Antiracism or anti-racism has been defined as "the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably." Another definition offered by Robert J. Patterson is "an active and conscious effort to work against multidimensional aspects of racism."
This article is intended to provide a basis for (1) individual study of how to become antiracist as an element of spiritual self-transformation; or (2) group work to establish a culture of antiracism.
In its initial form, this course of study specifically explores the means by which White Americans can learn to join with Black Americans in achieving a society that is just, equitable, and compassionate. In the future the topic may be expanded to cover race relations of other groups, in other nations, and in the context of intersectionality. We also hope to add articles on other aspects of social justice within the context of Theosophy.
- 1 Theosophical Society and Race
- 2 Antiracism as culture and self-transformation
- 3 Courses of study on antiracism
- 4 Terminology
- 5 Resources for those aspiring to be antiracists
- 6 Notes
Theosophical Society and Race
The Theosophical Society and its successor organizations in the United States cannot been exempted from criticism that they lack a fully antiracist perspective, even though the intention to avoid distinction by race was declared early in the history of the Theosophical Movement.
In 1890, the First Object of the Theosophical Society took its present form: "To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour." The Theosophical Society in America has done a good job in eliminating distinctions within our Society based on creed and sex, and caste is irrelevant in the United States. However, Theosophists have mostly edged away from consideration of race and color in writings, lectures, and activities, with much more emphasis placed on study of comparative religions and on interfaith activities.
Attitudes toward racism
Racism has usually been regarded by Theosophists as a social evil to be opposed, along with such others as violence, vivisection, and capital punishment. The "victims of racism" have been assisted in small initiatives by the Theosophical Order of Service but no comprehensive consideration of or action against racism in society was ever undertaken in any of the major branches of the Theosophical Movement. Study of the Root Races described in Theosophical literature led to unfortunate generalizations about people of African, Aborigine, and other "Lemurian" descent that reinforced attitudes of racial superiority among some White members.
Theosophists in India and Sri Lanka worked diligently for decades to change laws and societal attitudes, to uplift the dalit (scheduled) castes, and to raise the value of native culture, but nothing equivalent ever happened in the United States. Even though a few African-American members, lecturers, and Society staff have been cherished as individuals over the years, at least three lodges of the American Theosophical Society were designated as "colored," showing that the First Object phrase "without distinction of race" was not being generally embraced. Most modern Theosophists would be shocked and appalled at this history, but do not know how to change the culture of their Theosophical groups and society at large.
Antiracism as culture and self-transformation
Modern Theosophists should aspire to becoming antiracist. Healer Resmaa Menakem has said that White people must begin developing a culture of antiracism that will be transmitted to future generations. Aspiring antiracists should commit themselves to at least three years of study and group work to begin developing that culture. Whites have to educate themselves in the history and language and actions and fabric of racism before they can hope to begin leading authentically antiracist lives.
Antiracism in a Theosophical context should be integrated into a holistic practice that includes study, meditation, and service for spiritual self-transformation. White American Theosophists, like other White Americans, should learn to identify and avoid racist thoughts, words, and actions toward the goal of creating a true brotherhood of humankind, in the spirit of the First Object.
Courses of study on antiracism
Several approaches can be made to the study of how to become antiracist.
- The book How to Be an Antiracist by Ibrahm X. Kendi provides an excellent introduction to the topic. Since the chapters are arranged topically, it could be read and discussed as written or in any preferred sequence. A study guide for groups is available.
- Anti-Racist Alliance offers units of curriculum with links to many resources, workshops, and meetings.
- Classroom Resources at Teaching Tolerance provides lessons, learning plans, posters, and other resources.
- The Unitarian Universalist Church has provided Examining Whiteness: An Anti-racism Curriculum of modular instruction.
- 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge. A program aiming to change habits over the course of 21 days, using a wide variety of resources and suggestions. Suitable for self-directed study or group work.
