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8. The Death of DEI
  • Writer's pictureAntonio Da Veiga Rocha

Racism and Antiracism. (Part 1: War and Veils)

By now most of us in the field, and those pulling from the field, are aware of the antiracist introduction into today’s social justice movements. Most popularized by Ibram X. Kendi whose book How to be an Antiracist does a great job of describing and framing the content that informs and motivates racism. He’s even got books for children on the subject.

But antiracism is not new. It’s actually a long-standing practice. There are great examples of antiracist practitioners in the Civil Rights movement of the US, the Apartheid movement of South Africa, Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement in the Oceania continent, and many more.

Contributors to Wikipedia have done a good job of providing a simple historical framework of antiracism as well. Speaking of white men like scientists Friedrich Tiedemann, one of the first people to scientifically challenge racism, and Adolf Bastian who introduced ‘a belief in a universal mental framework present in all human regardless of race’.


There would be no need for antiracism if it weren’t for racism, which is a white stratification system of race, a Eurocentric construct, culturally produced and institutionally supported. Merriam-Webster’s newly updated definition of Racism says, ‘a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race, ...the behaviors or attitudes that reflect and foster this belief, and the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another (this last part is the update).

So, if that is racism, what is antiracism? Here at KinSite we like this definition: Antiracism is a process of actively identifying and opposing racism. The goal of anti-racism is to challenge racism and actively change the policies, behaviors, and beliefs that perpetuate racist ideas and actions.

So the call to arms then is not simply to be a non-racist, but to be an anti-racist, someone that is actively pursuing awareness on the subject for both personal and social consciousness and practicing the opposite of what racists argue.

When Veils are Lowered

I wanted to write this blog on the subject of racism and antiracism to practice an antiracist act and give evidence as an educator. What we know about war is that it's a beast, a savage display of violent multitudes, many of which we can’t go into here. The currently spotlighted war is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Historically, Europe has been a master narrator for the world, holding a central position in world tending discourse, a driver in many ways of international conversation. As such, in the rush to communicate the war in its own continent, veils have been lowered, at times removed all together.

Media Coverage, Seeking Empathy?

Trevor Noah and The Daily Show writers, have captured this state incredibly well, one that clearly and accurately positions contemporary racism in the mainstream. They reported on the journalistic coverage that took place right at the start of the war, again, when filters and veils were least present. In the show’s segment you can see and hear journalists being respectfully racist, an interesting combination, with commentaries like these: “This isn’t Iraq or Afghanistan […] This is a relatively civilized, relatively European city” - Charlie D’Agata, CBS; and “What’s compelling is looking at them, the way they are dressed. These are prosperous, middle-class people. These are not obviously refugees trying to get away from the Middle East […] or North Africa. They look like any European family that you’d live next door to” – Peter Dobbie, Al Jazeera. It is clear by such examples that what we need is more diversity in the western journalistic field, an amplification of peripheral narratives, experiences, and perspectives.

Call it Out When You See It

Taking the definition above of antiracism, one of the initial acts is pointing out racism. Why is it important to point it out? It’s because we face opposing thoughts and positions, those that argue that supporting the presence of racism today is outdated. They say that contemporary society no longer holds such views and if they (individuals making such arguments) were racists they would know it. They speak of seeing individuals and groups making their own ways in the world, and that that speaks of a non-racist or post racist society. I am sure many of you have witnessed such views, or maybe even held (hold) them. (This more tame example of opposing views is assuming you are already aware that of the many pockets of white supremacist groups dotted throughout the western world, and of individuals that still strongly hold the belief that the white race is the supreme race on this earth.)

One of the most effective ways of countering such arguments is real-life, presently active, examples of racism, one’s that are hard to refute. Under the spotlight of wars one can usually find strong currents of racism and inequality, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, etc. It is typically under such unfortunate actions that more direct examples emerge such as the journalistic example above (the vails are thinner if not non-existent). But this is not an isolated situation in this war, with thousands of international students in Ukraine sharing their racial abuses and inhumane treatments. You can find a good article on it here).

Herein lies the case of the ‘Other’ caught up in war. While Ukrainians by in large have been given permission to cross borders, reside, work, live, receive schooling, etc. in other European counties, international students, paid students, who have all been catalogued, registered, filtered, sifted, etc., cannot freely move to save their own lives. Could this directly relate to one’s skin color, and the presumptions that are attached to definitions of neighbor?

Me and Racism

I have purposefully waited to write about race and racism in my blogs. Mostly because it’s a theme I spend quite a bit of time living in and studying. My relationship with racism has been both personal (to realize my experiences with race and racism) and professional (as a creative and educator, in the works I produce and works I teach). In my next blog I will speak about some of these works and provide further thoughts about antiracism, and ways you can create more antiracist social spaces and move further into a more socially just society.

You can find two further great articles on the war and racism here and here. Until then, be active against racism and be on the lookout for part two of this post.


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