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  • Writer's pictureNicola Graham

Racist, Antiracist, and “Not” Racist

I’m Nicola and I am the creator of this series of blogs called the Antiracist White Chick. I’m here to open a dialogue on racism for white folks and share things I’m learning on how to be an antiracist. I’ll be honest in that I’m terrified in creating this, I might mess up, I will probably say things wrong, but I’m here and willing to learn and be better and grow so that we as white folks can be better and do better and grow. I am calling myself out in this and the part I’ve played in my white privileged life with my own racist inactions and hope this will allow you to call yourself out too so that others can call themselves out and so on. So we can dismantle racism person by person, idea by idea, policy by policy and system by system.

I want to start by just talking about the word racist because it has become a bad word and it shouldn’t be. It’s just a word and it’s fluid, it can change. In this moment, with the words and thoughts and actions I am doing, I am being antiracist. But in a few minutes, I can say something or do something or not do something which might be racist. We need to demystify this word and use it more so we can recognize areas and thoughts and moments where we ARE racist and make changes right then, or even afterwards, to be antiracist.

Racist became a bad word by groups of people who don’t want us to talk about it. But it’s time to have these discussions and bring all of this out in the open. Open the wounds that we as white folk have caused so that we all might be able to heal together.

So, basic definitions. Someone who is being racist allows racial inequalities to continue, where one group of people, aka white folk, has the power to carry out systematic discrimination politically, socially, and economically.

The opposite of that is antiracist, someone whose words or actions or thoughts promote racial equality, confronts the inequalities, and doesn’t see anything right or wrong with any racial group. All races are equal.

The thing I didn’t know is there is no such thing as being “not” racist. You are either being racist in a moment or antiracist. Being “not” racist is being neutral in your actions or words and that neutrality is therefore racist. You are either promoting racial equality or inequality, not doing either is a mask of racism. This was the biggest thing I recognized in myself. I always thought I wasn’t racist, even as someone born and raised in Texas. I didn’t see color and I didn’t think anyone was less than me. But now I’m learning that in not seeing color, I wasn’t seeing their struggles, and that and my inaction, is racist. Sure, I felt horrible and was sad when I saw things happening but I didn’t do anything about it. Knowing people were, and are, constantly being murdered and persecuted against because of the color of their skin made me racist in my knowledge and my inaction.

So to move from racist to antiracist is always ongoing. It happens daily, moment by moment. It requires education and conversation and refusal of any form of racism. It is changing policy and power instead of changing groups of people.

I just want to leave you with these words from Ibram X. Kendi, in “How to be an Antiracist,” which is where a lot of my learning is currently coming from. “Like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination. It requires a radical reorientation of our consciousness!”

As the 12 step programs say, let’s take this antiracist journey one day at a time, together, being each other’s sponsors, and calling ourselves and each other out. We can do better and it’s time to do the work and be true antiracist examples and teach this to all white folk everywhere. Let’s self-examine, let’s educate, let’s conversate, and let’s truly accept and empower racial differences of all kinds.

I always thought of myself as someone who wasn’t racist. I never saw color and I didn’t think anyone was less than me. But in doing that, as well as NOT doing anything, I was actually being racist. I have created this series, The Antiracist White Chick, because I am learning so much in my newfound passion to grow and change and DO something about the racism that is, literally, killing our country.

I am calling myself out and demanding more from myself and hope it will help and allow my fellow White folk to do the same. It is (past) time we all make the antiracist journey and truly accept and empower racial difference of all kinds. I will mess up, I will say things wrong, but I am here and I am learning and I am not going to stop.

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