Updated: Jan 4, 2020
In America, regardless of background or skin color, everyone has some measure of trauma around the concept of racism (Menakem, 2017). Racism is an oppressive act, event, institution, or system that justifies power imbalances due to race. This highlights that racism is more than a traumatic concept; it is a hate that is present in every aspect of life and can be spread intergenerationally, institutionally, systemically, and personally (Menakem, 2017). Unfortunately, when individuals think of racism, they tend to think of it as an overtly painful event, similar to a severe car accident. They further their fallacy of thought in believing that if you address the event, all is restored. However, racism has many forms and methods that produce long-term effects while being incredibly subtle (Menakem, 2017).
According to Ibram Kendi (2019), a racist is someone who supports a racist policy through their actions or inaction. He heralds the controversial idea that all ethnicities can be racist with this definition. In addition, he asserts a unique philosophy that being a racist is not an identity but instead is anyone partnering with a system made to harm minority populations violently. When put that way, individuals who are fighting against racism, are not fighting people, but instead policies and constructs that are hurting the marginalized. Kendi came to this bold assertion attempting to equip America in how to be AntiRacist. AntiRacist is someone using action or ideas to support a policy or movement that opposes racism (Kendi, 2019). I know that seems more simplified than it is often made to be, but in truth, the bare bones of this work is just that.
What is an AntiRacist?:
To simplify, to say you are fighting racism--you must be dedicated to oppose it every time it is present. When we say every time, we mean every time. That means if sweet 98-year-old Grandma Louise says something racist at the family dinner table, you say something. Or you are sitting at a basketball game, and someone uses something racist against the opposing team, you say something. To indeed be antiracist, you must, at the moment, oppose it. This, of course, can be exhausting work, especially for white family who due to cultural norms are less experienced with acknowledging racism than their black and brown brothers and sisters. However, if we are sticking to the definitions listed above, being a racist includes if you do nothing when racism presents itself. For instance, if you exhaust your time processing intent, or trying to figure out the right time to address racism, you are a racist.
How does Antiracism look?:
For practical examples of antiracism work, when ROAR wrote a petition to address the racist policies of Eastern Carver County Schools (ECCS). Also, our consistent presence at ECCS school board meetings. When our group members get involved with the Equity Advisory Committee (EAC) or sit on city committees. Lastly, collecting stories from those being harmed by racism and utilizing them to progress change within schools.
We do not do this work for personal gain or any agenda. We do this work to put some respect on our name. We cannot be residents organizing against racism if we do not oppose racism. In all forms of activism, it seems that misunderstanding a movement's "why" comes with the territory. However, our work isn't driven by a political or even an education reform agenda. Meaning, there is nothing to misunderstand in our efforts. We are simply established to oppose racism, and we creatively do so through all the ways you have seen us present in this region.
To conclude, we wanted to set the record straight with this post. ROAR is a group solely organized to be antiracist in the way it is defined above. Our presence is consistent in spaces that allow us to do so. As our movement has grown because it seems our region finds antiracism work in all of its exhaustion--refreshing, we have discovered ways to be antiracist within our regional context. We have tirelessly worked as a group on holding ourselves accountable to the standards of antiracism and lovingly cheering each other towards a better method of humanity. We are by no means perfect at this work, but that is why we proudly proclaim we are doing THE WORK. THE WORK is our progressing forward to have an antiracism approach be second nature in our region. As we have done so, our movement becomes stronger because this standard doesn’t just oppose racism it also teaches us how to better honor and love one another. So whenever you hear that ROAR is aggressive or angry or mean-spirited--know we don't disagree with you on that truth. We absolutely are, but not against people or their identities. We are aggressive in not allowing racism any oxygen to breathe. We are angry at how our children, friends, and neighbors continue to be brutalized by the violence of racism. Lastly, we are mean-spirited, but against a construct that tells black and brown bodies they are of less value in society, and we don't have any plans to get any "nicer" in the future.