Nearly 30 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, "This is no time for romantic illusions and empty philosophical debates about freedom. This is a time for action. What is needed is a strategy for change." If we are to dismantle racism, we must establish a new, anti-racist ground. Below are five affirmations for dismantling racism from an anti-racist perspective:
1. We must start from a historical perspective and not just an individual one.
The United States was established as a white society, founded upon the near genocide of one race and the enslavement of another. Even though we have come a long way on our journey together, the reality is that in 1998 America there is not a level playing field. Despite landmark court decisions and civil rights legislation, we know that the residual effects of slavery and legal discrimination were not easily erased.
2. The focus must be on systemic racism and not primarily on prejudice, bigotry, or bias.
Racism has to do with the power to dominate and enforce oppression, and in America that power is in white hands. Racism in the 1990s is a systemic phenomena. It does not require individual racists. Racism is found in the system of economic racism that we see as the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to increase. It is the system of racism in our political, social, and religious institutions that produces unemployment, underemployment, and wretched housing and health care. It is the system of educational racism that locks many of our young into a segregated system of learning.
The strategy for change cannot simply be "Cant we all just get along." To dismantle racism we have to address the issue of systemic racism.
3. We must start from the perspective of truth-telling and stop the denial that racism exists.