What we should do concretely against racism from now on
I am often asked the question of what can be done concretely against racism. Just asking this question costs many people a lot of effort. There are fears of not expressing oneself in a politically correct way, of saying the wrong thing or even of being called a racist. The good news beforehand is that we are all in the same boat. We are socialized in a racist system, so we are all likely to be racists, whether we like it or not. That makes the discussion a little easier.
I myself know the worry of expressing myself wrongly. There are topics in which I do not know so well, and in my ignorance certainly hurt people, without having done this with malicious intent. And that’s exactly the point: we don’t mean any harm. However, in these moments we must not get caught up in the self-pity of our own fragile vulnerability, but admit that we too are only human, but open and able to learn.
Therefore, my appeal is to take the following path:
- Recognize racism
- Use your privileges
- Take a stand (public and private)
- Engage yourself
What does this mean exactly?
1. Recognize racism
The path to greater equity starts with education. Since we learn next to nothing about our colonial history in school, we lack the knowledge to even describe and explain the development of structural racism. The fact that there is debate in the media about whether racism even exists in our society makes it clear how much work lies ahead.
A good definition on racism comes from Pjilomena Essed (1992):
“An ideology, structure, and process by which certain groupings are viewed as inherently different and inferior ‘races’ or ethnic groups on the basis of actual or ascribed biological or cultural characteristics. Subsequently, these differences serve to explain the exclusion of members of these groupings from access to material and nonmaterial resources.”
A list of further reading on racism can be found here.
2. Use your privileges
In order to be able to use our own privileges, we must first become aware of them. People who are white in Germany, German by birth, and speak German without an accent almost certainly do not experience racism in their lives. Which is not to say that these people are spared discrimination of other kinds. Besides racism, there are other discriminatory -isms such as sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism (discrimination based on disability). ). In my workshops I like to ask what privileges the participants have when they belong to the ‘norm’ in the context of racism and what these mean to them.
Here you can test how privileged you are.
When we have become aware of our privileges, we are able to use them consciously. Your privilege could be, for example, that you are listened to and trusted when you express something. In a concrete situation where you see or hear something racist, you could then use this privilege and take action against it.
3. Position yourself
(publicly and privately)
In the next step you can position yourself clearly – whether in conversations with family or friends or in the office with colleagues. Say what you feel and why you think something is not right. Personally, the ‘VW rule’ helps me in such moments: formulate a wish from an accusation. Instead of accusing my counterpart, I explain what exactly has disturbed me and link this to a concrete wish.
4. Get involved
There are many ways to get involved. For example, a good start may be to support Black-owned businesses by purchasing their products and services. Joining initiatives that create a welcoming culture or work against racism is just as useful as networking and exchanging ideas with Black people.
“Being anti-racist is not a state, it’s a journey. Probably lifelong.”
– Ellen Wagner
If you need support to embark on this journey and want your questions answered, sign up for my next Anti-Racism Workshop – a learning space for White people without experience of racism. This is one of many steps you can take toward justice. Whichever path you choose, start today, it’s worth it!