Meet Anti-Racism Writer and Activist Naomi Raquel Enright

And learn about her passion for challenging racism

Hello friends,

I connected with Naomi Raquel Enright on LinkedIn around the time I started being more vocal about racism and anti-racism. Hers was a voice that really resonated then, as it does now. In the time since, I’ve had the pleasure of many conversations with Naomi in groups we both belong to, and it’s a real pleasure to share some of her story in today’s newsletter. Please meet Naomi…

Naomi, what made you become an anti-racism activist and writer? Was there a particular epiphany that set you on this path?

From as early as I can remember, I have had a keen interest in examining and understanding racism and identity. I am certain this is born out of my lived experience as a multi-ethnic, bilingual and international individual. I was born in La Paz, Bolivia, to an Ecuadorian mother and a Jewish-American father, raised in New York City, a native English and Spanish speaker, and I am a citizen of Bolivia, Ecuador and the United States. Growing up, I would be very outspoken when people would stare at my family, or make comments about us, and my parents raised me to understand how intricately connected history, identity and social change are.

There is an epiphany that altered the trajectory of my life and led to my book, "Strength of Soul." (paid link) This would be the contrast in my experience growing up as the daughter of a white, Jewish American father versus as the biological, brown-skinned mother of a son presumed to be white. As a daughter, it was assumed that my father had adopted my older brother and me whereas in my experience as a mother, it is assumed that I am my son's caretaker. I recognized this contrast soon after my son was born in 2010, and it became clear to me that at base, our society accepts both the lie of inherent racial difference and the belief that whiteness equates automatic privilege, protection and power. This realization forced me to take an entirely different approach to antiracism - an approach that challenges both the ethos and the practice of systemic racism.

What anti-racist cause are you most passionate about, and why?

I don’t think there is one particular antiracist cause I am passionate about because in my view, all aspects of systemic racism are intertwined and must all be combatted. With that said, however, if I had to choose, I would say I am most passionate about how we educate, discuss and understand racism.

Given my life experience, it has become clear to me that the language we use to discuss and challenge racism must change if we hope for cultural and systemic transformation. As it stands, our language corroborates the lie created to justify racism, and I don’t think we will ever be able to dismantle racism if we allow the ideology and language created to uphold it to remain in place. We must be consistent in naming and challenging the system.

When we name the system, we put the onus where it belongs, whereas when we perpetuate the lie of inherent racial difference, we implicate who we are, rather than how the system functions.

Naomi Raquel Enright

I am convinced of this because if I were to accept the language as it stands, I would accept not only that my son and I are inherently different from each other, but that the privilege, protection and power he experiences in the world is natural. When we name the system, we put the onus where it belongs, whereas when we perpetuate the lie of inherent racial difference, we implicate who we are, rather than how the system functions. The disenfranchisement, marginalization and criminalization of Black and brown people, then, is not the result of their skin tone, but rather the result of a system created to justify and maintain inequity and injustice.

What form does your activism take?

My activism takes form through writing and education. I am often a guest lecturer in classrooms or organizations, and use my writing and life experience to illustrate how crucial it is for antiracism to reject the ideology and language of race. I am also often a guest on podcasts to discuss my work and this very issue.

In addition to my book, I have written an essay entitled "The Hidden Curriculum" that highlights how essential it is for us to name the system each and every time. I have used this essay as the catalyst for many a discussion and workshop, and find that it has a strong impact on people. When we begin to identify the ways we tacitly accept the system as it was meant to operate, we see more clearly how critical it is to challenge racism at the root.

What response have you had to your activism and writing?

I have had an overwhelmingly positive response to my activism and writing. Many readers have told me how much my book resonated with their own lives and what a gift it was to finally see their experiences mirrored back to them. I particularly tend to hear this from readers who exist between languages and cultures.

Given my own multi-ethnic, bilingual and international experience, my book honors that reality. I have learned over the course of my life that I will always exist in the space between. As alienating and isolating as that can be at times, it also expands my worldview and allows me to connect with a wider range of individuals.

People have thanked me for giving them a resource to use in their own conversations about racism and identity. They have also thanked me for writing a book that expands their self-conceptualization. My book is also, in part, an examination of grief as I lost my father within a year of my son’s birth, so that aspect has also deeply resonated with readers. People have told me that they admire my determination, tenacity and holistic view of humanity.

In terms of anti-racism content, which are the top three articles that resonated with you?

  1. “White Debt” (2015) by Eula Biss had a deep impact on me. I love how she highlights that perpetuating whiteness is key to maintaining the racist status quo. Her article emphasized for me the importance of teaching my son that his presumption of whiteness should not define him and that defining himself within that limited parameter only serves to maintain white supremacy and anti-blackness.

  2. This 2015 essay by Carl Gregg spoke to me because the author is clear about the dangers of continuing to perpetuate the lie of inherent racial difference. I also loved that it was Ta-Nehisi Coates’s "Between the World and Me" that was the catalyst for this piece. I taught Ta-Nehisi Coates’s son and "Between the World and Me" very much inspired "Strength of Soul." Gregg’s piece elucidates how crucial it is for our society to stop conflating the lie of race with the reality of racism. As long as do so, we will be caught in a circuitous, vicious cycle that will never lead to the cultural and systemic change we need.

  3. “On Being White … And Other Lies” (1984) by James Baldwin ought to be required reading. I love that in this piece Baldwin is clear that whiteness was created to justify and maintain white supremacy and anti-blackness. He essentially states that agreeing and adhering to whiteness is akin to a bargain with the Devil and the cost is our collective humanity and true systemic change.

Share another anti-racism article that really made an impact on you.

This article, published in July 2020, and adapted from Isabel Wilkerson’s book "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents," absolutely transformed my approach to antiracism. Wilkerson is convinced that in our society we have an unspoken “caste” system we adhere to, and that it is “casteism” that we should be naming and challenging. In this article, Wilkerson illuminated for me that my son’s presumption of whiteness, and subsequent presumption of privilege, protection and power, illustrates that an American caste system does exist. Caste is the root and it is what we must unearth.

In relation to racism, what is your vision for the future?

I hope in the future skin color will not be attached to value and that people will understand it is a system we must combat and change. I hope in the future there will be an understanding that human beings are not inherently different from each other based on a superficial physical trait.

This hope, or vision, is not to be confused with color-blindness. We can identify and embrace difference, but also be very clear that being darker or lighter skinned does not automatically separate us from each other, nor should it dictate how we are perceived or what our experiences in the world will be.

Is there anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to add?

I hope people reading this interview will understand that it is my deepest passion to challenge and dismantle racism. It has been at the crux of all of my professional work and has always been interwoven with my personal experience. I had to re-evaluate and rethink how to do this work when I became the mother of a son presumed to be white, however, and I refuse to render families like my own invisible.

Too often we accept the lie of inherent racial difference, perpetuating skin color as automatic separator, definer and affinity. I will not teach my son that he is inherently different from Black and brown people - no child should be learning that - and I will teach my son that challenging and dismantling casteism impacts him too.

Caste is dehumanizing to all of us and if we wish for the betterment of humanity, we must be able to see ourselves in each other.

Phew - Naomi said a whole word there. Please connect with Naomi Raquel Enright on her website, LinkedIn and Medium.

Thanks for reading,


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I am an anti-racism educator and activist, Co-Founder of Mission Equality, the author of “I’m Tired of Racism”, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast.

© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2024. All Rights Reserved.

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