Random #RozeReflections: To Be or Not to Be Racist
This week, like so many others recently, was a shit show.
The officer who strangled Eric Garner to death will not be indicted on federal charges. I wrote about the murder of Eric Garner a few years ago. It still takes my breath away to know that someone can be killed and the killer faces no repercussions. Justice was denied.
The one who shall not be named continued to show his racist underbelly when he targeted people of color who serve in the United States Congress. Using the deeply rooted racist phrase, “Go back to where you come from”, he continued to perpetuate hate and questioned the legitimacy of people’s existence.
I continue to hear politicians and other public figures say how they’re nor racist. And all I can do is roll my eyes. In an interview with CBS This Morning, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi spoke about what’s been happening in this country regarding race relations. He said something that’s stuck with me.
“There’s no such thing as not racist. Either you’re racist or anti-racist.” - Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
I’ve been ruminating on this statement. It resonates deeply with me because I believe that it’s not just enough to say what you’re against. You’ve got to live in ways that reflect what and who you’re for. So many people claim not to be racist but I don’t see them doing or saying the things that would show that they’re anti-racist. To be anti-racist is to put your words, your actions, and your resources behind the people and causes that are actively working to dismantle the racist world we live in.
I was with my beloved 9 Beats Collective family this past weekend at the Wild Goose Festival. One of the things that I adore about this collective is that it brings together people from diverse backgrounds and we dive right into the conversations the so many of us are told are taboo. We aren’t together for even an hour before we’re talking about race and women’s rights and politics and Brexit.
As we were spending time in a southern city and in a part of the country that is known internationally as a racist place, my Black brothers from the United Kingdom expressed their concern for their safety. And it makes sense. We passed confederate flags as we made our way to the campground. The folks of the town had guns and sign supporting the current president. There were not any native people of color in the town that we came across. So needless to say, their fear and concerns were warranted.
As we spent time in this place, one of them asked me about his experience. He said, “Rozella. I’m so confused. People here are being friendly and polite but they have racist symbols and clearly support a president who is racist. Why are they being nice to me?”
I explained to him that this is the crux of our issue in the USA. Very seldom have I experienced outright racist acts. I can count the number of times on one hand that I’ve been called a nigger to my fAce or been discriminated against with the reason being stated that it’s due to my race. More often than not, people are nice. I know people who I would describe as racist as having friends who are people of color. Racism is not simply about interpersonal interactions. It’s about systems and structures that perpetuate oppression and discrimination that target people based on their race. Racism is so insidious because it doesn’t need “racist” people. All it needs is a deeply embedded philosophy that some people are better than others, that some people don’t belong, that due to the race and/or ethnicity of a person, they are seen as less than, as subhuman. And this is what makes it so dangerous.
I’m not simply worried about racist acts that happen on an interpersonal level. Im concerned about the systems that have been created and are being perpetuated that dehumanize others and make solutions that are seemingly about one thing (security, access to resources, education, health care) really be about something else (dividing the population, dehumanizing the migrant, demonizing those who are poor, segregation and suppression of communities).
So the next time you are tempted to say, “I’m not racist”, ask yourself instead, how have you been anti-racist in ways that speak up and out against systems and structures. How are you more focused on that which suppresses life for some while others thrive? How are you calling out not just behaviors but beliefs that reflect the racism that this country was founded on?