America screeched to a halt upon seeing people of color (POC) like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks killed. These tragedies tore away our ignorance, forcing white people to acknowledge egregious racial disparities in America.
Yet, despite increased racial awareness, many white people remain blind to POC’s daily struggles. Change must ensue, but simply not being racist hasn’t worked; we must become anti-racist.
As a white person, I’m determined to become anti-racist, and I hope you’ll join me to explore the obstacles POC face, why racism still thrives, and our role in fighting it.
Racism doesn’t directly restrict us white people, so it’s easy to be complacent.
It’s easy to donate to a Black nonprofit while someone else invests time and energy. It’s easy to hire one Black person, staging photos of them to represent a 99% white company as ‘diverse.’ It’s easy to enjoy wealth built by slaves while the descendants of those slaves struggle to survive.
As Harry Potter’s Albus Dumbledore denoted, “We must all (choose) between what is right and what is easy.” It is right to choose anti-racism.
Every day, POC face inconceivable challenges, and it’s been helpful for me to hear about them. Dontá Hughes, a Chaska resident and civil rights activist, explained some of what his Black family experiences.
In grocery stores, they’re regarded with suspicion, as though their existence endangers white shoppers. As Hughes approaches white people, they close their purses in apprehension, and he’s always wary of sounding too loud or aggressive.
Hughes has to talk with his three children about topics white people couldn’t fathom. He explains that law enforcement doesn’t protect them, but ‘protects’ the white people who feel threatened by them. Add actions like the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, and POC’s humanity comes under attack.
As a white person, I’ve lived differently. When police have pulled me over, we’ve had genial conversations, not militant clashes. Upon walking into a grocery store, I feel welcome. Also, despite Statistica.com reporting 55% of mass shooters since 1982 being white, I’ve never felt villainized for my whiteness.
I’ll never fully the understand the Black experience, but I can acknowledge their challenges and demand racial equity. Learning about POC’s struggles is the first step toward anti-racism, so I encourage you to initiate such conversations.
However, POC aren’t obligated to talk about race. If someone doesn’t want to, don’t push them. Their race inescapably affects them, and learning about race is our responsibility, not theirs.
Further, we mustn’t tokenize POC. If we only use POC as informants, we’re exacerbating the problem. Friendships with POC have opened my eyes to their struggles, but anti-racism requires learning POC’s histories.
Ignored history repeats itself. Donzel Leggett, Chaska resident and 2018 Democratic candidate for Minnesota House District 47B, credits our whitewashed educational curricula with perpetuating racism.
In school, I was taught to honor Christopher Columbus, a serial rapist who intentionally infected 90% of all Native Americans with smallpox. I learned about European monarchs and the pilgrims who colonized the U.S., without hearing a whisper of African history that wasn’t tainted by poverty or colonialism.
I’d never heard of Mansa Musa, a West African emperor who remains the wealthiest person to live, the Egyptian empire, which MentalFloss.com credits with creating modern agriculture, mathematics, and linguistics, or how, as History.com explains, African people vaccinated for centuries before a slave brought vaccination to American Colonists.
Without these histories, Blogger ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson warns on EducationPost.org that “Africans are portrayed … as savage, barbaric people.” Consciously, we know this isn’t true, but underexposure to the diverse, rich histories of Africa fosters our ignorance, letting racism fester.
Leggett argues that American curricula intentionally ignored, removed, or delegitimized all African history to dehumanize Black people, justifying slavery. Yet unfortunately, the curricula hasn’t changed. Black people are still treated like they have no meaningful history or contributions despite medicine, writing, mathematics, science, and civilization itself all beginning in Africa. This institutionalized Eurocentric teaching of history continues to enable systemic racism.
Ultimately, curricula must include POC’s histories, but in the meantime, we must learn them and teach them to our children. Black history has helped me reconcile my biases, as it can do for you. For educational resources, visit https://sites.google.com/view/Black-history-resources.
Leggett proposed a metaphor for racism: a malignant tumor. First we find the tumor — I acknowledge my racial biases. Second we remove the tumor — I choose to care about racism and become anti-racist. Then, we battle to keep the cancer away — learning POC’s histories.
Throughout, we maintain an honest relationship with doctors — we talk about race with POC and white people. Suddenly, we notice our friends’ tumors, and help them start treatment — we hold everyone accountable for being racist, and help them towards anti-racism.
Later, they’ll help their friends towards anti-racism, and the cycle continues.
Anti-racism is not one action, it is not one donation, one conversation, one book, one day of volunteering, it’s an arduous process. But this process is how racial equity can legitimately be achieved. It’s what Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi helped craft, and you can join to be part of the solution.