Defining Racism: What Are We Standing Against?

Arielle Levy, YW Boston Community Outreach Coordinator

YWCA Boston is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. As such, we have proudly sponsored Boston’s annual Stand Against Racism for the past four years. Since 2010, we have engage more than 10,000 Bostonians in this effort to acknowledge the existence of racism, its implications, and how we might address them.

We encourage groups of individuals, corporations, organizations, places of worship, schools, etc. to host a “Stand” indicating their commitment to eliminating racism from our city.

As we work to dismantle racism, we must first establish a common language around what it is and how we’ll understand it. Racism manifests in many ways, through discrimination, prejudice, and hateful acts. Yet, we must acknowledge that these phenomena derive from a system of power that perpetuates the unjust hierarchy that our society operates under. Racism is where prejudice and an abuse of power meet and collide, resulting in privilege for some, and the opposite for everyone else.

Please consider joining the Stand Against Racism on April 26th, and know that you are a part of a movement across the country that, for many, is the only time of the year that they truly consider how racism influences our lives. That said, this presents a unique opportunity for all of us, here in Boston and beyond, to try to understand truths about racism and what we can do to combat it.

In his March 7th New York Times op-ed “The Good, Racist People”, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, “In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed.” In other words, we exist in a society that largely believes racism to be interpersonal acts of hatred and intolerance based on race. While these acts are certainly racist in nature, they are more accurately defined as bigotry. Acts of bigotry include personal attacks (physical and verbal), graffiti, damage to property, etc. that are rooted in prejudice.

What remains unseen by too many are the three letters at the end of “racism” that indicate that it is a system. It is a system perpetuated not only by individual attitudes and behaviors, but by institutions, laws, and social stratifications. As such, we all participate, willingly or unwillingly, in a system that allocates privilege, opportunity, and access based on race.

Yet, we push forward. As a nation, we have come a long way from the days of slavery and segregation. But we still have far to go. Several months back, the blog site Deadspin blog labeled Boston the second most racist city in America. It is now more important than ever to acknowledge the truth about racism and what it means for us in 2013.

On April 26th when we stand together against racism, take advantage of the opportunity to work towards making change – both now and for future generations. The first step is learning what racism is – only then can we make strides towards unlearning it.

Please register now or to find out more about how you can participate in Stand Against Racism 2013.