I think the biggest thing that I learned from the first two chapters of how to be an anti-racist by Ibram X Kendi is that there’s no such thing as not racist; you’re either racist or anti-racist in any given action.
But the second thing that I learned was that racist and anti-racist or not fixed identities. Instead, each of us can be racist one minute and anti-racist the next; we can act in a racist way or in an anti-racist way, speak in a racist way or in an anti-racist way, legislate or vote in a racist way or non-racist way, etc.
This is very interesting to me because I’m used to people saying, it’s not like I’m a racist or anything, or, do you really think Trump is a racist?
This gives me much more helpful language; I’m not talking about Trump’s heart, I’m talking about his actions and his legislation and his words. I think one of the reasons why racism is such a terrifying pejorative is because it’s supposed to reflect someone’s heart and people are terrified that if Trump is called a racist then they might be too.
I also think this might be part of source of white fragility. If you can criticize my actions that relate to race, that must mean that you’re really thinking that I’m secretly a racist, so I must justify my actions in order to ensure that you know that I’m a good person.
But if we can recognize that a single action taken can be racist or anti-racist, and that everybody does both, then learning that one of our actions might’ve been racist, it’s not terrifying. It’s just an opportunity for growth.