During the height of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to be Antiracist dominated public discourse and awareness. The phrase, “it’s not enough to be ‘not racist,’ you must be ‘antiracist’” ignited an important discussion about collective and individual action against racism on the institutional, cultural, and societal levels. Almost two years since summer 2020, a lot has changed, but a lot remains the same. We need to revise our discussions, and most importantly, our actions to make sure we are all actively antiracist.
First, we need to be educated on the history of racism and the history of antiracism within our societies. There have been centuries of injustices that have ingrained themselves in legal institutions and cultural nuances. Educating oneself about how systemic racism has settled in, and what action has been taken throughout history to combat this is a critical first step. We need to learn, unlearn, and then challenge ourselves and our understandings of racial dynamics.
Second, we need to dedicate energy and contribute to antiracist efforts. There are organisations, movements, and efforts led by Black people in Canada that we can work with or learn from. However, the want to help shouldn’t come from a place of superiority or feeling good about doing something, rather, it should be from a genuine commitment to both be antiracist as an individual, and help others become antiracist as well.
Lastly, hold yourself, the people around you, and the people in power accountable. Notice your own actions and words and catch yourself. Take the time to unlearn the deeply rooted racist practices within our society. If you notice that your friends or your peers are saying problematic things, don’t shy away from calling them out. Make sure that they are aware why it is wrong so that everyone can work towards improving and becoming anti-racist.
It is not possible to become antiracist overnight. It takes time and dedication to challenge the various ways our society is designed to be racist, and how many of us have benefitted from racism without knowing. The time to start was yesterday, but it is not too late.