American political activist Angela Y. Davis once said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
A non-racist or "not racist" person believes that all races are equal, however, they do not stand up against racism and do nothing to inflict positive change. Antiracism is action-oriented, an antiracist is defined as a person who actively opposes racism and promotes racial tolerance.
The first time I heard Angela’s quote, I found it difficult to understand. I would ask myself “How can a non-racist person contribute to the problem (racism)?”
It took me some time and reflection until I finally understood the meaning and importance of Angela’s words.
In this blog post, I will show you the impacts and importance of being anti-racist versus being simply non-racist, by sharing two of my experiences with racism. By sharing these experiences, I hope to demonstrate how a non-racist person can be part of the problem, and how one anti-racist person can make all the difference.
#1: “Hey Jones!”
During any ice hockey game, there are times when you have to lineup for a faceoff right next to the opposition’s team bench. Most hockey players hate these moments because this is when opposing players feel the most inclined to “chirp”. But for me those “chirps” were different, they always seemed to hurt a little more.
At 16 years old I was playing with the regional hockey team, and my coach had just given me the nod of approval to get on the ice. So, I skate to lineup next to the opposing team’s bench, just like any other hockey game. Then, I hear him. With a big grin and smile he shouts, “Hey Jones!”, I hear him, but I do not acknowledge him. My inattention to his statement only further provoked him as he then followed with,
“HEY JONES, *insert Anti-Asian racial slur*”.
In that instance, it felt as if silence had overtaken the entire rink to allow his words to echo freely without distortion. It was like time had slowed down to allow the hurt to deeply set in and to give everyone time to process what they had just heard.
All of a sudden, time resumes normally, and everyone (both teams) who heard the slur was smiling and laughing. While both teams are having fun at my expense, I was left speechless. As I stand there being publicly ridiculed, there was an instance where I thought “Maybe my teammates will stick up for me?” But deep down I knew, there was nobody coming, and I would be handling this alone.
Just as if nothing at happened, the hockey game would continue and finish as normal.
The player would never face disciplinary action.
A non-racist person believes that all races are equal, however, they do not stand up against racism and do nothing to inflict positive change. At first glance this ideal may seem great: all races are equal. But, the reality is that all races are not treated equally, and in a society where racism happens, there needs to be actions to oppose it.
By not actively contributing to the racial slur and providing no action to oppose racism, both teams (minus one player) were practicing non-racism that day. Everyone was fully aware of what happened during that hockey game, but there was never any action taken.
Doing nothing will allow these situations to continue to happen. We must act- we must be anti-racist.
#2: “Did he just say something racist to you?!”
This story is primarily centred around two people, one from my team, and the other from the opposing team. For simplicity we will call them Steve and Nick, respectively.
When ice surfaces melt in the summer months and reveal the hard concrete beneath, this is when the sport of ball hockey takes over the rinks of Newfoundland & Labrador. At 18 years old I played for Corner Brook’s team at the B division provincial championship. Being very new to the sport, I knew only a few of my teammates and the rest I had never met (including Steve).
During our first game of the tournament, I ended up tripping someone, which led to an altercation with an opposing player (Nick). It was during this disagreement that Nick decided to utter a racial slur toward me. By this point in my life dealing with racial slurs had become routine, I had become accustomed to the hurt and pain that accompanied them. The regularity of the hateful comments allowed me to become better at masking my emotions when they occurred.
I was given a minor penalty for tripping and Nick was not given a penalty for his comments. Now I am sitting in the penalty box trying to collect my emotions before the 2 minutes penalty runs out. Suddenly, Steve bangs his stick on the glass to get my attention, he then shouts,
“Did he just say something racist to you?!”
and I timidly respond with a slight nod to indicate yes.
After receiving my answer, Steve jumps over the bench and confronts Nick about his recent choice of words against me. Sitting from the penalty box I could not tell what words were exchanged, but I could see that Steve was making it very clear racism is not acceptable.
As this was the first time I met Steve, he did not choose to stand up for me, rather he chose to take a stance against racism. His actions that day spoke volumes about what kind of person he is, and I am grateful to have gained a friend and ally that day. This is one of the few times in my life I never had to endure racism alone, and for that, I am eternally grateful. Thank you, Steve.
Antiracism is defined as the policy or practice of opposing racism and promoting racial tolerance. Steve’s actions that day are a great example of antiracism, where he recognized the racial slur and took action to oppose it and promote racial acceptance. We must be anti-racist.
My hope is after reading both of my stories, we can see how non-racism contributes to the problem (racism) and have a better appreciation and understanding of why we must be anti-racist.
Thank you for reading my stories, and I invite everyone to share to help spread my message.