What Would Real Anti-Racism Look Like?

Gabrielle D’Arcy
7 min readDec 7, 2021

Recently, a Twitter Space went viral for its sheer, brazen racism. The Space was entitled “Mayo Monkeys Get Out,” and asserted that “white people deserve nothing.” Its participants were mostly black, and it featured a man who repeatedly and explicitly stated that he “supported” all white people “dying like flies.” In our current sociopolitical climate, it would be unimaginable for anyone to speak so hatefully about non-white ethnic groups in the public sphere, but when it came to vocally proclaiming their anti-white racism, the participants were unabashed.

Twitter users were quick to note this hypocrisy. Many commented on the fact that, given society’s current fascination with a concept called “anti-racism,” such overt bigotry should be widely condemned by the elite class of highly-paid Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultants who enjoy growing power over the culture — but likely will not be, because anti-racism doesn’t mean simply combatting ethnic prejudice. “Anti-racism,” in its current iteration, is not simply a philosophy, but an ideology that posits certain beliefs as truth. These beliefs include the claim that the Western world currently exists under a system of white supremacy that grants unfair advantages to all those with white skin, including those who are poor; that whiteness provides such significant material privileges that all white people are, in effect, walking around carrying an “invisible knapsack” of advantages that they can pull out at any time and weaponize against minorities; and that all inequality is the result of racism, never cultural nor class differences. This ideology is no longer relegated to the fringes of the left; it has become mainstream. Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, which asserts that even liberal white people who deny being racist simply are, enjoyed a spot atop the New York Times Bestseller List for several weeks following the murder of George Floyd. Race scholars Ta-Nahisi Coates and Ibram X. Kendi have also seen their books become national bestsellers. DiAngelo and Kendi make tens of thousands of dollars for hosting “diversity trainings,” often in public school settings and on the taxpayer’s dime.

Given how committed society currently is to weeding out racism, then, it seemed logical that anti-racists would roundly condemn the “Mayo Monkeys” Twitter Space. But they didn’t, because that’s not what anti-racism is. One of the foundational beliefs of anti-racism is that all white people are complicit in the system of white supremacy, it’s permissible to hate white people, because to be white is to be a bigot. A quick Twitter or Google search of the query “white people” returns hundreds of thousands of articles, posts, and comments generalizing all white people and often expressing overt bigotry towards them. These same people, of course, will call a white person racist for donning a Chinese dress or wearing their babies on their back.

To generalize all whites is, of course, the very definition of racism — but not to anti-racists. Because their conception of racism is a system in which certain groups are deliberately and constantly disadvantaged, they argue, minorities can’t be racist towards whites. As such, no amount of anti-white racism is actually racism. The goal of anti-racism, then, isn’t to eliminate racism; it’s to eliminate all inequality between white and non-white groups. What that means, in practice, is that white people sometimes have to be subjected to the racism to which minorities are often subjected. It is therefore justified, per anti-racism, to be prejudiced towards whites.

As this ideology gains greater and greater hold over our public institutions, with everyone from Walmartto the Salvation Army implementing diversity trainings that accuse their employees of implicit bigotry, a countermovement has begun to emerge. This “anti-woke” philosophy has galvanized the American right, who recognized some time ago that voters do not like being labeled “deplorables.” Right-wing politicians like Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Virginia’s newly-elected governor Greg Youngkin have openly criticized anti-racism’s infiltration of our social systems. Conservative candidates are increasingly running on platforms promising to ban anti-racist ideology from public schools.
To bolster these campaigns, many conservatives have latched onto surveys that find many non-white Americans, particularly Latino men, are increasingly voting Republican. These claims are not unfounded — focus groups in Virginia indicate that Democrats are, in fact, losing voters of all races. But implicit in these findings is an acknowledgement that minority voter’s gradual shift to the right is a new development, and that non-white voters, until recently, swung heavily to the left.

