Over the last day, I’ve been reflecting on a quote from Angela Davis:
“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist — we must be anti-racist.”
I am reflecting on this quote because Zhaabadiis Bedoske, an Indigenous person who I follow and respect, lifted it up after the racist harassment of elder Nathan Phillips in Washington D.C. Bedoske shared that many people expressed outrage at what happened, but often through the lens of, “Who raises their kids this way?” with the implication of, “Good thing I’m raising my kids differently. Good thing we’re not racist like these families, or this school, or this church etc.”
Racism is pervasive, but it is in some ways taboo, even as it is expressed systemically and very overtly. And white people (I’m among them) often spend a lot of time trying to prove to ourselves and others that we are non-racist — not like “those people.”
But at the very same time, we may be doing very little to challenge, disrupt, and change this reality. We paste quotes of MLK over our social-media sites on a day like today, but then become uncomfortable, radio silent, or actively resistant when people challenge, protest, and disrupt the systems of white supremacy — both within and beyond the legacy of MLK.
Do we know the larger oppressive, systemic issues that were raised during the Indigenous Peoples March? Or how barriers and racist policies are placed in our local areas against the rights and resources of Indigenous people?
I don’t know those details. Should I learn them? Yes. And work alongside others who are planning liberation? Yes.
“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist — we must be anti-racist.” – Angela Y. Davis