Be Vocal in Your Opposition to Racism

We all have biases — for example, a preferred type of shoe, blue jeans or khakis, spicy food or plain. We also have biases towards people. None of these are inherently bad. Knowing our preferred shoe type helps us shop a lot easier and knowing if a person likes hockey will help us decide if we invite them to a game. If we didn’t have biases to help sort things we would be overwhelmed by the enormity of making hundreds of decisions every day.

When biases become a problem is when they lead to racism — when the biases are used as a way to discriminate against a person from a position of power or dominance. Being white in a society of white privilege provides that position and opportunity.

As part of my own professional growth, I’m reading the bookme and white supremacy‘. At first, I thought that I didn’t need to read the book: “Well, that doesn’t apply to me. I’m not a white supremist”.

And I’m not.

But, when I started reading it I recognized that, while I am not a white supremacist and I consider myself an anti-racist, I may actually be contributing to racism. The book challenges my assumptions and my underlying understandings of how our society works to marginalize those who are not white. The book is unsettling because it talks about things like:

  • white privilege
  • white fragility
  • white silence
  • colour blindness
  • racist stereotypes

These form some of the realities of the ‘white privilege’ that exists in Canada. The topics raise a discomfort in me as I take the time to reflect on my own mindset and biases. Am I actually contributing to the racism around us because of MY actions or inactions? Once we understand and accept that ‘white privilege’ exists, we can then also recognize a collective responsibility in eliminating racism.

Feeling discomfort is really the only impetus that causes significant change to happen — we don’t change if it’s comfortable to stay where we are.

Dave Eberwein

I can easily recall some comments that I have heard trying to minimize the racism reality:

  • “He didn’t mean that as a racist comment.”
  • “She’s much better now than she used to be. I rarely hear that kind of thing from her any more.”
  • “People are too sensitive. It was just a joke.”

None of those statements are acceptable! Minimalizing racism is one of the reasons why it continues. By relegating racism to the ‘It’s no big deal’ pile, we negate the real life experiences of many. Until we all begin to all voice our collective and consistent objection to racism it will not be eliminated.

Your words lose their value when they don’t match your actions. Living true to your values means acting consistently in support of them.

Dave Eberwein

When you choose to be consistently active in your objection to racism you will invariably raise some eyebrows and perhaps even be ridiculed or condemned for your stance. This is the reality of racism — it exists because it is a bully. It works to marginalize and intimidate others — not only those who are victim to it, but to those who oppose it as morally wrong.

Here are some thoughts for you to consider if you choose to look at your own actions:

Albert Einstein
  • Be reflective and critical about what you hear and see.
  • Be open to the reality that you have likely contributed to racism, whether intentionally or not.
  • When you witness racism meet it head-on with an active, anti-racist response.
  • Concern yourself more with the person who is a victim of racism than the person committing the act of racism.
  • Be less worried about how you may be challenged for standing up against racism, and more concerned about the effects it is having on those who are victims of it.
  • Challenge racist stereotypes because they instill unsubstantiated fear about others, as well as marginalizing and dehumanizing them.
  • Being silent in the face of racism is the same as condoning it.

What’s right isn’t always popular and what is popular is not always right.

Albert Einstein

I am continuing my own journey into a deeper understanding of racism, and how I can be better at helping to eliminate it. I cannot have an impact everywhere, but I can effect change that is close to me.

My hope is that my last two blog posts have intrigued you to perhaps also explore your own role in racism — to challenge yourself to become more informed and to take the path of an active anti-racist not because it is easy, but because it is right.

4 thoughts on “Be Vocal in Your Opposition to Racism

  1. Interestingly, I am regularly concerned with this because my marriage is a “mixed” one. My spouse is “of colour” and I am white. My spouse’s and children’s complexions, though makes them “chamelonesque” because it is not immediately apparent as to their origins and they are taken as having exotic but not defined “ethnic backgrounds.” I do feel there are differences in the racist reactions that various people suffer. Non-white experience is not all the same, so it is part of the problem when we think that it is. If white experience says – “I’m not racist because I have non-white friends” or “there is no racism in my work experience because we have a diverse workforce” just because there are some people representative of “other than white,” these attitudes are part of the problem for those that suffer most.

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    • Hi Sheila,

      An excellent series of points. My own dive into the complexity of racism is an eye-opening experience for me. Thank you for adding to the narrative and stressing the importance for all of us to become more informed and responsive.

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    • Hi SJ. Thanks for your question. The second page can be fairly easily accessed on a phone or tablet by scrolling to the bottom of the first page and clicking on the ‘Page 2’. I don’t believe there is another way for me to format the blog into two pages.

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