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GEN: Anti-Racism and Allyship

What is racism?

RACISM = Racial Prejudice (Unfounded Beliefs + Irrational Fear) + Institutional Power 

Systematic Racism

Sociologists see racism in the U.S. as systemic; it is embedded in every aspect of our social system. 

 Systemic racism is characterized:

  • unjust enrichment of white people
  • unjust impoverishment of people of color
  • an overall unjust distribution of resources across racial lines
    (money, safe spaces, education, political power, and food, for example) 

Systemic racism is made up of racist ideologies and attitudes, including subconscious and implicit ones that might even seem well-meaning."

(Adapted from: Guide to Being an Anti-racist Activist)

Further Reading:

What does racism look like?

Racial Microaggressions are commonplace verbal or behavioral indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults in relation to race. They are structurally based and invoke oppressive systems of racial hierarchy. Racial  Microinvalidations, Microinsults, and Microassaults are specific types of microaggressions.

Further Reading:

Tokenism  is presence without meaningful participation. For example, a superficial invitation for participation without ongoing dialogue and support, handpicked representatives who are expected to speak for the whole (socially oppressed) group (e.g. ‘tell us how women experience this issue’). Tokenism is often used as a band-aid solution to help the group improve its image (e.g. ‘we’re not racist, look there’s a person of colour on the panel.’). (from Sustainable Campuses)

Token participation of members of oppressed communities does not address an institution's relationship to and reproduction of racist power structures.

Similarly, this attitude of "one is enough/they're all the same" contributes to the mindset that one person of color or one native person can stand in for all people of color and native people respectively. Not only is it problematic and illogical to assume that one individual's perspective and experiences can be generalized to millions of other people, it also promotes to the idea that a friendship, relationship, or just exposure to one or a few people of color or native people negates racist thoughts, ideas, or behavior toward others (i.e. "I'm not a racist, my boyfriend is black" or "My costume isn't racist--my best friend is First Nation and she thinks it's hilarious"). 

Further Reading:

Colorblindness is the racial ideology that posits the best way to end discrimination is by treating individuals as equally as possible, without regard to race, culture, or ethnicity. This not only amounts to a dismissal of the lived experiences of people of color, but also suggests that racism does not exist so long as one ignores it.

I don't see color. I just see people.

We're all just people.

I don't care if you're black, white, green, or purple-polka-dotted!


At face value, colorblindness seems like a good thing — actually living up to Dr. King's  ideal of judging people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. However, colorblindness alone is not sufficient to combat racism or heal racial wounds on a national or personal level. It is only a half-measure that, in the end, operates as a form of racism. (from

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