Tabi on racial matters: Are we missing out on our anti-racism efforts?

| April 4, 2022

A political system as complex as racism, yet as a society we’ve reduced racism to personal views on what’s right and wrong, and who said what? We’ve left racism to be explained in the hands of the everyday person whilst simultaneously the system continues to oppress.

For years we’ve settled for racism to be talked about, debated, and commented on by anyone and everyone. But why is that?

  • Why do we ask people with no specialisation on the topic of race to guide communities in Anti-racism strategies?
  • Why do we continue to have those with no specialisation in racism to chair national discussions?

Is it no wonder the needle doesn’t seem to have moved in our Anti-racism efforts?

The recent report on Social Cohesion by the Scanlan Foundation, Australia, confirmed that racism is prevalent. I believe this can be dealt with adequately if we develop the capabilities to understand what racism really is.

Why I’ve come to this view

This is simply because we can’t solve a problem that we can’t clearly articulate. It begs the question as to why racism continues to perpetrate even when the people around us are learning to be kind, respectful and thoughtful.

Racism is a discourse that needs to be studied like any other discipline to help us understand how racism is constructed, maintained, and protected. It is only then we can begin to develop tools needed to solve racism problems in society.

Therefore, although lived-experiences gives us a window to see what racism is doing to people, that alone is not enough to lead racism conversations, that work, I am suggesting, must be led by a race scholar. Otherwise, what we will see is racism circling around us in stories, whilst the system continues to perpetrate without the necessary actions to stop racism in its tracks.

Looking at my own life as a Black woman, my lived-experiences of racism go way back when. The experiences in knowledge I have acquired throughout this time enables me to share these experiences to help others to see how racism has shown up for me as a Black woman.

For a long time, I reduced racism to relational issues. The name calling and the slurs on the street.

I knew the racism I was experiencing on the streets was awful and made me sad, helpless, and angry because many places were and still are unsafe for me. As I got older, I noticed something else, even when I am with great people, educated, fun-loving and kind-hearted, I am still faced with barriers, even though no one was calling me bad names or walking on the other side of the street.

I faced barriers in securing employment, and navigating society was still a constant battle in many respects for a well-educated Black woman. This is something that those with privilege rarely think about.

When I did secure employment, I worked twice hard and twice as much as my counterparts, but I still struggled to get promotion as a university graduate working within roles within my skill set. Although I should be noticed in white professional spaces, racism rendered me unseen, and my skills were not noticed.

A few years back, I made the commitment to the ongoing learning and research of what racism really is and to develop the literacies around race and racism. I wanted to understand why well-educated Black people still face racism. This is where my learning about race and racism started to crystallise.

It became clear to me that the relational problems that I had attributed to racism in my younger years, were a result of more serious systemic racism that continues to be in operation whether people are nice or kind.

Sharing your experiences is a start and then what?

Experiencing something is one thing but understanding how it exists and the reasons that it changes form and then reappears is the fundamental understanding of what racism is doing in systems. That knowledge can only be acquired when we have taken time to study it.

This is because we need to be able to simultaneously identify what racism is doing and at the same time have the knowledge and skills to disrupt it from causing damage. Please read this bit again!!

Otherwise, what we are left with, is the never-ending sharing of how we experience racism but never knowing precisely what to do next.

When those with lived experiences are not able to articulate precisely what the systems is doing to oppress them, that is exactly what the system wants to happen. Those in power whose daily actions perpetrate racism would rather have you kept outside the knowledge of systemic racism so that it can continue to perpetrate.

What must we do instead?

Firstly. I encourage you to suspend Anti-racism training and instead do, Understanding Racism. This is because, when you have developed a good understanding of racism, you will be equipped to know what to do about it.

Secondly. For public conversations about racism, please seek a Race Scholar to unpack what racism is. Let me illustrate this in an example. Research tells us that most of us will know someone that has a mental health issue. Having a Mental Health issues does not make us an expert in Psychology. If we are discussing Mental Health issues in society, we would ask a Psychologist to provide input into the discussions.

Thirdly. Once you become literate in understanding racism armed with knowledge and the right tools to dismantle systems, you can move into action and start your Anti-racism work with success.

Let’s understand racism for what it really is, to help galvanise our Anti-racism efforts from stories of awareness into clear concrete actions that change racist systems.