Does the term ‘anti-racist’ sit well with you?
i admit that any term that defines someone as something they’re not or something they’re against feels unwieldy to me.
This is why i come out so strongly against the term ‘non-white’. It puts white people in the middle as the norm or accepted or perfect thing and then distances anyone who is called non-white away from that. As if whiteness is normal or right or something to be aimed at. Which it is very much not.
Which becomes confusing and challenging when black or coloured people i have met have called themselves ‘non-white’. Because then do i as a white person jump in and tell them what they can or should be called? That is a complicated one for another day. Although if you are not white then i would love to hear your thoughts on that scenario.
For the last eight years, i have been actively working in the space of race conversations and actions. For the longest time, i never thought about myself as anti-racist. But hearing the term really unlocked something for me.
Words are important. This quote reminds us that this is bigger than just a personal journey. i absolutely have to continually be working to eliminate the racism in myself. In my thought patterns, in my words, in my actions, in the opportunities or invitations i extend to people, in my bias towards certain people, in my attitude, in my judgements.
So i need to work ongoingly at being less racist.
But at the same time, i need to be mindful that racism exists in structures and systems that continue to benefit people who look like me over those who don’t.
Therefore, it is not enough for me to work on the racism that still exists within me. i have to actively be working against it whenever i see it in the world around me. This led me to the #NotOnOurWatch commitment. A daily commitment i make to interrupt racism whenever i see it in front of me, online or offline. A reminder that we need to be working on anti-racism together, starting with a ‘That is not okay!’ statement but working much deeper into dismantling and rebuilding where necessary.
Which is why i found this quote that was shared by my friend Amy to be a super helpful reminder:
i grew up in a legally racist country [apartheid South Africa] where messages of superiority and entitlement and negative comparison flooded most aspects of my life. It pains me to think any of it still lives in me in any way, given that i have worked so hard against it. But i know the reality too well.
Every day demands a new decision from me to fight the racism that still lurks inside of me. In more subtle spaces, linked largely to attitude and thought. But also from time to time spilling over into word and action. Plus, i am sure i still have blind spots. And hurt people unwittingly through them.
i am so grateful that i do not have to be absolutely free of racism before i can take up the fight against the racism i see in the world around me. Because it may take my entire life for me to be clean, and i may in fact never fully get there.
i am reminded that each day starts with me in front of my mirror, repeating that commitment again. i will interrupt racism whenever and wherever i see it in front of me. i will commit to work in the systems and structures around me to help make them more equal and equitable to all of the people that are part of them.
My name is Brett “Fish” Anderson and i am proudly anti-racist. Are you? And what does that look like or mean to you?