We don’t get rid of racism unless we confront it. And we don’t confront it successfully unless we confront it within ourselves. It’s an ongoing, life-long process, unburdening ourselves of the constant flow of racist ideas that cross our consciences. But it’s also worth doing.
Step one is being able to notice racism for what it is – for that, I turn to Ibram X. Kendi’s definintions:
“Racism is a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalizes racial inequities.
“Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing.
“A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups. By policy, I mean written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, and guidelines that govern people.
“A racist idea is any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior to or superior to another racial group in any way. Racist ideas argue that the inferiorities and superiorities of racial groups explain racial inequities in society.”
For example, in many Republican Party political ads, I saw images of Whites being threatened or standing defiantly as Blacks, Hispanics, and Women were shown to be shouting and protesting. That’s racial inequity – the different groups were not on approximately equal footing. If one does not see a problem with that, then one has normalized that inequity – racism.
It’s as simple as that, and racism on that level alone is easy to work on, once one is aware that it needs to be worked on. Racism on that level is also the most pervasive in the USA, so it is a good thing to be aware of and a good thing to work on.
What about racist policy? Well, a law that requires one of a particular set of photo IDs in order to vote looks like it is fair and even. But when that law disallows Native American Tribal IDs – and Native Americans in that state have a lower rate of acquiring other, accepted IDs – that law sustains racial inequality. Even if the motivation for the law was simply to keep the Republican Party in power (the laws against Native American IDs are unique to Republican-ruled states), and not to target Native Americans in particular, the result of that policy leads to much more than the Native Americans not voting – because they don’t vote, they get ignored for other governmental considerations, ranging from law enforcement to access to government programs.
And what about racist ideas? We see that in the Trump Administration’s impact on immigration and refugee policy. Muslims and Latinx persons face substantially more hurdles and rates of rejection than immigrants from Western Europe, for example. Why? Look to Trump’s policy advisor on immigration, Stephen Miller. We have writings of his that spell out explicitly racist ideas regarding his view that White Europeans are much more desirable immigrants and refugees than other persons who are non-White and/or non-European. Those ideas drive racist policies, which leads to racial inequity… racism, this time of a deeper and harsher nature than racism done in passing.
So why do I fixate on the Republican Party for this discussion? It is because I can find multiple examples in that party’s advertisements, policies, and supporters. The Democratic Party has been active and effective at purging the racism out of their ranks – it’s why the Alabama Democratic Party went through such a major transformation in the last 15 years. The Republican Party, however, has not been uniform, let alone effective, in disavowing racism… especially when it actively embraces it as part of its national platform and in its plans to control voting access in order to retain its grip on power.