The path toward justice and a society that is truly free and equal will not come easily. The systems and structures that benefit those at the top have been established for centuries, and the beneficiaries at the top will not just relinquish power on their own. In fact, they’re likely going to put up a fight. As you begin this journey into Social Justice and Anti-Racism you must commit yourself to do the work that is necessary to bring about change and continue to push forward as the fight will be long. This work is both personal and public.
It’s personal in the sense that you will be made uncomfortable and will experience a wide range of emotions as you gain more insight and knowledge. It will require intensive self-reflection and mindfulness to examine where your reactions are coming from and why you are feeling the emotions you feel. It is hard, but everything new you ever started wasn’t easy at first. Like going to the gym and working out, there’s pain and exhaustion involved, but the more you go to the gym the more stamina you will build up. The beginning of your journey will feel a lot like this.
This journey also has work that is public. The things you do and say must work toward Social Justice and Anti-Racism goals. One cannot just say they are not racist and have it end there.** Our everyday actions, no matter how big (like, using your voice to push your employer to change policy) or small (telling a friend their joke perpetuates racist stereotypes that ultimately craft how others view and treat BIPOC), can and will push society forward. Even if it seems like small increments, change must come from somewhere. Change will be inevitable when more people commit themselves to working against systems of oppression.
This work can and will be exhausting at times, if not all the time. The choice to take time off because you’re exhausted is based in privilege and comfort. There are many people in our society who cannot choose to ignore or take a break from the systemic inequities thrown against them on a daily basis. If you’re exhausted, just imagine how they feel.
Remember, you are here because you want to understand the structural problems of our society and how you’ve been socialized to play a role to protect these systems. You’re here because you want to expand your knowledge, grow into an Anti-Racist identity, and enact positive change for all within our society. You’re not alone in this journey—there is a large community of others out there who are working to do their part to undo their socialization and work toward creating an equal society for all.
I am here for you: firstname.lastname@example.org
**To be “not racist” is essentially declaring yourself neutral as if you’re Switzerland. To be neutral is a decision that exercises privilege and comfort. You have the personal agency and ability to be Anti-Racist, yet you’re deciding you do not want to go that far. You’re making the decision to not work against and change the systems that deny others their humanity.
Social Justice Glossary of Terms (a good starting place to learning Social Justice)
Source: Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, Ozlem Sensoy & Robin DiAngelo, copyright 2017 Teachers College Press, New York NY.