Anti-racism 101

This post was originally a tweet thread, but quite a few people wanted me to turn it into a blog-post, so here it is. I haven’t changed the order I wrote this in, just added relevant links.

Thank you, miigwech, nia:we to all the Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Colour from whom I have learnt so much.

Harmony Day (5475651018).jpg
Harmony Day, CC BY 2.0, photo by DIAC Images.

  1. If a Black person, Indigenous person, or Person of Colour (BIPOC) criticizes whiteness or white people, they’re talking about the construct of whiteness, white supremacy, white supremacist behaviour & institutions. If you & others don’t do the thing described, DO NOT reply with “not all white people”. They know it’s not all of us.

  2. Systemic racism. The institutions (e.g. police, law courts, schools), behaviours, societal assumptions, discrimination, lack of representation in media, stereotypes, and other systems that oppress BIPOC people.

  3. Micro-aggressions. The constant drip-drip of racist behaviour that BIPOC and Latino/a/x people experience in a day, e.g. a white woman on a bus clutches her purse tightly on seeing a Black man, someone asks a Muslim woman if her marriage was arranged. Small in itself but multiplied up by hundreds in a day, extremely wearing.

  4. In 1970, the term “microaggression” was coined by Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in reference to dismissive statements and insults directed toward African Americans. In 1973, the term was expanded by MIT economist Mary Rowe to include statements that could be viewed as insulting toward women. “Microaggression” eventually became a label for casual remarks that could be viewed as disparaging to any socially disadvantaged group.NO YOU CANNOT EVER TOUCH BIPOC PEOPLE’S HAIR, nor hijabs, nor niqabs, etc.
  5. White privilege. If you are white, you may have had many disadvantages in your life, but none of them were caused by the colour of your skin. As John Scalzi describes it in a classic article, Straight White Male: the lowest difficulty setting there is.

  6. Blood quantum. Never ask an Indigenous person what percentage Native they are. You belong to the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis by being a recognized member of the culture.

  7. Cultural appropriation. The use of cultural rituals & artifacts by a culture that oppressed & colonized the culture whose rituals & artifacts are being appropriated, especially if it involves pretending to be a member of that culture or making money out of pretending to be.

  8. Tone policing. Don’t say “if you weren’t so angry/aggressive/rude, I would support your cause”. BIPOC and other oppressed groups have every right to be angry about being oppressed and to express their anger.

  9. Land acknowledgement (Canada, USA, New Zealand, Australia). Learn the land acknowledgement for your area and the history of the Indigenous peoples whose land you are on. Be respectful. Support their struggle for land rights and self-determination.

  10. “If we think of territorial acknowledgments as sites of potential disruption, they can be transformative acts that to some extent undo Indigenous erasure. I believe this is true as long as these acknowledgments discomfit both those speaking and hearing the words. The fact of Indigenous presence should force non-Indigenous peoples to confront their own place on these lands.”
    – Chelsea Vowel, Métis, Beyond Territorial AcknowledgementsDon’t talk over BIPOC people. Listen to what they say, signal-boost, and don’t reply to Twitter/Facebook threads that are specifically asking for BIPOC views on a topic. Don’t assume you know better than they do about their experiences. Don’t speak on their behalf.
  11. Learn about residential schools, the treaty process, the history of struggle for land rights, civil rights, the Jim Crow era, education, housing, the case for reparations, the Green Book etc. Don’t stop listening and learning.

  12. If you screw up (and you will) apologize, make amends if possible, learn from your mistake. (Do not double down and make it worse.)

  13. If you are unfamiliar with the terms in this tweet thread, or a term used by a BIPOC person, Google it. It is not the responsibility of the oppressed to educate the oppressors. There are zillions of good articles out there on the interwebs. I have also put together a glossary of terms.

  14. If I’ve missed anything from this list, feel free to add it.

  15. Vegans! Do not shout at Indigenous people/s for hunting. They hunt sustainably and humanely. Also 80% of the most biodiverse land on Earth is managed and/or owned by Indigenous peoples. Go shout at industrialized factory farming instead.
  16. Satire punches up at the oppressor, not down at the oppressed.
  17. Both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are forms of racism. OK so Islam is a religion not a race, but the motivation behind Islamophobia is racist.

  18. If you’re at a pow wow, read the rules of respectful behaviour which are printed in the program, and abide by them. In case there isn’t a program, here’s a list from the Six Nations:

  19. We live immersed in a racist society and racist discourse. So however anti-racist you are, you could still be harbouring racist attitudes & biases that you’re unaware of. Hence we need to examine our biases & question our assumptions. This is not guilt tripping, it’s awareness.

  20. Intersectionality. Term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe intersecting oppressions. Originally used to describe the way Black women are oppressed both as Black and as women and these oppressions intersect.

