“We need to join with other people, it is our power together that allows us to really battle racist power.”
-Dr. Ibram Kendi
Gail Fry | Staff
On March 17, Black Voice News attended the Inland Empire’s first Anti-racist Summit held by the Center Against Racism and Trauma (CART) where the discussion centered around how to solve discrimination and inequity in the Inland Empire.
The event was held in a climate where people across the country are protesting the sharp rise in violence against members of the Asian-American and Pacific-Islander (AAPI) population and pointed to the murder of eight people (six AAPI women) recently killed in the state of Georgia.
“We declare that the Inland Empire is a no hate zone, and we will not accept racism as a part of our culture, our institutions and our policy,” Center Against Racism and Trauma (CART) Founder and Director Corey Jackson declared, asking Inland Empire residents to commit to actively destroying racism in the region we all call home.
“It is not enough to say that you are not a racist. It is not enough to feel bad that these disgusting crimes are happening. We must speak up and do something about it,” Jackson voiced encouraging people to take action and provide the support necessary to CART, an organization formed in 2020 to provide solutions, resources and expertise to address the problem of racism in the Inland Empire. CART’s website is: https://www.destroyracism.org/.
Increased Violence Against AAPI Communities
Jackson introduced the Anti-racist Summit’s keynote speaker, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, a leading anti-racist scholar, a national book award winner, one of America’s foremost historians, and author of the book, “How to be an Anti-Racist,” an international best-seller.
Jackson and Kendi opened the discussion highlighting the March 16, murders in Georgia, thought to be a hate crime, where a series of mass shootings were carried out by a White male at three massage parlors located in the greater Atlanta area, killing eight people, six Asian-American or Pacific-Islander (AAPI), two White.
Jackson attributed the increased violence against the AAPI community across the country to speech referring to the coronavirus as the China virus, or the kung-flu to deflect blame over the coronavirus on a group of people for political purposes.
“We have to educate other people, Asian-American and Pacific-Islanders are not to be feared, cannot spread the virus any more than anyone else,” Jackson reasoned. He stressed AAPI communities’ culture and values make our communities stronger.
Jackson encouraged participants to speak out and defend the AAPI community when they see AAPI residents being harassed or targeted in public or online. He urged, “We have to speak out about it. Silence is not an option. When we are silent, we become part of the problem.”
My heart goes out to the AAPI community, Dr. Kendi sympathized, explaining, “I know that their struggle is our struggle (sic). White male, White supremacists are engaging in acts of terror not only against the AAPI community, but against Latinx Americans, against obviously Black folks, against Jewish Americans, against women. You name the group that are being subjected to this terror.”
What is Racism? A Definition
Many people today claim racism is a thing of the past, Dr. Kendi shared, and in response he poses the question, “What is racism? And typically those making this case can’t define it.” Dr. Kendi reasoned, “It’s easy to say something doesn’t exist if you can’t even define it.”
“In order to understand racism, you have to break down its component parts,” he continued explaining there are racist policies, which is any measure that leads to racial inequity or injustice; and racist ideas which are any concepts that suggest that one racial group is superior or inferior to another racial group in any way.
“To understand racism, which is inherently systemic, we should understand it as this powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequities and injustices and are substantiated by racist ideas,” Dr. Kendi theorized.
“In other words, voter suppression policies disproportionately make it harder for Black, Brown and Indigenous people to vote which then leads to them being less likely to vote,” Dr. Kendi related. “Then those policies and their outcome are justified by ‘there is something wrong with those voters’ as opposed to those policies.”
For example, the new voting laws enacted by the Georgia legislature that now require identification for absentee voting, ban mobile units, require drop boxes housed inside early voting locations, limit early voting hours, allow any Georgian to challenge the voting eligibility of an unlimited number of voters, outlaw giving water or food to voters waiting in line to vote and other restrictions.
“In other words, the racist ideas and this mass collection of them justify the normality of oppression or inequality that comes out of those policies. That’s racism,” Dr. Kendi concluded.
Racism Poses a Lethal Threat to Human Existence
“I think it’s important for us as human beings to know that there are three lethal weapons threatening human existence,” Dr. Kendi warned, describing those lethal weapons as nuclear war, climate change, and bigotry—racism in particular. That’s precisely what we saw in the greater Atlanta area.
