Grant: Anti-racism brings moments of grace, growth



A word that has catapulted into public consciousness following the death of George Floyd and the ensuing national conversations centered on institutional racism that have sparked in recent months.

But what does it mean to be anti-racist, and how can Dubois County residents become anti-racist allies?

According to Anna Grant, a local social justice and history educator, being anti-racist isn’t an unchanging part of one’s identity. It’s not as simple as saying, ‘I’m not racist.’”

It means constantly challenging racism in all forms — including inside yourself — and it means taking action against racial injustice and promoting racial tolerance.

“It’s a way of being,” Grant said of anti-racism. “It’s a way of living life. It’s you constantly challenging racism in all forms. If that’s your own personal ideas, if it’s who you surround yourself with. It’s how you vote, it’s how you get involved with different issues in our world.”

She continued: “So, you could be anti-racist when it comes to health care, but you could be upholding racist ideas in how you view education. So, when we look at anti-racism and look at it being a way of life, it allows you to have these moments of grace and growth rather than just full out having the identity of ‘not racist.’”

Adopting an anti-racist life approach is an acknowledgment that the person will make mistakes as they grow in their anti-racism journey, Grant said, and it also carries a degree of accountability tied to not repeating those mistakes while striving for a “just and better society as a whole.”

According to the National Museum of African American History & Culture, racism can manifest in different ways.

“We can be led to believe that racism is only about individual mindsets and actions, yet racist policies also contribute to our polarization,” reads a page on the organization’s website. “While individual choices are damaging, racist ideas in policy have a wide-spread impact by threatening the equity of our systems and the fairness of our institutions. To create an equal society, we must commit to making unbiased choices and being anti-racist in all aspects of our lives.”

That website details different types of racism. One of the concepts is individual racism, which refers to the beliefs, attitudes and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate racism in conscious and unconscious ways. Another is institutional racism, referring to discriminatory treatments, unfair policies or biased practices based on race that result in inequitable outcomes for whites over people of color and extend considerably beyond prejudice. Interpersonal and structural racism are also explored.

Eber Menjivar, a Latino man who lives in Jasper and is the vice president of the Association of Latin Americans in Southern Indiana, said he supports Grant’s message, knowledge and passionate activism.

To him, anti-racism is “simple but complex at the same time.”

“To be anti-racist is not only to say, ‘I’m not a racist,’” he explained. “But going a step above that.”

It means standing up to bullies who wield racism as a way of tearing other people down. It means seeing yourself as a constant work in progress.

At a panel discussion last week, Menjivar shared a story about a recent experience he’d had with racism. While hopping into a boat, a pontoon pulled up to Menjivar and his best friend and someone on board said, “Hey, it’s Taco Tuesday.”

Racism does exist in Dubois County, and we need to stop it together, he said.

Resources recommended by Grant include books by Ibram X. Kendi, “This Book is Anti-Racist” by Tiffany Jewell and anything from Brian Stevenson, an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Menjivar also encouraged readers to seek out articles, books, movies and more centered on racism. He believes that beginning within yourself and acknowledging that we do have a problem in this country — and around the world — is a good place to start.

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