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Guide to Anti-Racism for Beginners

Guide to Anti-Racism for Beginners
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“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”

– Angela Davis

Diving into the world of anti-racism for the first time can be confronting. It may feel challenging to understand your place and where to begin with educating yourself. Luckily, there are endless resources online to help you learn about anti-racism work, dismantle the unconscious biases that exist within yourself, and take action to create a more just society. 

The most common questions and fears about speaking against racism for the first time are:

I’m afraid that I don’t know enough.”

I’m afraid to say the wrong thing.”

I don’t know what steps to take or how to take action.”

The resources below are a good starting point so that you can remove your fears, educate yourself, and take this work seriously. Please note that the desire here is to point you to Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) educators and activists, not to share our own voice. This resource was compiled from the heaps of wonderful, educational materials already created.  Also, this is a starting point. Please begin here and continue to educate yourself with other resources. You probably have a lot to learn and un-learn — consider this part of your lifelong journey of anti-racism. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

Common Questions and Definitions

What is White Privilege?

From “What Is White Privilege?” By Christine Emba

It’s the level of societal advantage that comes with being seen as the norm in America, automatically conferred irrespective of wealth, gender or other factors. It makes life smoother, but it’s something you would barely notice unless it were suddenly taken away — or unless it had never applied to you in the first place.

For example:

Taking it for granted that when you’re shopping alone, you probably won’t be followed or harassed.

Knowing that if you ask to speak to “the person in charge,” you’ll almost certainly be facing someone of your own race.

Being able to think about different social, political or professional options without asking whether someone of your race would be accepted or allowed to do what you want to do.

Assuming that if you buy a house in a nice neighborhood, your neighbors will be pleasant or neutral toward you.

Feeling welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

From Layla Saad

You can’t see yourself as perpetuating white supremacy because you have been conditioned to believe that the way you see the world is the way that everyone else sees the world too. But that just isn’t true. White supremacy centers and serves whiteness, while de-centering and oppressing people of colour (POC). You as a white person are seen as normal, and non-white people are seen as ‘other’. White-centric programs/summits/conferences are seen as being for everyone. Non-white centric programs/summits/conferences are seen as being exclusively for POC.

It is not as simple as not using racial slurs. We are socialised into white supremacy from the moment we are born. So it’s not enough to say ‘But I love black people!’. It is about completely dismantling how you see yourself and how you see the world, so that you can dismantle how white supremacy functions as an institutional and ideological system of oppression.

What is Systemic Racism? 

Article: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh

“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.” – Scott Woods

From Dismantling Racism Works

Racism = race prejudice + social and institutional power

Racism = a system of advantage based on race

Racism = a system of oppression based on race

Racism = a white supremacy system

Racism is different from racial prejudice, hatred, or discrimination. Racism involves one group having the power to carry out systematic discrimination through the institutional policies and practices of the society and by shaping the cultural beliefs and values that support those racist policies and practices.

Watch the video series from Race Forward that explains systemic racism here.

What is white fragility?

  • “Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue.” – Robin DiAngelo
  • “Accountability feels like an attack when you’re not ready to acknowledge how your behavior harms others.” – Tamara Renaye

What does it mean if you stay silent about racism?

  • “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu
  • “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

How does White Feminism exclude women of color?

How do I talk to my kids about racism?

Books to Read

Note: If these books on anti-racism are sold out at the moment, you can still purchase audio and kindle books at any time.

Start Here

More Books to Read

Online Resources


Paid Programs and Memberships

How to Take Anti-Racism Action

The first step is in educating yourself. Use the resources in this guide to understand the issues that are at play. The next step is to not stay silent about racial injustice. Your silence is your consent. Use the resources below to begin to take action against racism so that you can cause less harm and work to end racial injustice.

Also, if you’ve been silent about racism because you didn’t know what to say, then consider the fact that there is tons of information about these issues all over the internet. What has prevented you from doing your research? What are you afraid might happen if you take a stand? Dig deep. Your answer to these questions are the underlying reasons why you haven’t spoken up. Be aware of your answers so that you can begin to transform them.

Leaders to Learn From and Follow

Spread the Word

Note: This guide was compiled by Melyssa Griffin. If you notice any inaccuracies or have suggestions about how this guide can be improved, please send her a Direct Message on Instagram here. Thank you for being here. I see you.
Please share this guide with anyone — friends, family, followers, clients, etc. 
You can use this link for easy sharing:
If you share the guide, please make sure you are also personally using this anti-racism guide to educate yourself. Sharing alone does not create change. Also, instead of sharing Melyssa Griffin’s Instagram handle when you do share this guide, please consider sharing the handles of the many black educators and activists who are listed above. 
**You do not need to ask for permission to share. No credit needed.**

Last updated: June 1, 2020

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