  21. Anti-racist social media etiquette. Don’t tag BIPOC people to call their attention to some obnoxious racist nonsense. They see enough of that without you dragging them into more of it. Argue if you have the energy, if not, report and block.

  22. If you reply to a troll attacking a BIPOC person, just reply to the troll & not the BIPOC person; again this saves them a lot of aggro. Always report the troll to Twitter/Facebook. Although both companies often say the troll is not violating the terms of service, it’s still worth doing.

  23. A white supremacist society is one that’s organized for the benefit of white people. White supremacy as an ideology is the assumption that white people are better than everyone else. White supremacist societies don’t happen by accident, they’re driven by that ideology.

  24. Don’t assume that BIPOC want to talk about racism, land rights, etc (even if it’s an obsession for you because you just became aware).

  25. Don’t assume that any given BIPOC person is representative of their whole ethnic group, cultural group, or religion.

  26. Race is a social construct, but like gender, has real effects. Whiteness was invented/constructed in order to divide working class people. It assimilated various ethnic groups (Southern European, Eastern Europeans, and Jewish people were not originally seen as white.)
  27. White fragility. When a white person has a meltdown because a racist thing (systemic or personal) is pointed out to them.

  28. White tears. When a white person (usually a woman) bursts into tears when their Black friend describes systemic racism to them: not crying because of the injustice but because “oh you must hate me now”. (Ugh, I was so horrified when I found out this was a thing.) Another version is when a white person resents Black people’s success.

  29. White tears, weaponised version: when a white woman cries about something a Black man has allegedly done to her, and bad stuff happens as a result. Really horrific stuff, like the destruction of Rosewood and the murder of its inhabitants.

  30. The unmarked default. A category of people that is regarded as the norm, therefore it doesn’t need a label — e.g. white, cisgender, heterosexual are all regarded as the unmarked default by some people in those categories and they have a hissy-fit if they get labelled.

  31. Black names. Black people are recovering from centuries of oppression & if they choose unusual names that’s their right to assert their own culture in the face of continuing oppression.

  32. Indigenous names. Learn the proper names of Indigenous peoples and places (at least your local ones) rather than the English name.
  33. Examples:

    • Mohawk = Kanienke:ha
    • Six Nations = Haudenosaunee
    • Lake Erie = Erielhonan
  34. Names of other ethnic groups. Don’t say “what a weird name” when introduced to your PoC colleague or friend of a friend.

  35. Don’t ask where someone’s from (or even worse, “where are you really from” — Accept the first answer they give). Wait to be told, or (if appropriate) ask where their accent is from, or what their heritage is. If in doubt, don’t ask.

  36. “Political correctness” was invented by the right as a stick to beat the left with. What anti-racists actually say is, let’s treat others respectfully. We never use the phrase “political correctness”.

  37. If a BIPOC person tells you about something that happened to them, i.e. personal experience, don’t reply with statistics or generalizations or “well that’s never happened to me so it can’t be real”. If it happened, it happened. And if they regard it as racist, it was racist.

  38. . The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) enshrines the right to self-determination and land title for Indigenous peoples.

  39. First Nations in Canada have control and use of 0.2% of the land. That’s a statistic from the government of Canada. (It doesn’t include Nunavut, as far as I know.)
  40. The standard of living in Canada is number 1 in the world. The standard of living for Indigenous peoples in Canada is 78th in the world.

  41. Some Indigenous people (“status Indians”) are federally funded. This means they get much less funding per person than the rest of Canada, e.g. monthly welfare for Indigenous person, 2017: $138. Monthly welfare for unemployed Canadians, 2016: $733 (approximately). And yes, Indigenous people pay taxes.

  42. Just because you know one BIPOC person who doesn’t object to something that every other BIPOC person finds problematic (e.g. sports teams with dodgy names) doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. If the majority of BIPOC people think something is objectionable or problematic, it is.

  43. “Mixed race”. There’s only one race, the human race. A person with parents of different colours is mixed heritage & their parents came from 2 different cultures, e.g. a person who is half Mikmaq and half Scottish has two cultures. (cf Métis — a merger of cultures, not genes).

  44. NB – a mixed-heritage person might well refer to themselves as mixed-race, and that is their prerogative. However, their genetic characteristics are determined by their ancestry, not by their “race” (a concept often associated with scientific racism).

  45. As Wikipedia points out: “Modern scholarship regards race as a social construct, that is, a symbolic identity created to establish some cultural meaning. While partially based on physical similarities within groups, race is not an inherent physical or biological quality.”

  46. (The answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything): DON’T BE A DICK.

If you liked this post, go read lots more anti-racist articles for more nuance than is possible in a blog post.

One thought on “Anti-racism 101

  1. Pingback: Anti-racism 101 – Pray With Your Feet

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