- Race in the Workplace from Time Magazine and Zoom, authored by Shaun Harper and Damien Hooper-Campbell.
- Antiracism Glossary at Bing.
- Social Justice Definitions at National Conference for Community and Justice.
- 8 Terms used in Anti-Racism Explained from Future of Good. June 4, 2020.
- The Anti-Racist Glossary at The Anti-Racist Educator.
Resources for those aspiring to be antiracists
This is just a sampling of the materials that are available on these subjects.
- Bibliography on Racism by Paul Kivel at RacialEquityTools.org. Extensive list of books published before 2002 on race, racism, crime, violence, class, religion, gender, and other intersectionalities.
- Selected Antiracist Resources at AntiRacistAlliance. Developed by [www.pisab.org People's Institute for Survival and Beyond].
- Build Your Stack: Antiracist Books for Your Curriculum Today by National Council of Teachers of English. June 17, 2020. Brief reviews of books recommended by educators.
- Anti-Racism Tools by Trying Together. Provides resources for early childhood educators and educators.
- Anti-racism in Medicine Collection from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Provides resources to understand racism in medical settings.
- A Reading List on Issues of Race from Harvard University.
History and current status of racism
- Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibrahm X. Kendi. Hachette Book Group, 2016. 594 pages. A compelling history built around five major American intellectual figures: Puritan leader Cotton Mather, founding father Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, African-American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, and activist Angela Davis.
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibrahm X. Kendi. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. Written for teens, this is described as "a timely, crucial, and empowering exploration of racism--and antiracism--in America" and "a field guide to American racism."
- The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein. Liveright, 2018. 368 pages.
- 158 Resources to Understand Racism in America from Smithsonian Magazine. A rich narrative linking to high-caliber illustrated articles.
- Curriculum Part Two: Understanding the Consequences at AntiRacistAlliance. Collection of articles and resources on structural racism and its impacts.
- Race in America by Phil Vischer. An excellent 18-minute history of racism in history, housing, incarceration, and education.
- The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. 2011. The migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, from 1915 to 1970.
Classics of literature on race
These are some of the foundational works of Black Studies, history, and sociology.
- The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois.
- A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass. 1845. Autobiography volume 1.
- My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass. 1855. Autobiography volume 2.
- Life and Times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. 1881 (revised 1892). Autobiography volume 3.
- How to Be an Antiracist by Ibrahm X. Kendi. New York: One World, 2019. Bestselling book that surveys many aspects of antiracism while relating incidents from Kendi's own life.
- How to Be an Antiracist by Ibrahm X. Kendi. Interview at Aspen Ideas Festival. June 26, 2019.
- Curriculum Part Three: Taking Action Toward Solutions / Action & Feedback at AntiRacistAlliance. Collection of articles and resources on structural racism and its impacts.
- Don't Let your anti-racist passion die: Advice from your one Black friend by Kelli Williams.
- Becoming an Anti-Racist Educator from Wheaton College (Massachusetts).
- How to Be an Anti-Racist Teacher by Pirette McKamey in The Atlantic. June 17, 2020.
- This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewel, illustrated by Aurelia Durand. Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2020. Written for teens and young adults, this book offers exercises for work on self-identity and on responding to injustice and inequality.
- Anti-Racist Resources for Teachers from The Race Institute for K-12 Educators. Lists films, websites, blog posts, books, and other materials of value.
Whiteness, White privilege, and White fragility
- White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin Diangelo. Boston: Beacon Press, 2018. A White diversity trainer's advice to White people.
- Curriculum Part One: Whiteness at AntiRacistAlliance. Collection of articles on Whiteness and privilege.
- Guide to Allyship by Amelie Lamont. "An open source starter guide to help you become a more thoughtful and effective ally."
- Allyship from PeerNetBC. This is written from an Canadian perspective, but offers material highly relevant to Americans.
- How can you be an ally to the Black Lives Matter Movement? discussion on Al Jazeera. Jun 8, 2020.
