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5 ways to undo racism

5 ways to undo racism

Two teens talking at a Freedom School.
Photo: AFSC / Nancy Wong

This list was created by Dominique Diaddigo-Cash and Jelani Brown from their workshop, "Youth Undoing Institutional Racism Freedom School," at AFSC's 2017 Centennial summit. See this list and others from the summit online at afsc.org/5ways. Download this list as a PDF here.

Race and Racism are the two edges of a sword of human division.  The specious classification of race was developed to enforce the social stratification system of racism.  This culture of racism has engulfed the globe over the past few centuries, using the rise of European military dominance and the beginnings of global capitalism as a means of justifying the subjugation of people of color.  This ideology lasts to this day in both its overt and subtle forms, reinforced by our socialization.  Here are a few ways to confront that socialization and undo racism. 

  1. White people can talk to other white people! I’ve heard this a thousand times from white youth: “I just can’t talk to my family/extended family/community/classmates/etc. about race. They just don’t get it!” A part of the role of an anti-racist organizer is to bear the torch of anti-racism in all walks of life. Understand that whites in this society are conditioned to believe in an inherent superiority in their cultural values, social norms, and physical appearance. The cognitive dissonance that this creates has a negative impact on all who experience it.  Giving space for white people to unpack negative assumptions in the company of other white people can lead to powerful and vulnerable experiences. Being a white person in 2017 comes with a lot of privileges, but the privileges of silence and denial are the first that need to be confronted! 

  1. Understand how race is a part of your story. For folks who have come to be called “white”, question the ways in which your ancestors may have had to contend with cultural erasure. Did your family immigrate through Ellis Island? Were your ancestors been displaced by European wars? Maybe you’re descended from original settler-colonists. The point is not to historically quantify white guilt: It is to understand how the ideology of racism prevents multi-cultural connections to benefit those in power. In understanding your own place in history, you can better understand how these systems have never benefited all.   

  1. Research the land that your Meetinghouse is on. Learn from the practices of this land’s original inhabitants how to best honor the land. Racism and the will to control the natural world not only contributed to the genocide of Indigenous people and the theft of their land, but has also led to the development of systems that profit from environmental destruction. The inhumanity with which this culture regarded and continues to regard Indigenous people is mirrored by our attitudes toward the living world. In a very real sense, racism threatens the survival of even the non-human world.   

  1. Don’t shy away from discomfort! If you hear someone leaning on the cheap humor of racist jokes, making inflammatory and oppressive statements, or just spreading hate-speech, let them know you don’t co-sign. In the same way that joking about sexual assault cannot be dismissed as “locker room talk”, joking about a history of violence can not be dismissed as harmless humor. Turn your privilege into courage and stand up for people! 

  1. Understand that culture is not race. Class is not race. Race is not a monolith. People are host to a variety of experiences and identities. People live their lives at the intersection of their social identities, and have to live with the privileges or disadvantages that come with those identities.   

For more reading, check out Dan Zanes' article, "Be Less Racist: 12 Tips for White Dudes, by a White Dude."