From the South African police brutality that ended the lives of too many poor, black people in lockdown, to the viral video of Amy Cooper, a white woman in America who weaponized her whiteness because she didn’t want to put her dog on a leash, to the countless black people that have died at the hands of America’s violent and racist police system, our attention right now is rightly on institutional violence and racism.
Some critics have raised the discussion as to why we as South Africans are generally more concerned with black lives in America than those closer to home. Whilst there are global themes of anti-blackness and oppression that apply across most of the world, and we should be outraged by what is happening in the United States, South Africa has its own nuances and political context. We need to look at how we can do better here, by our own people.
It is also true that we cannot approach the problem of police violence in a purely race-reductionist manner. As William Shoki says in his article, The class character of police violence, “so long as there is a capitalist state entrenching private property relations, there will always be some kind of security apparatus to defend it with racism coded into its logic of operation.” But that is a conversation for another day, because right now we’re talking about anti-racism.
On repost anti-racism…
In her blog, Of re-post activism, and black lives, Rufaro Chiswo raises the concern of needing to focus here at home; “When do we stop requiring a pretty infographic in order for us to put our experiences at the center of the discussions we have on our social media echo chambers?”
Chiswo also makes reference to a phenomenon she describes as re-post activism. Something that has skyrocketed recently but especially over the last two weeks. This phenomenon has also been called out as being a type of performative activism and allyship which doesn’t do any good. As Chiswo says: “How can we (we being black people) be sure that you (non-black people) actually have emotional investment or at the very least find the matter at hand troubling? Or are you just posting to appear “woke”? What does the re-posting truly solve beyond raising temporary awareness? Does your activism reach beyond your repost and into the communities (non-black communities) you interact with on a daily basis?”
In a recent video, Aja Barber explains why it is very triggering when we post something to appear good and liberal and then also believe the work is done. Aja also points out how this phenomenon has gone on further to be used insidiously by brands like Loreal, Zara, Amazon and the NFL. Just an FYI (thanks to Aja for highlighting): Loreal fired Munroe Bergdorf, a transgender black woman, in 2017 for speaking out on white supremacy, Zara and Amazon are exploitative AF and the NFL fired Colin Kaepernick for peacefully protesting during the American National Anthem. It would be great if these brands were showing other examples of transformation – but they’re not.
So it is clear when even gross capitalist brands do it, that social media activism is easy and often doesn’t mean shit. (Neither does writing this blog). It can be a good place to start but a very bad place to stop.
Going beyond social media
It’s taken us far too long to wake up to something that has been happening for longer than any of us have been alive and we shouldn’t expect gratitude for finally doing so. We could do better in acknowledging and challenging our own institutionalized racism and the racism in our circles. Just because we may not hold any active or overt racist beliefs does not mean we aren’t racist in some way or don’t have work to do. As Ijeoma Oluo, author of So you Want to Talk About Race, says: “the beauty of antiracism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist.’ Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it. Including in yourself. And that’s the only way forward.”
In speaking to some of you, I know you are also looking for ways to challenge your own beliefs. That’s why I have put together a list of some of the books, plays, films and accounts (that I can think of) that have helped me, SO FAR, on what will be a lifelong journey of anti-racism. I have also included a few additional anti-racism resource lists at the bottom. If you had any additions please mail them to me on email@example.com
Please Note: My sense from listening to black anti-racist educators is that we must prioritize resources that come directly from the black perspective which is what I am dedicated to do going forward. However, after contemplation, I decided to share some of the resources that helped me which were also written by white people. That is also because they contain a South African perspective which I think can help in gaining context around our perspective closer to home. I do, however, acknowledge that I need to a much better job at sourcing black South African writings and resources.
