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OPINION

Understanding racism should fuel action rather than guilt

‘Advocate for a more just society.’

Chinyere Agbai.
Chinyere Agbai.Chinyere Agbai

We need a better understanding of what structural racism is among lay people. Something beyond this understanding of capital-R racism as lynching people in the streets and calling people the n-word. I hope people will see and actively seek to dismantle racism in their own spheres of influence.

White people need to interrogate practices in their own lives, their own workplaces, their own families. They essentially need to acquire the tools to police themselves so they don’t uphold and reproduce white supremacy. They need to call out racism in places where there aren’t Black people. Or even if there are, they shouldn’t make us do all the work of saying, “Hey, what just happened was super racist.” They need the language and the gumption to do that work to bring about the dismantling of white supremacy in American society. They need to realize their own complicity in it but not let guilt about it cripple them. Instead, move past that guilt to advocate for a more just society.

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As for non-Black people of color, they should think of themselves as needing to do a similar amount of work as white people, especially if they’re white passing. People are going to say racist things in front of them that they would not say in front of people who appear Black. It’s like that TSA slogan: if they see something, say something. Do the same work that white people are doing.

Chinyere Agbai, 27, is a Ph.D. student in sociology in Providence.