As long as racism is around, the work of fighting it continues. As conversations about racism, police brutality, and hate crimes in the United States evolve, it’s important to keep thinking about how Americans — as a society and as individuals — can keep striving for change. While public protest and advocacy is one way to combat racism, you can also fight oppression by making conscious changes to your own behavior. If you’re looking for additional ways to make changes, here’s how you can incorporate anti-racism into your own life to show that actions are louder than words.
Being anti-racist means taking active action to fight against racism. Beverly Tatum, Ph.D, president emerita of Spelman College and author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race, tells Elite Daily that to be anti-racist, you have "to actively work against the system of racism by taking action, supporting anti-racist policies and practices, and expressing anti-racist ideas." You can't be a "passive" anti-racist, she says, so speaking to friends and family is an essential first step. Once you've taken the time to educate yourself on anti-racism with important resources such as literature, documentaries, and podcasts, you can start implementing changes into your own life. Since you can be passively racist by not taking action when you’re confronted with racism, anti-racism requires you to actively push back on systems of racism and instances of racism in your daily life. Here are a few things you can do to begin incorporating anti-racism in your day-to-day.
Speak out when you see racism.
Speaking out against racist comments from your friends, family, or colleagues is one way to advocate for change. Deborah L. Stroman, Ph.D, CLU, a leadership and equity professor at the University of North Carolina and racial equity consultant, tells Elite Daily anti-racism should begin with taking a look at yourself. "Take the time to reflect on how you are currently acting to uphold the current racist structures and culture," she says, which includes acknowledging and adjusting how you react to racist actions, jokes, or stereotypes among your friends and family.
Sinead Bovell, a model and business tech entrepreneur who shares anti-racism resources on her Instagram account, posted an informational deck of responses people can employ when someone uses racist comments. In her June 9, 2020 Instagram post, she suggested using responses that push back on racist stereotypes, including responses like "that doesn't sound funny," or questioning why a person's race is relevant to a story.
When you encounter racist actions or statements closer to home, it can be tough to talk to your parents or extended family about the subject. Riana Anderson, Ph.D, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, tells Elite Daily how important it is to speak out against racism when you’re with your family. "It’s our job to get our parents to a place where they, as business owners or landowners or people in charge of systems that oppress people of color — if they can just have one shift in their thought process, then the world would be a better place because of it," Anderson says. She also brought up the importance of addressing extended family members, saying you should make sure to do enough research to back up your stance before you talk to them, by looking at a combination of statistics, your own anecdotal experiences, and media, to help illustrate your point. Che Johnson-Long, director of decarceration strategies at the Racial Action Justice Center in Georgia, tells Elite Daily that when talking about racism with family or loved ones, you should avoid very high-level academic language or jargon. Johnson-Long explained, "We have a responsibility to talk to our folks in language that they understand.”
Take action in your community.
After you’ve shared social media posts and information about anti-racism, get involved in community politics and social justice groups. Tatum tells Elite Daily that people can make a checklist of their everyday life to identify opportunities for change. “Ask yourself, ‘Whose lives do I affect and how? What power and authority do I wield in the world? What meetings do I attend? Who do I talk to in the course of a day? Identify your strengths and use them,” she says.
Joining a group will keep you involved in your community, and you should also get involved in your local elections to vote for politicians who support the policy changes you advocate for. “Find a group of like-minded others to support you on your journey. Houses of worship may have such groups being formed; employee resource groups in the workplace may be a source of support, or community organizations like Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) can be useful,” Tatum explains.
Johnson-Long also recommends joining local organizations if you can. "The difference between being an activist, who shows up to protests and creates visibility around issues, and being an organizer, who works with a sustained group of people who creates long term demands and goals, is pretty vast," she says. "Find a group in your city who does work that you like, and join them."
For more tips, Instagram account Official Millennial Black — which is run by author and activist Sophie Williams — shared a useful series with information for people looking to be actively anti-racist. Williams’ suggestions include taking actions like holding brands accountable by shopping at places supporting anti-racism through their policies and hiring practices, and diversifying your social circle and social media feeds. It's important to make sure you’re actively listening to new perspectives, so filling your feeds with diverse activists, artists, and creators, and actively listening to the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and people of color activists, friends, and everyday people should be a priority. For anyone trying to be anti-racist, it’s important to take advice from activists who are freely sharing it, but it’s not the job of people of color to teach anyone else how to be anti-racist. It’s also good to compensate anyone sharing resources, if you have the means.
Share resources to educate others on anti-racism.
After you've read up on anti-racism literature and feel you're ready to be an active ally, it's important to share your resources with others. This can be as simple as lending a book to a friend or posting about the resource on social media. However, as Williams points out in her anti-racism ally post, posting on social media isn't an action. Take it a step further by physically giving resources to others, like donating your anti-racism books to a local community chapter group.
There are plenty of anti-racism resources you can share in addition to books. For quick reading, you can share articles on the subject — Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge is a popular read — or suggest widely available movies like Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th or the film American Son. With plenty of resources available, sharing them with your community can be as simple as sending a text or direct message with a link share and asking them to check it out.
If you haven't taken the time to educate yourself yet, you can start with Tatum's recommendations, such as Ibram X. Kendi's How to be an Antiracist, or one of Tatum’s own books: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race or Can We Talk About Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation.
Advocate for policy changes in your city.
If you want to find groups to join that are advocating for policy changes, look for local chapters of social justice organizations near you. While you may feel uncertain of how to do forward on your own, many anti-racism organizations advocate for policy changes together by creating campaigns and calling for changes in their community. Some groups like this include the Minneapolis-based Communities Against Police Brutality, your local chapter of Black Lives Matter, or the national network Movement Hub. Remember that the issues you're reading about nationally might not be the most pressing ones for your own city or community, so be prepared to learn and reassess what will be most useful to share your voice on and advocate for.
Becoming actively anti-racist isn’t an overnight process, so it’s important to continue educating yourself and stay involved in organizations fighting against racism even when it’s not the hottest topic of the day.
Beverly Tatum, Ph.D, President Emerita of Spelman College, author and speaker
Riana Anderson, Ph.D, assistant professor at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health
Che Johnson-Long, director of decarceration strategies at the Racial Action Justice Center in Georgia
Deborah L. Stroman, Ph.D, CLU, University of North Carolina Leadership and Equity Professor and racial equity consultant