- Allyship (&Accomplice): the What, Why, and How by Michelle Kim in Medium.com. November 10, 2019. A brief but incisive blog post about allyship as a practice.
- Allyship - The Key To Unlocking The Power Of Diversity by Sheree Atcheson. Forbes. November 30, 2018. Suggests actions for businesses to take in promoting antiracism and in valuing diversity.
- The Difference Between Racism and Colorism by Lori L. Tharps. Time. October 6, 2016.
- What’s ‘Colorism’? by David Knight. Teaching Tolerance Issue 51, Fall 2015.
- The Roots of Colorism, or Skin Tone Discrimination by Nadra Kareem Nittle in ThoughtCo. Updated January 30, 2020.
- Novels about racism from Wikipedia.
- Fiction Books About Racism Against African Americans from Richland Library.
- Race Relations from Goodreads.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker.
- Beloved by Toni Morrison.
- Native Son by Richard Wright.
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
- The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.
- Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult .
Films, documentaries, and videos
- Films about Racism in Wikipedia.
- So you want to learn about racism in America? Stream these 20 compelling movies and TV shows from USA Today.
- 110 Important Films about the Black Experience from Rotten Tomatoes.
- What Are the 50 Best Films about the Civil Rights Movement from Huffington Post.
- 15 Movies and Documentaries About Race To Start the Conversation from Good Housekeeping.
- 11 Movies That Confront American Racism from Vox.
- Movies to Watch to Educate Yourself About Racism from Time.
- 10 Black History Movies and Docuseries to Educate Yourself on Anti-Racism from Harper's Bazaar.
- Eyes on the Prize. 1987-1990. Award-winning 14-part documentary on the American Civil Rights Movement.
- 13th. Traces the mass incarceration of black men back to the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865.
- Good Hair – Chris Rock documentary exploring "the way hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationship, and self-esteem of the black community" that is simultaneously hilarious, truthful, and poignant.
Fiction and biographies:
- Selma. 2014. True story of the 1963 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to support voting rights of Black citizens.
- The Help. 2011. Based on 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett, the story follows African American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi.
- Do the Right Thing. 1989. A Spike Lee comedy with an angry edge, examining violence and racism in Brooklyn.
- All the Hate U Give. 2018. Based on bestselling young adult novel by Angie Thomas, this movie follows a young woman's journey into activism after she witnesses her best friend's death at the hands of police.
- Loving. 2016. True story of an interracial couple in Virginia who defy miscegenation laws, and who were at the center of the landmark 1967 Supreme Court case.
- Harriet. 2020. Biography of Harriet Tubman.
- Dear White People. 2014. Comedy-drama about racial tensions at an Ivy League college from the perspective of several black students. Netflix presented a television series of the same name in 2017.
Speeches and interviews:
- James Baldwin videos on YouTube, including 1965 debate with William F. Buckley.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speeches, including "I Have a Dream."
- Maya Angelou interviews, poetry readings, and more.
- Audre Lorde readings and conversations.
These are examples of resources for study of racism, antiracism, and related topics outside the domain of Black and White Americans.
- Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Renno Edo-Lodge. May 30, 2017. An exploration of racism in Great Britain, based on her book of the same name.
- British-Nigerian actress shines a light on colorism in Netflix documentary by Aisha Salaudeen on CNN. July 3, 2020. Explores colorism in Africa.
- Indigenous Australians had their languages taken from them, and it's still causing issues today by James Griffiths on CNN.July 20, 2020. On racist views of indigenous language in Australia.
- Danielle Coke at @ohhappydani on Instagram and @ohhappydani on Twitter. Artist posts upbeat art on support, allyship, and activism.
- Anti-Racism In Action Facebook group.
- International Perspectives: Women and Global Solidarity.
- "How can you be an ally to the Black Lives Matter Movement?" discussion on Al Jazeera. Jun 8, 2020.