There’s a clear explanation for this. Until very recently, many voters perceived the Republican Party as hostile to minorities, immigrants, and LGBT people. They spent decades fighting a losing battle against same-sex marriage, even though public opinion has favored legalizing it since the 2000s. The Southern Strategy, a well-documented phenomenon in which Republicans conflated white nationalism with Evangelical Christianity in order to consolidate the white working-class vote for the GOP, gained the party power but also a deeply racist reputation. Until very recently, when woke culture became predominant, Republicans rarely addressed racial equality — except to roll back affirmative action protections, a move that almost always resulted in reduced black and Hispanic enrollment at elite institutions. And of course, the party embraced notorious racist Donald Trump, whose public attack on the “Central Park Five” resulted in the incarceration of innocent black and brown children. For many years, the Republican Party appeared to many to be the party of white Christian supremacy, a party whose nostalgia for a dark, segregated past blinded them to the benefits of an inclusive future.

Now that minorities are increasingly embracing the GOP, of course, they’ve begun to change their tune. Instead of focusing on how affirmative action harms whites, for example, they’ve begun to appeal to Asian-American voters by highlighting the fact that Asian students face the most disadvantage under such policies.They’ve also courted Asian-American voters by criticizing the abolition of accelerated math classes, an allegedly “anti-racist” policy, because they seem to deliberately and directly target “over-represented” Asian students. But these developments come after years of Republican policies, actions, and statements that alienated many nonwhite, non-straight, and non-racist Americans.

Given America’s rigid two-party system, truly anti-racialist American voters are left with few ideal options. On the left, we’ve got a party whose ethos seems to be dictated by activists and uber-liberal graduate students who feel that universalist, class-first messaging is a racist dog whistle. It’s a party that loudly proclaims that “black lives matter” and wants to abolish the filibuster to “protect” black people, but will call you racist if you highlight the disproportionate number of black homicide victims each year. It’s a party that embraces children’s books encouraging white children to think of themselves in racial terms and identify clear differences between themselves and their friends “of color.” On the right side, however, we’ve got a party that has thought of themselves as white for a very long time and has used this racial difference to foment discrimination against people “of color.”

Looking at both the left and the right, then, one thing is clear: America’s racial rhetoric on both sides is toxic. We are not heading in a positive direction when it comes to race. Studies have shown that Americans’ views on race relations are declining. It isn’t difficult to see why: thinking of our fellow human beings in terms of skin color is not progressive. If you walk into a room full of people and immediately start categorizing them by race and attaching meaning to their skin color, you’re not going to foster positive relations between people.

The way to foster positive relations, simply, is to look at people as individuals. If, on an individual basis, someone proves that they’re racist, we should combat that. If, on an individual basis, they prove that they enjoy unfair power over others, we should combat that. But until they as an individual show you what kind of person they are, judging them on the basis of race is wrong. Projecting racial stereotypes onto people, whether positive or negative, denies them their right to be seen for who they truly are, not for who others outwardly perceive them to be. This is true anti-racism, and neither the left nor the right has mastered it yet.

We are losing the ability to see people as individuals. There is a multi-million dollar industry devoted to telling all white people, on the basis of skin color alone, that they exist in a racial collective that necessarily harms black people. There is also a growing phenomenon of right-wing politicians stoking white grievance by opposing anti-racist ideology, an idea which has its merits but will also almost certainly provide cover for genuine bigots. In the end, both the left and the right are working together to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. The right sees the popularity of DiAngelo and Kendi and accuses the left of being anti-white. The left sees the popularity of Tucker Carlson and Kyle Rittenhouse and accuses the right of being pro-white. It’s a mutually beneficial parasitic relationship in which nobody wins and the whole country loses.

The way to move forward is not more focus on race, but less of it. That doesn’t mean ignoring racism when it occurs — quite to the contrary, it means treating all racism as abhorrent because it assigns meaning to skin color. It means acknowledging genuine racial prejudice, such as ethnic discrimination or racial slurs, not writing books generalizing people by color or articles warning teenagers only to wear clothes associated with their race. Rather than looking at a person’s skin color, look at who they are personally. Don’t just assume that a white person was socialized into racism or that a black person has a lifetime of trauma stemming from being black. If you acknowledge our myriad similarities before our few, shallow differences, there is no way for us to be racially prejudiced.