When we look at this nation right now the greatest domestic terrorist threat of our time are White supremacists, with both racist ideas and weapons, allowing a single person to become a lynch mob of one,” Dr. Kendi warned.
“I think everyone can understand the ways in which racist policies do not allow for certain people to be treated as if they were fully human,” he observed noting even a slave holder cannot display and act upon the fullness of his/her humanity, just as the victims to that brutality can’t either.
What it Means to be an Anti-racist
Dr. Kendi explained an anti-racist recognizes this larger system of racism that is maintaining unequal and injustice in housing, in criminal justice, in the economy, in the environment, in health, you name the sector.
According to Kendi an anti-racist challenges the system of racism by voting for leaders who are enacting anti-racism policies for instance, instead of doing nothing in the face of racial inequity, nothing in the face of Jim Crow, nothing in the face of slavery, nothing in the face of people being mass incarcerated or being mass murdered.
If people do nothing, it will continue. To do nothing is to uphold this system of racism leading to mass murdering, mass incarcerations, or mass deportation, or over 500,000 people dying in a pandemic, Dr. Kendi reasoned, encouraging those in attendance to spend their time and abilities to challenge those policies and practices and the powers behind them.
Those in power, he continued, institute policies that harm their own constituents, specifically struggling White working-class men and wealthier White men who haven’t graduated from college. Those in power need to deflect blame from their constituents for their hardships and direct blame elsewhere claiming its the Latinex invaders, Black folks on welfare, the AAPI community spreading coronavirus, resulting in a vicious cycle of anger, conflict and division instead of the alternative, which is to say they have been had; taken, led astray.
A Systemic Disease is Causing Americans Pain, Treatment is Needed, and Solutions.
Dr. Kendi stressed the real source of America’s pain is racism and racist policies. Racism is harming the nation, and the evidence is the suffering, the division, and the conflict, in a country that literally went to war against itself over the issue in the 1860’s.
He likened racism to a disease that has spread throughout our country and for which he diagnosed that we need treatment.
“The people who love a nation are the people who will look the nation in the mirror and tell it like it is,” Kendi said and expressed his love for this country.
He suggested people look in their own backyard for elected officials, leaders, or organizations that are promoting anti-racist solutions and support them, either with your expertise, your donations, campaign contributions, your time, or your leadership stating it’s going to take organized bodies of people to challenge racist policies. Specifically, Dr. Kendi advised those elected officials working to implement anti-racist policies will need support. He described it as an uphill battle.
“We need to join with other people, it is our power together that allows us to really battle racist power. I want us to figure out how we can support those people in power. While some of us strive to be in those positions of power so that we then can use those positions for the greater good.”
Discussion of Dr. Kendi’s Presentation by Local Scholars
Co-Director of CART, Jernine McBride, posed questions to Dr. Kendi from the audience followed by a panel of local educators in a discussion moderated by Advisory Council of CART Member Janice Rooths.
In response to Rooths request for takeaways from Dr. Kendi’s presentation, Carolyn Murray, a professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside, said she took exception to Dr. Kendi’s definition of racism, citing the definition by the leading scholar on prejudice and racism in America 1996, James Jones, that it’s a product resulting from race prejudice through the exercise of power against a racial group defined as inferior by individuals and institutions with the intentional and unintentional support of the entire culture.
Azusa Pacific University Professor of Higher Education, Alexander Jun, Ph.D. spoke with great sadness about the violence against the AAPI community and said one of best things he appreciated about what Dr. Kendi said is when you love someone you talk about real things and you challenge the very things that can be critical with the ones you love.
California Baptist University Assistant Professor of Public Administration Noemi Alexander explained history shows us that anti-racist policy demands are usually met with fear-based resistance, but then soon after those policies are implemented, we see support for those policies. So, to go back to some of the tenets Dr. Kendi brings up is that racism hurts everyone, but anti-racist policies benefit everyone. California State University-Dominguez Hills Professor of Africana Studies Salim Faraji, PH.D. said he asserts we have to step outside of the racial paradigm and construct entirely. One of the issues that Dr. Kendi raised in his book, “Stamped from the Beginning,” is racist power that cannot be persuaded away from its self-interest.