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Becoming Anti-Racist

Created by Tamara Smith 21' and Lucy Gordon 21'


What is allyship?

Allyship is not conditional on whether you have been offended or someone individually is not nice to you. 

    • Allyship is based on a set of beliefs about the human rights of others that are sustained by long term goals, motivations, and beliefs.

Alt-Text: The picture is one large rectangle split slightly left of center. On the left side of the rectangle is an image of bell hooks, a black feminist scholar speaking into a microphone, and looking out into a crowd. On the right side of the rectangle is a quote from bell hooks in white text on a black background from which reads “Solidarity is not the same as support. To experience solidarity we must have a community of interests, shared beliefs, and goals around which to unite, to build sisterhood. Support can be occasional. It can be given and just as easily withdrawn. Solidarity requires sustained ongoing commitment.”

A quote from bell hooks, a feminist scholar, author and activist summarizing principles of solidarity rather than support.

Situating Your Beliefs about Anti Racism

Anti-Racist beliefs can have different goals.

    • Abolitionist Work

Believes in the "act of officially ending or stopping something" altogether, and addressing the problem through means outside of said practice or institution (Merriam Webster, 2020).

    • Reformist Work

Believes in "advocating the reform of an existing system or institution instead of its abolition and replacement" (Collins English Dictionary, 2020).

How do you situate yourself within this work?

The picture above shows a flow chart of four blue circles, each overlapping horizontally and getting larger and larger to the right of one another. They are all connected by an arrow pointing to the right. They each have a title followed by phrases that fall under that title. The first circle reads “Becoming Anti-Racist”, the next circle to the right reads “Fear Zone.” This circle has four phrases within it: “I deny racism is a problem”, “I avoid hard questions”, “I strive to be comfortable” and “I talk to others who look and think like me.” The following blue circle to the right reads “Learning Zone.” This circle has six phrases in it: “I recognize racism is present and current problem”, “I seek out questions that make me uncomfortable”, “I understand my own privilege in ignoring racism”, “I educate myself about race and structural racism”, “I am vulnerable about my own biases & knowledge gaps”, “I listen to others who think and look differently than I do.” The final circle to the right of the previous one reads “ Growth Zone.” This circle has eight phrases within it: “I identify how I may unknowingly benefit from racism”, “I promote and advocate for policies and leaders that are anti-racist”, “I sit with my discomfort”, “I speak out when I see racism in action”, “I educate my peers about how racism harms our profession”,  “I don’t let mistakes deter me from being better”, “I yield positions of power to those otherwise marginalized”, “I surround myself with others who think and look differently than me.”

Identifying where you currently feel you are, and letting that inform what steps you should take.

How do I sit with my own discomfort?

    • Understanding whether you are in a dominant or marginalized group.
      • Dominant vs Marginalized
        • Rather than Majority and Minority
        • Understanding that it is not about who has the most people but about whose norms dictate society.
    • Anti-racist work is not about who you are but the choices you make moment to moment.
      • This work comes with the understanding that you can be marginalized by your gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and other aspects of identity beyond race.However, when you are tackling anti-racist work as a white person marginalized by other aspects of identity, you are still in the dominant group.
      • And can make the choice to be an ally or co-conspirator in tackling anti-racist work through your actions.


What does Allyship Look Like? versus Performative Allyship


What is performative activism institutionally?

    • Statements from organizations with no plans attached 
    • Listening Sessions or Town Halls with no follow-up plans afterward 
    • “Good Optics” - Preserving a Reputation or image with no follow through on action 

Non-Performative Allyship involves follow-through 

    • Have actionable steps
      • If you do not know what actionable steps to take, poll or survey the group you are trying to serve to address the needs.
        • Clearly outline those needs in a document.
      • Choose an appropriate path to proceed.

(1) Who needs to hear these concerns? A student leader, a school administrator, government representative
(2) How should the concerns be outlined? A letter, an email a call, a meeting, etc.
(3) How will you follow up on these concerns? Setting a date for a follow-up conversation over email, call or in-person

What does allyship look like?


    • Having someone specific in your classroom, workplace, etc that you feel comfortable having these conversations with that you can depend on to support you in calling out racist actions .
    • Or supporting you specifically when you notice a professor or boss directs racist words or actions at you.


Self-Care and Community Care for Black People and People of Color


The image above is a quote in decorative lettering which reads “You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep others warm.”

"You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep others warm"



Tactics for Actively Addressing Racist Commentary


How to challenge racist commentary as suggested by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University:

(1) Be literal or refuse to rely on assumptions being made: “That’s just the way those people are, you know?” “Actually I don’t know what you mean by that. I’ve met a lot of people in that group and they’re all unique individuals.”
(2) State that you are uncomfortable: “Assumptions about an entire group of people make me uncomfortable. I don’t think that we can take that assumption for granted or make our decisions based on it.”
(3) Remove yourself from the conversation: “We have this same fight every holiday gathering. Clearly we’re not going to change each other’s minds. I won’t agree to disagree because people’s humanity is too important for that, but I will ask that we not have this fight right now. Can we please enjoy family time together instead?”

Suggestions on how to be an active bystander in potentially dangerous situations as suggested by The Southern Poverty Law Center:

The Five D's

(1) Direct

      • If you are in a situation where you are safe to do so you can address the harasser “Leave them alone,” “That’s inappropriate,” “That’s disrespectful” or “That’s not OK.” The most important thing is to keep it succinct.
      • Do not argue or debate the harasser, since this is how situations escalate. If the harasser responds, assist the person targeted instead of engaging.

(2) Distract

      • The goal is to interrupt the incident by engaging with the person targeted. Ignore the harasser.
      • Pretend they are your neighbor, colleague, or friend, and start a conversation even offer to walk them to their destination.
      • Read the situation and choose your approach accordingly. The person targeted will likely catch on, potentially de-escalating the situation.

(3) Delegate

      • Turn to a third party for help.
      • If you are not with a friend, speak to someone near you who notices what’s happening and might be in a better position to intervene.

(4) Delay

      • If you can’t take action in the moment, you can make a difference afterward by checking on the people targeted:
        • Offer to accompany them to their destination. You can also offer to sit with them for a moment.
        • If you’ve documented the incident on video – or in any other medium – ask them if they want it.
        • Share resources, such as contact information for advocacy groups that can help. If they want to report the incident, offer to assist.

(5) Document

      • Record or document the incident with caution:
        • If the person needs help, address one of the prior D's first.
        • Keep a safe distance when documenting.
        • Clearly state the date and time.
        • Verify landmarks like street signs, storefronts, train station platform signage.