You’ve probably been taught that a racist is someone who blatantly discriminates someone based on their skin color. This image of an overt racist is, in fact, much outdated. The days of racists being outright racist are somewhat behind us. Racism has moved away from the public hangings and enslavement, and towards the contemporary version of racism, New Racism. If you didn’t know that, it’s okay. But I’m going to assume you don’t know what the opposite of a racist is either.

I’ve had so many personal experiences of people talking to me saying something like, “I’m not racist but…” and then continuing to say something explicitly racist. Or, saying, “I’m not racist, I’m friends with Black people.” These statements, at the moment, make whoever is saying it thinks that they’re not racist. But really, saying, “I’m not racist,” is an acknowledgment that they know being overt racist is not socially acceptable and so they start out saying that. It has no meaningful purpose, though. Because as Ibram X. Kendi states in his book, How to Be an Antiracist, he says that the opposite of a racist is not “not a racist,” in fact it is an antiracist. 

To understand what the difference between an antiracist is and a “not racist” person is, you have to look at what being a racist means. So, when we talk about racism in sociology, you look at it along with discrimination. Racism is generally considered systemically enforced, a racist is someone who supports the systemically instituted racism, and discrimination is the actions of these individuals based on their racist beliefs. And so, a racist is someone who discriminates (takes action) based on their race. If a racist is someone who discriminates based on their beliefs, the opposite of a racist is someone who takes action to tear down systemic racism and promotes equity. 

I highly suggest you read Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist, it is a very enlightening, and educational book with his life experiences and sociological definitions.

Posted by:Cleveland Lewis III

2 replies on “What’s the Opposite of a Racist? It’s Not What you Think.

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