Still committed to the fight against racism? There’s a new book that will help you stay consistent. Lawyer-turned-author Rasha Barrage’s latest release is titled Say No to Racism but unlike many other informative reading materials surrounding the topic of race, this book is a practical guide on how you can prevent racism.
The pocket-sized book offers a step-by-step guide for those who are keen and ready to take an active role against all forms of racism and want to know how best to use their energy for real change.
As Barrage puts it, it’s time to transition from “not racist” to being truly “anti-racist” by walking the walk and taking action. Say No to Racism makes this easier, by breaking down ways in which you can address unconscious bias and lean into becoming a true ally. The rise of the Black Lives Matter protest last summer following the police murder of George Floyd let to a global outcry for anti-racism to be implemented in all areas of life. A year on, however, things are slowly returning to an unwanted ‘normal.’ Here’s an extract from Barrage’s book on how you can keep the anti-racism momentum going in your day to day life…
Understanding white privilege
White privilege is the advantage you have if you are a white person in today’s society; it is experienced regardless of anything you have personally done. It does not imply an easy life without other struggles or that any accomplishments are not deserved. What it refers to are the subtle benefits that a white person takes for granted every day.
- Learning white history at school
- Seeing white people widely represented on TV and in films
- Going shopping without security guard surveillance
- Not being questioned about your origin
- Succeeding without being considered a credit to your race
- Never being asked to speak for all white people
Recognising this privilege can help you to understand the importance of championing anti-racist policies.
With privilege comes power
The flip side of white privilege is that it can be used to help others. It is not a burden to bear, but a way for the privileged to enact change.
If you acknowledge that you have white privilege, you can confront racial injustices even when it is uncomfortable to do so. By recognizing and understanding the economic and social benefits that come with being a white person, you can take action to change these norms in society.
Rather than feeling shame or guilt for inheriting a system that you played no part in creating, you can admit whether you have benefited from it and use that knowledge to promote racial equality.
First Steps to Anti-Racism
Being anti-racist means more than just being devoid of racist attitudes and beliefs. To be anti-racist, you are taking responsibility to actively identify, challenge and dismantle the racism you find in your everyday life, including confronting the hard truth of racism within yourself.
Education is critical to expanding your awareness of how systemic racism has impacted your life and that of the people around you. By learning about the often unconscious and automatic ways in which racism presents itself, you can start to recognize it and take steps to prevent it.
You should not expect peers or friends from particular racial groups to educate you. There is a plethora of free or easily accessible resources online, as well as books that cost a relatively small price for the astonishing insights that they can provide.
If you find that you have questions that can’t seem to be answered, then ask them within relationships that feel safe, and do so respectfully.
Acknowledge your bias
Work out your beliefs, values and personal biases (see page 46). This includes biases about your own cultural background. One option is taking an Implicit Associations Test (IAT) online. This measures attitudes and beliefs that you may otherwise be unwilling or unable to recognize. Ask yourself: who do you trust in your place of study or work, and why? Do you focus your time or attention toward people who look similar to you? If you were to substitute one acquaintance with another from a different racial group, how would you feel about it?
Once you know and accept that you have bias, you can begin to recognize your own patterns of thinking and start to actively change your thought processes in the future.
Acknowledge your racist stereotypes
Studies show that you can overcome your racial stereotypes, but to do so, you need to first recognize that you have them.
A way to start is by considering the following words and noticing the images that immediately come to mind: cleaner, taxi driver, peaceful protestor, refugee, someone convicted of tax fraud, suicide bomber, someone “looting” a store, religious fundamentalist, drug dealer, violin player, basketball player and pilot. What do you notice about the images you associate with these words?
To be anti-racist, it is critical for you to acknowledge that certain racial groups have been negatively labelled through the media, films, language and the way history has been taught.
Trying to suppress or deny the stereotypes in your mind will not work. Instead, consider the possibility that you can observe thoughts without necessarily believing in them.
You need to get comfortable talking about race and racism. Hiding behind words such as “diversity” or “inclusion” will limit the reach of any conversation.
Whenever you’re in a position to have an open and frank discussion about racism, try something like: “Race is challenging to talk about, but I will try my best. Tell me if something I say comes across as insensitive or offensive, as that is not my intention.”
Educate yourself as to what terminology is appropriate at any given time or place. For instance, in 2020 the most common acronyms for non-white racial groups were BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) in North America and BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) in the UK, but these terms are not perfect and many people find them problematic. The language around race and racism is ever-evolving, so it is important to acknowledge any controversies surrounding terms and to stay informed.
As you become more alert to racism in your daily life and interactions, you will inevitably come across other people’s unconscious biases, as well as possible explicit forms of racism. It can be particularly challenging to confront racist jokes or bias among family or friends. You can try letting people know that you feel uncomfortable and you’d rather they didn’t make comments like that around you.
Some things you can say:
- “I’ve heard/experienced something different.”
- “Do you think there are other opinions?”
- “Where did you hear that?”
- “That’s not right.”
- Explain (calmly) why you disagree.
You cannot overcome people’s biases in just one conversation, but at least you can establish your boundaries around certain topics and potentially inspire a process of reflection for others.
Extract from Say No to Racism by Rasha Barrage. Published by Summersdale, June 10th