“Anti-Racism Shouldn’t Be This Hard”
Why this isn’t a valid complaint from members of the dominating culture
A while back, I saw someone comment on social media that “antiracism shouldn’t be this hard”. This was a white person, and it made me stop and think.
It’s true that if you’re a member of the dominating culture (a term used in multiple academic articles on racism) who is benefiting from the unearned advantage of white skin, anti-racism may indeed be hard for you. After all:
You have to give up a bunch of ideas and concepts you have taken for granted.
You have to look at your ancestors’ actions, and the benefits you still derive from them. That may not make for a great reflection when you look in your personal mirror.
You have literally reprogramme your brain away from the taken-for-grantedness of whiteness.
You have to start listening to people you’ve never listened to or thought about before.
And you have to realise just how much you’ve been missing and how different the experience of Global Majority people is from your own, AND likely feel bad about having been oblivious to this.
It’s a total mindf*ck, right?
Having said all that, I’m still not sure that members of the dominating classes have the right to complain about how hard anti-racism is. If that’s you, know that as difficult as you find it, as much as you cry over it, your discomfort doesn’t compare with the ACTUAL pain of experiencing racism, or even with the difficulties Global Majority people experience when they step up as anti-racists. Let me elaborate…
As a person of the Global Majority, racism can affect every aspect of your life:
How you are treated as a birthing person or new parent.
How your kids are perceived in school (Google: school to prison pipeline; Google: Black kids and school exclusion).
How you are perceived when you go shopping (Google: shopping while Black).
Whether you are seen as competent and promotable at work.
Which spaces you can go into unfettered by the weight of the white gaze (not many).
Whether driving a car, sleeping, jogging, or doing something normal for the dominating culture could end with your death (Google any of those words and add “while Black”).
What educational and housing opportunities are available to you.
How you are compensated for your work (Google: ethnicity pay gap).
How you get treated in the medical system and the justice system (Google: medical racism).
Whether you can get a loan, a mortgage, or move into certain areas (Google: redlining).
Whether you see yourself represented in the media - and how that representation happens
Whether the systems that protect the dominating culture work against you
The extent to which white tears can ruin your life (Google, if you must, “white fragility” which is really discomfort and for some a sneaking sense of inferiority)
The extractive relationships you have with the dominating culture.
I could go on. As Guante says, racism is the water, not the shark.
Add to that the fact that if you are from the Global Majority AND you talk openly about racism you will have to deal with gaslighting, pushback, specious arguments, racial slurs, stalkers and death threats. No, I’m not making this up - this has actually happened to people.
So forgive me if I ask members of the dominating culture to pause and reflect before allowing the thought about how hard anti-racism is to cross their lips. Unless you’re saying “it’s hard AND I welcome the challenge”, think again.
Thanks for coming to my “TED talk”.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2023. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.
I am an anti-racism writer, educator and activist, Co-Founder of Mission Equality the author of “I’m Tired of Racism”, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast.
Ms. Hurley- Hall, I completely agree with you statement, it, "your discomfort doesn’t compare with the ACTUAL pain of experiencing racism,..." No it doesn't. However that should not detract from my effort or discomfort. As I told you before, I may never feel your pain, but perhaps I can try to understand black people- to see where you are coming from. This requires humility to admit I was wrong, tolerance of others, and a bit of empathy.
Ms . Hurley-Hall, your list of what white people have to do to lift the burden of racism from them. Please, to me at least, it is a burden. To be saddled with the myths and intolerance of racism is something I wanted to wash my hands of as soon as I suspected I had racist thoughts. To give credit where credit is due, I thank you, Ms. Hurley-Hall and a host of black and some white writers for showing me the light. Now I analyze every thought I have before speaking to see if it can be interpreted as racist. My better understanding of black people has also caused me to reflect on why I was a racist, what assumptions I made, and what things I had done.
I think to defeat racism, whites have to leave their ivory tower, see the blatant unadulterated facts, to have at least half a neuron, and have a modicum of humility. If those conditions can be met, perhaps racism can be defeated.
I welcome the challenge, and appreciate the grace to screw up and still be invited to show up and do better next time. Humaning is hard, but as you say, anti-racism was never supposed to be easy. That's privilege talking. And living as a Black human on planet earth is unrelenting. If anyone doubts it, they need to read the list in this article.