Ibram X. Kendi’s term “anti-racist” has offered white people a language for how to address injustice: “The opposite of ‘racist” isn’t ‘not racist’. It is ‘anti-racist’…..One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’ Kendi’s acknowledgment that “racist and antiracist are not fixed identities” means the pursuit of anti-racism is a lifelong process of making antiracist choices. White supremacy mutates, infects new hosts, and develops resistance to old remedies. In our reluctance to learn from the past generations’ mistakes, and our continuation of those same sins, we retrench into familiar mindsets. Neither can we be content with simple progress judged against past horrors. In other words, we cannot pat ourselves on the back realizing we could strike out Babe Ruth every at-bat. No generation is perfect – imperfect in progress, in love, and justice. Such will be the fate of every generation, but for now, we can consider why our current turmoil exists and be moved to act, whether we remain disoriented or not.
To those who are learning about injustices for the first time, and feel the necessary righteous anger to affect real change, a slight word of caution: During my earliest awakening days, I called out racism in all its variant forms, but I perceive now that I was difficult to be around, despite the rightness of my words or cause. I learned that shame-based approaches could change some people, but shame could also become a religion, one which replicated the very kind of divisions I was trying to repair.
From “Know Your Place: Helping White, Southern Evangelicals Cope with the End of The(ir) World” by Justin R. Phillips