I vividly remember years back someone insisting to me that those of us who speak and write about race and racism are fomenting a problem rather than ensuring peacefully that everyone gets along. This was as if to say the two stances are opposed to each other.
To get to peace and social harmony, we must be frank, speak about our pain, suffering, the violence, and injustices while also not hiding race, racism, and social oppression under the sink. Our silences will not protect us from the injuries of racism and anti-Blackness. In fact, this same person wondered whether this focus on race and anti-racism is what gives some of us our academic jobs.
The sad truth is that within our communities, there has been so much denial around race and structural racism to the extent that people either shy away from matters of race or become very defensive whenever we mention race and structural racism. Once confronted, there is either a push back or denial that we perpetuate these harms. Unfortunately, we can be tempted into the space of cowardice, making excuses for hate and violence. We have not always pursued frank and honest discussions on these matters.
As Black and African peoples, we should never apologize for speaking out about race, racism and anti-Blackness. We must talk about race and racism and fight to address anti-Black racism through concrete action and meaningful practice. Long ago, authors James Scheurich and Michelle Young, in their writings highlighted important aspects of systemic racism which signalled overt and hidden racisms built on ideas and ideologies of the superiority of Western civilization.
Their contributions alluded to institutionalized racism as involving the modus operandi and every day functioning of societal structures (schools, courts, media, the criminal justice system, health, and the workforce, etc.) that privilege dominant bodies while disadvantaging Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and racialized communities. Such readings are linked with forms of 'societal racism', the entrenched everyday public conversations and practices that operate on a wider scale to favor White people. We know that structural racism embraces foundational knowledges that herald Western hegemony hiding behind objectivity.
For example, the contestation that our institutions such as courts and legal systems, schools, and workplaces are fair, value-free, and objective; and that within these spaces one can move ahead strictly based on fairness expressed through 'merit', 'excellence' and 'hard work'.
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education University of Toronto