Books and movies that started me off on my anti-racism journey
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad
- What if there were no white people in South Africa by Ferial Haffajee
- White fragility by Robin Diangelo
- Heart of Redness by Zakes Mda
- End of whiteness by Nicky Falkoff
- Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela and me by Marianne Tham
- Feminism is – South Africans speak their truth
- Being Chris Hani’s Daughter by Lindiwe Hani and Melinda Ferguson
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Swing Time and On Beauty by Zadie Smith
- I am not your Negro
- Malcolm X
- Dear white people
- Strike a Rock
- Rabbit-Proof Fence
- The Racial Wealth Gap – Vox Explained (Netflix)
Woza Albert! by Barney Simon, Mbongeni Ngema, and Percy Mtwa
- Kunene and the King by John Kani
- Master Harold and the Boys by Athol Fugard
Next on my list
- Killing rage, ending racism by Bell Hooks
- My grandmother’s hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem (recommended to me by a friend)
- Decolonizing the mind by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (started, but not yet finished)
- Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Room 207 by Kgebeti Moele
- The Cry of Winnie Mandela by Njabulo Ndebele
- Dog Eat Dog by Niq Mhlongo
- Biko: A Biography by Xolela Mangcu
People that I recommend following:
A lot of the anti-racism teachings/learning I have come across have been on social media through these pages. Please note that there are real people behind these accounts. They are not simply resources for us (white people). Their space must be respected. When following them, please do not engage with them in comments or DMs before you have been in their space for some time and understand their boundaries. Read through all their old posts, follow the links in their bios, watch their highlights and visit their websites.
If you have a general question, google it first. As Layla F Saad says: “If I’m white, can another white person help me with this question? If I’m a non-black person of colour can another non-black person of colour help me with this question?” Also, don’t make this a guilt follow. Follow if you’re ready to stay and do the work.
- Eusebius Mckaizer
Running list of other Anti-racism resources/ lists including links to petitions and donations
- Justice in June
- Black lives matter: links to websites, petitions, organisations (SA + US)
- Okay Africa: 13 of Our Favorite Books On Black Resistance and Revolution
- Anti-racism and other resources by Rachel Ricketts
- For our white friends desiring to be allies by Courtney Ariel
- Anti-racism resources: a document compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein in May 2020.
- A detailed list of anti-racism resources on Medium
- Dazed: a running list of antiracism resources
- End police violence: what you can do (SA)
- Institutionalized racism: a syllabus
- 10 Documentaries To Watch About Race Instead Of Asking A Person Of Colour To Explain Things For You
What to do next
- Understand what optical allyship is
- Checkin on your black friends, family, partners, loved ones and colleagues*
- Be prepared to do the work
- Read up on antiracist works
- Avoid sharing content that is traumatic
- Donate to funds and support initiatives*
- Do not centre this narrative around yourself
- Keep supporting after outrage
- Stop supporting organizations that promote hate
- Start your long-term strategy
Lastly (almost), a quote from Courtney Ariel, from her piece For our white friends desiring to be allies:
“Sometimes living with privilege can disillusion us into thinking that being in community with other humans doesn’t require work. This is a lie; it requires a great deal of work. And all of that work requires being a human and trying to love other humans well…However it looks, it will be something that you do without needing to be thanked or receive praise — you are not a savior. Marginalized/disenfranchised folks can and will survive without you — we are magic. However, I urge you to pursue this work, knowing that a system of white privilege afforded you access to opportunities while denying them to so many others.
Above all, I urge you keep trying. You’re going to make mistakes; expect this. But keep showing up. Be compassionate. Lead with empathy, always. Keep learning and growing. If you do this, I truly believe you’ll be doing the work of an ally.”
*When it comes to checking in on our black friends, colleagues etc
Let’s be mindful not to make this about us. Sometimes trying to apologize for all the shitty racist things we did/might have done at the same time the black people in our lives are already feeling overwhelmed can do more harm than good.
*When it comes to donating funds if you can:
I suggest finding individuals you know, financially supporting the online creators you learn from and/or supporting small black-led/POC-led /organizations fighting for social justice to support. This in addition to supporting POC run brands.
Some more potential organisations / people to donate to:
- This Covid-19 resource list has many individuals and organizations doing the most right now (not all on this list or POC / Black-led, please your direction)
- African Climate Alliance: we are running mutual aid for unemployed POC individuals and POC youth with struggling parents. Mail firstname.lastname@example.org (ACA is youth-lead with the aim to prioritise the voices of black, brown and indigenous people. At the moment it is co-ordinated by my colleague Xoli Fuyani and myself)
- Mining Affected Communities in United Action – MACUA : black people in SA have been disproportionately affected by mining expansion including through land dispossession, brutality (think Marikana), unacceptable living conditions, and pollution.
- Scalabrini Cape Town and the Adonis Musati Project is raising funds for African refugees living in SA who have been excluded from Covid-19 economic relief