Anti-racism is more than simply not being racist. This guide is intended to provide general information about anti-oppression, racism, privilege, and inclusion, as well as information and resources for the social justice issues key to current dialogues within the University of Iowa community and beyond. This guide is by no means an exhaustive list of anti-racism initiatives nor does it capture all of the many facets of the larger conversations about the issues listed here. This guide serves as an introduction to these issues and as a starting place for finding information from a variety of sources.
Please note - Resources listed are listed alphabetically, not by implied value. It is up to you to determine which materials speak most to you, your experiences, and your own anti-racist path. Most resources are able to be accessed by those outside the University of Iowa community. That was intentional. This guide and the resources within it are meant to inspire reflection, education, and action, regardless of your status as a Hawkeye.
Some of these resources were created before the 2020 killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and George Floyd. Sadly, these resources remain relevant today. References to Michael Brown and Philando Castile or Ferguson and Charlottesville serve as a heavy reminder of the importance of anti-racist work and the progress yet to be made.
Racism is prejudice plus power; anyone of any race can have/exhibit racial prejudice, but in North America, white people have the institutional power, therefore racism is a systematized discrimination or antagonism directed against people of color based on the belief that whiteness is superior. It is insidious, systemic, devastating, and integral to understanding both the history of the United States and the everyday experiences of those of us living in this country.
Note: A common, incorrect definition of racism is the colloquial definition: “racism is prejudice against someone based on their skin color or ethnicity and can be committed by anyone.” This is NOT an accurate definition nor the one used in most anti-racist circles. It highlights individuals' thinking and actions but ignores embedded institutional and cultural systems.
People of color can be agents of racism as well (particularly when acting as representatives of white-dominated systems, such as higher education) by perpetuating the notion of white superiority and using it to discriminate against other people of color. For example, a black manager at a company may insist that a black employee's natural hair looks "unprofessional," or an Asian professor may knock points off the presentation grade of a Latinx student who speaks with an accent.
Definitions of racism can be varied and controversial but recognizing the history and impact of racism provides a foundation upon which to build anti-racist actions.
"When we choose to become antiracist, we become actively conscious about race and racism and take actions to end racial inequities in our daily life. Being antiracist is believing that racism is everyone's problem, and we all have a role to play in stopping it."
Source: Talking About Race, National Museum of African American History & Culture
Anti-racism is purposeful. It challenges and counters racism and race-based inequalities, prejudices, and discrimination through actions, theories, and conscious practices.
Marlon James, author of Brief History of Seven Killings, explains the difference between being anti-racist and being non-racist in the video below:
Source: Are you racist? 'No' isn't a good enough answer, Marlon James, The Guardian
Racial Microaggressions are commonplace verbal or behavioral indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults in relation to race. They are structurally based and invoke oppressive systems of racial hierarchy. Racial Microinvalidations, Microinsults, Microassaults are specific types of microaggressions.
Microaggressions communicate stereotypes and generalizations and, though often thought to be innocuous by the person using them, microaggressions negatively impact the recipient.
Note: The prefix “micro” is used because these are invocations of racial hierarchy at the individual level (person to person), where as the "macro" level refers to aggressions committed by structures as a whole (e.g. an organizational policy). "Micro" in no way minimalizes or otherwise evaluates the impact or seriousness of the aggressions.
Source: If Microaggressions Happened to White People (https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/08/white-people-microaggressions/)
Tokenism, according to Sustainable Campuses, is defined as "presence without meaningful participation." Tokenism is often used to improve the optics of a group, allowing them to say, "we can't be racist because we have a person of color on our board...or our panel...or our marketing materials." If that person is not given support and an equal voice, or is expected to represent the entire marginalized group, the person's presence is tokenism.
Source: Diversity or Tokenism, Jewelz, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bw200jYnF0k
The argument is common:
I don't see color, I just see people.
I don't care if you are black, brown, green, or polka-dotted.
We're all just people.
In theory, it sounds like a great response to discussions of race and racism. In theory, it sounds like finally judging people on the content of their character rather than the color of the skin, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed. In theory, it sounds like everyone will be treated equally, regardless of race, culture, or ethnicity and seen as individuals.
In reality, colorblindness and erasure are actually forms of racism. Those denials of race negate the lived experiences of people of color and imply that racism does not exist and can be ignored.
The history of racial violence in America is long - from the murder and forced relocation of Native American people to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II to the horrors inflicted on African Americans through slavery, lynching, and police brutality.