[Note: this is why I am capitalising the words “Black” and “White” in this blog post]
There is a very big difference between not being racist, and actually being anti-racist.
Not being racist comes naturally to most people. Usually, you don’t really have to do much. You just need to not judge someone’s ability or intentions based on their skin colour. To not make stupid jokes. You know, all you need is to go about your daily life being a decent person.
Being anti-racist? Well, that’s hard. You actually need to do something. You need to call out racism. You need to take a position. You need to go out of your way. You need to counter-balance racist behaviours around you. You need to be uncomfortable. You need to work hard(er).
The images of #BlackLivesMatter protests in the US and elsewhere, and the many heart-breaking stories of living with racism, made me question my own non/anti racist behaviour. Painfully, I realised that, while I am not racist, I am not anti-racist, either.
For instance, I had a quick look at the racial profile of the scholars whose work I have cited in my blog, since the start of 2020.
Are you ready for the results?
Of the 33 scholars that I mentioned in my blog posts since the start of the year, only six (18%) were non-White. Six. And of these, none were Black.
I didn’t set out to ignore the work of non-White scholars, of course. Rather, I was blind to the race of the authors whose work I have been reading, and blogging about. I didn’t look. So, I didn’t see. So, I didn’t do the extra work to offset the institutional racism that makes the life of Black scholars harder than mine.
Did you know that ethnic minorities account for 13% of UK residents but only 9.6% of academic posts in the UK? And that while the career prospects of female academics are dire (see the green line in the figure below), they are even worse for BME women (orange line).
Moreover, I realised that, as a line manager, I never discussed race with my colleagues whose careers I am meant to support. How can I help them overcome systemic discrimination, if I am not even aware of the challenges that they face in their daily lives at work?
Salma Patel shared some great advice for White line managers:
And what about my daily life?
This afternoon, while scrolling through my social media posts, I saw that a friend had written that All Lives Matter (a slogan that, while sounding logic, is, in fact, a criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement). I didn’t click “like”, but I said nothing, either. At the end of the day, I know that this person is not racist. This person has a great heart. Actually, I can confidently say that this person is a great human being.
Though, that is not enough, is it?
Eventually, later, I wrote a reply to that post. I rewrote it many times, trying to make sure that my friend wouldn’t see my reply as a personal attack, and would understand why that slogan is racist (even if my friend isn’t). My friend wasn’t happy. That reply cost me a couple of hours this afternoon, and created uneasiness with this friend (I admit that doing this on Facebook didn’t help – it would have been better to do it in private and, ideally, face to face).
I will be honest: I’d rather not be anti-racist. It is hard-work. It is uncomfortable. But I have to. And you do, too. Because only when “Black lives matter” will all lives matter. And remember: