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The Case Against "Not Racist"

Without question, race and poverty are linked. Racism creates poverty. Racism makes and keeps people poor. Also, to be acknowledged, is the connection with an ongoing class struggle. There are more poor white people than poor people of color, but that is only because the white population is the majority race in America. By any standard used, people of color will fall short compared to whites. Compare income, wealth, health, unemployment, housing, student debt, COVID vaccination rate, gender and blacks will compare unfavorably with white folk.

The following two graphs show that, with lower incomes, people of color struggle to have reasonable lives and have little chance to build wealth. Imagine if, since 1619 or 1865, incomes had been similar between whites and blacks. As it is, whites have had generations to build and pass on wealth.

Many of us have read How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. For too long our landscape has been shaped by POLICIES that favor whites. If we care about justice for all, we have an obligation to influence POLICIES that ensure equity.

Early in How to be an Antiracist, Kendi debunks the claim of anyone declaring that he or she is NOT racist. The first diagram below may reflect how we currently think about racism. If we are not members of the KKK or on the board of Black Lives Matter, we are somewhere in the middle of the racism spectrum. We stand in the middle, declaring, if challenged, that we “not racist.”

But Kendi declares there is no middle ground. There is no such person as one who is “not racist.” There’s no fence to ride on. The bottom diagram reflects Kendi’s position. We are either racist or antiracist. We must choose.

Kendi defines a Racist: One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.

(Note that INACTION qualifies as racist!)

Kendi defines an Antiracist: One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.

The creation of equitable POLICIES and their enforcement are what create a landscape of equality. Through donations, calls to our representatives, voting, attending public hearings and holding officials accountable, we can move from the make-believe position of “not racist” to being antiracist.


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