Because it’s time.
Whether we know it or not, the legacy of racism (which cannot be extricated from the legacy of colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy, xenophobia, and a host of other systems that dehumanize us and strip of us of our dignity) is still with us. It is in the experiences we encounter in our daily lives: disconnection from ourselves, community, and our own lineage; politics that decree certain bodies as more desirable or valuable than others; histories that are emphasized, and histories that are erased altogether; rampant stereotypes and misinformation that continue to perpetuate fear and suspicion; and covert and overt hate campaigns waged as red herrings in the name of abstract ideals.
It is so challenging to truly dismantle racism in our lives because of the mistaken assumption that it no longer exists, and that political correctness is being used to shove it down everyone’s throats in an already divisive political landscape.
That’s the rhetoric I’ve tended to hear from many when talking about the elephant in the room that is racism. Despite the headway we’ve made in discussing things like diversity, inclusion, and disproportionate allocation of resources, we are still guided by a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps ethos that prizes individual ingenuity over all else…completely neglecting the social realities under which many of us still live. Realities in which many of us are asked to aspire to a model that is dissonant with our own lived realities…in which certain people are continuously privileged over others.
The truth is, racism operates on ideas that are almost entirely unconscious. It is the collective pain that is perpetuated when we fall back on old tropes of who is human, and who is less-than. Who is a good, upstanding citizen, and who is a “thug” whose life doesn’t hold as much value.
Racism is the water we drink and the air we breathe. It’s the segregation that separates us from one another, even though we might live in the same city or attend the same schools. It’s a rhetoric that operates so insidiously that we barely see it—and, in fact, we often fall back on the ideal of color-blindness to defend our ignorance.
Moving toward anti-racist practices helps us embrace our intersectionality (the recognition that systems of discrimination are overlapping and interdependent, and affect all of us). Whether or not we find ourselves in the dominant or privileged groups, we must challenge and dismantle racism and other systems of oppression that serve to keep our communities traumatized and in a state of perpetual division. We must, more importantly, investigate the false assumptions we have internalized about who is and isn’t valuable. We must stop perpetuating the myth of color-blindness and recognize that unity can only arise when we recognize that the playing field is not level, and never has been. We must be more critical of the information that is at our disposal in order to understand how we can most effectively respond to phenomena like the disproportionate incarceration of black and brown bodies, so-called immigration “reform,” and political rhetoric about who gets to be part of our communities.
Dismantling racism begins with dismantling the constructs of our own thinking; our own biases; and our own ideas and definitions of love, justice, equality, and interconnectedness.