Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

7. Acknowledge and fight racism

***UPDATED BELOW***

You’re probably a little racist.  I’m a little racist.  The more different cultures I encounter, the more presumptions and stereotypes build up in my head.  If anyone says that they’re 100% not racist, they’re either lying or the most amazing human being on the planet.  Or – like many Canadians – they live in an all-white, progressive, upper/middle-class community where it’s easy to accept differences because there aren’t any.

First step is acknowledgement.  Second step is doing something about it.

Don’t accept bullshit like the American school that refused admission to a student from Rwanda because of misplaced fears of Ebola.  If you hear of an institution like that, boycott it.

Moreover, stop spreading fear of Ebola.  As Hannah Giorgis articulates, many of these stupid fear-mongering stories are thinly-veiled attempts to capitalize on the West’s fear of Africa and black people.  It’s disgusting.

Here’s a list of Mia McKenzie’s How Not to Be An Ally so that you don’t do it wrong.

A personal story as a response to #3 on the list “Date ‘em all”

Some folks seem to think that the quickest way to lifelong allyship status is to just date all the people who resemble those that one claims to exist in solidarity with. Anti-racist? Date all the POC! And be sure to do so exclusively and with no analysis whatsoever about fetishism, exotification, or the ways your white body might be interrupting POC space! Cuz, hey, you’re an ally and stuff. Right? Ew.

I dated a South African man like this two years ago.  It took me awhile to realize it, since I still forget that I’m not white.  A couple months into our relationship we watched “The Power of One.”  During the movie he commented on Apartheid’s crazy marriage laws.  He ended with, “You and I wouldn’t be able to be together.”

I was shocked.  I hadn’t previously realized that he identified me “exotic” instead of simply a human being.  It was an ego boost for him to think “I’m so open-minded that I date non-white women.”  It was almost as though I should believe it was charity, an act of generosity, for him to date me.  No one likes feeling like a charity case.

UPDATE 1

After the tragic shooting of an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Janee Woods wrote a great article on what white people can do to join the dialogue on racism.

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One thought on “7. Acknowledge and fight racism

  1. Pingback: Ways to Help from Home | Rebuilding Foundations

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