circle on this project and draw some connections explicitly. Police brutality occurs because of racism from police, politicians, and the civilians who employ their services. It comes from racial profiling. Yes, defunding the police is one important part of the work, but if we don’t stop racism in its tracks, the police will just be replaced with some other racist variant. The only way to stop racism is through antiracism work. I have learned for myself that in order to be an antiracist, I need to educate myself on all the covert forms that racism takes and all the ways that overt antiracism can undo this harm.
Today brought out my pain face as I paced myself for a 2 hour total ascent time, but got impatient and pushed it down to 1 hr 47 min time to summit. I’m am happy about the 5026 vertical feet I threw down today. Day 7 and I’m 24455 ft down, just 5545 to go. I was nervous about being able to complete this ambitious 3-day block of climbing. I had my doubts. Feels good to have another reminder that we, as humans, are capable of so much more than we can truly imagine.