Dear White People... We Must Be Actively Anti-Racist with these 8 Fundamental Truths

Activism May 14, 2020

It's inexcusable that an unarmed person can be murdered, while the murderers are let free because they are white and the victim was black. It shouldn't take a video of a black body being lynched to create an online movement, and it shouldn't take an online movement to bring about a fraction of justice. (I'm referencing Ahmaud Arbery, whose death sparked online outrage after a video of his murder was released online. This outrage has since led to the murderers being arrested, conviction pending.) Simultaneously, it shouldn't take a pandemic for us to start talking about the black, brown, and indigenous communities that are living at a disadvantage, to recognize that their disproportional deaths are a result of unjust and unequal systems that mostly benefit white people. And when are we going to address the unprecedented incarcerations of people of colour?

White people, we need to get mad and stay mad at the social injustices happening all around us. We need to be vocal, publicly, and privately, against injustice, racism, and white supremacy. Our skin colour should not be a dictator of perceived criminality or innocence, violence or safety, death or life.

Photo by Melany Rochester on Unsplash

For those that hold the privilege of white skin, but don't know how to use that privilege to change the systemic racism, here are some things to take forward into anti-racism work.

1. Racism is systemic.

White privilege doesn't mean we can't have endured hardship at another intersection of society (socio-economic status, religion or ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, able-bodied-ness, mental health, etc.), but it does mean that our lives haven't been made harder by the colour of our skin.

Racism exists at all levels of society, in nearly all situations and settings. We must assume that racism is everywhere, even if we can't immediately identify it. The job of white people is to listen to people of colour who call out the racism happening to them, and help dismantle systemic oppression by adding our voice to theirs.

2. Racism happens where you live.

Many people think that racism or violent racist incidents don't affect them, because:

  • it doesn't happen where they live
  • it isn't as bad in your community, city, country, etc.
  • they think these situations are ‘out of their control’

This frame of mind needs undoing. The truth is, as long as white supremacy and systemic racism exist, and violence as a result of that racism and supremacy, can happen anywhere. If we take the time to look, we will find racial injustices and violence in our own countries, cities, towns, businesses, and governments.

3. Call out and educate friends and family.

Confronting or calling out people we don't have a close personal relationship with is easier than doing the same with friends and family. When we talk to our loved ones about their problematic jokes, beliefs, comments, thoughts, etc. it can create a tension that most people don't want to deal with. It's obvious why most people want to avoid confrontation with those they're close to, there is so much more to risk when calling them out versus a stranger or acquaintance. However, we have the most influence on those we are closest to, so it is absolutely essential that education happens. We can't let racism slide just because it comes from someone we love. Casual racism is still racism.

4. White silence perpetuates racism.

Letting racism and supremacy go unchecked allows racism to continue to exist. Silence on issues of racism does not equal neutrality, and it's far from ally-ship. We have been trained by the media and those in power to stay silent. We have been taught that siding with people of colour is of no benefit to us, and can do us harm (think of the headlines that paint black people as violent criminals, Muslims as terrorists, and immigrants as drains on welfare.) White silence actually supports oppression and makes us complicit in racial injustice.

When racism happens in a public setting, call it out if it's safe for you to do so. But also, always, always, ALWAYS, check in with the victim. Start talking to them, either talk to them as if you know them, or just start making ransom conversation. The perpetrator will understand that the person of colour has allies that they can't oppress. When the racist - that's what they are - has gone, ask if the person who experienced the racism is ok, and if there is anything you can do for them - such as being an eye witness when reporting a hate crime, walking them to their next destination, or staying with them till they can get hold of a loved-one.

5. Racism needs to be addressed to combat climate change.

Climate change can not be mitigated if we don't fix racial injustice alongside it. Colonialism and supremacy have led to a heavy reliance on capitalistic systems that are exploitative, not just to non-living resources, plants, and animals, but to people too. Without addressing this exploitation at every place it happens, we can not justly and appropriately mitigate climate change. Anti-racism work shouldn't be neglected from our activism. Barriers that stop people of colour joining activism spaces needs to be actively eliminated, and initiative needs to be taken to invite POC into activism spaces.

6. Power should be used to amplify.

People who hold positions of power or influence, should use it to lift-up people of colour; their voices, stories, and communities. People of colour often experience less opportunity, anyone with power needs to ensure that opportunity is afforded to all. When it comes to decision making, a diverse set of voices needs bringing to the table, so that they can identify what would be beneficial for them and their community. Making assumptions about what helps a community, or individual does not allow people of colour to express openly what they need from society, and can place conscious and unconscious racial biases into decision making.

For anyone that does't hold a position of power, the work still needs to be done. For those that hold voting power, we should vote for politicians who have historically protected the rights of people of colour.

7. When injustice happens, be quick to act against it.

When hearing about racial injustice, don't wait for it to trend before commenting on it or acting against it. Take action as soon as you hear about it:

  • amplify the voices of people of colour that are calling the incident out
  • find any related petitions and sign them
  • contact your MP and/or other elected officials that have the power to rectify and/or prevent this and similar incidents, even if they aren't your politicians, global pressure can help
  • Share info of marches and rallies, and attend them if you can

8. Educate yourself.

It can be emotionally and physically draining to deal with daily racism and also deal with the burden of educating white people. There needs to be less reliance on people of colour - that are known to us personally or who we follow on social media - for emotional support, labour, or education. Instead, find resources that people of colour are publicly putting out there, such as podcasts and books, and learn from those.


Activist and organizer with Greenpeace Vancouver. Writes about climate and social justice, feminism, greenwashing, and fossil fuel fuckery.

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