We do not live in a post-racial society. Racial hatred is alive and well. It’s a reality that we will have to accept sooner or later. We saw it in an isolated incident and act of violence in Charleston; we see it now organized and accessible in Charlottesville.
No matter one’s political beliefs, the notion that the election of a black president meant that we have finally moved beyond race in this country is just that – a notion. The same country that elected Barack Obama eight years ago is the same country that elected Donald Trump in 2016. To paraphrase the rap artist J. Cole, I think we’ve come a long way but I’m not sure it’s in the right direction.
I was not surprised – disappointed, perhaps, but not surprised – by President Trump’s initial failure to make an explicit denunciation of the groups promulgating hatred in Charlottesville. I was more surprised that so many commentators thought he would be more pointed in his condemnation of groups that are loyal to him, who are committed to helping him make America great again.
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We elected a president whose campaign rhetoric was Goldwater-esque in its tone and tenor and effect. We now know the various aspects of his message appealed to many of our fellow Americans – young and old voters; urban and rural; those educated in the halls of ivy league schools and those with little formal education.
To be sure, president Trump’s campaign and election did not result in the creation of the many groups on display last weekend promoting hatred. It did, however, emboldened them. They have taken his campaign slogan as their directive.
For those of us who do not share their racial hatred, we have to be equally vigilant in our focus and our actions. We have to educate ourselves and our children so that they have the knowledge and the understanding to put our ongoing struggles with race, our history of movements and the tendency to make false equivalents between them and the role of government, in context. It will take education and love to overcome hate. Love is not enough. If we believe that racism is taught; then antiracism must be taught as well.
Not being prejudice against people of color; not discriminating personally or corporately, not expressing biases – these are good places to start. Not being racist aligns with our moral compass and may cause us to be disgusted by the mistreatment of others. Not being racist is a low bar for most of us.
However, becoming anti-racist moves us beyond a passive response of being appalled by what we see and stating one’s position, values and beliefs. Antiracism is about aligning one’s action with those beliefs; it means opposing racism and not just being offended by it.
Being antiracist requires that we actively learn and deepen our understanding of what racism is; that we accept the discomfort that will ensue; that we explore our biases with courage; we commit to be a part of the solution and we work to develop meaningful connection with people who do not share our racial identity.
Becoming antiracist requires that we actively create the world we want. It is a journey. Fortunately, the world is small – we can begin with the change that is possible in our own lives.
Tiffany Capers leads Black Lives Matter Charlotte, which is not affiliated with the national Black Lives Matter organization. Capers serves on several nonprofit boards and committees and mentors students at West Charlotte. Email: capers08096