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Some of the questions I’m often asked include: What is racism? How can we be allies? And what are specific actions non-Black people can take to prevent racism?
Ending racism is not the sole responsibility of the people who suffer from it. Today more than ever, white and mixed-race people must realize that taking a stand against racism is imperative.
Anti-racism goes far beyond treating Black or Indigenous people well; it’s a practice that’s built on real everyday actions against white supremacy. It is essential to be well informed and, for that, it’s key to read Black and POC authors in order to know the history, properly debate and rethink the dominant narratives.
In addition, the reading must be supported by a daily practice of self-examination and a questioning of the relationships we establish with others. Anti-Blackness, or racismo anti-Negro in Spanish, is an expression of structural racist violence. Racism is a global issue that exists in every spatial context and every moment of history. It is structural because it’s connected to the distribution of power and wealth, the ideological and the symbolic.
Anti-Black racism, as part of systemic racism, has served to configure capitalism as a principal mode of production. The racist events that we have recently witnessed, such as the murder of George Floyd in the United States or that of Anderson Arboleda in Colombia (both at the hands of the police), are the result of historical processes that originated more than 500 years ago.
Let us think about historical facts: the so-called “discovery” of America or the Enlightenment (as an ideological project that determined that Western science is the only legitimate knowledge), for example, or even the way the world-systems theory is made up of core and periphery areas to determine who is human and who is not.
But “what does George Floyd’s murder have to do with the Enlightenment?” you may ask. Well, let’s see. Here are some books we consider necessary to understanding the origin and operation of anti-black racism in its structural dimension:
“Piel negra, máscaras blancas” por Frantz Fanon
“Piel negra, máscaras blancas” is the first book by Antillean philosopher Frantz Fanon. It is an essential read in the path to understanding the connection between psychology and the processes of colonial dominance. In the text, Fanon analyzes the psychological impacts of racism in Martinique, his homeland, in relation to broader systems such as the economy and politics.
“¿Las cárceles son obsoletas?” por Angela Davis
In “¿Las cárceles son obsoletas?” Angela Davis, Black philosopher and activist, explains why the fight to abolish the prison system is inherently anti-racist. Prisons are contemporary industries that have carried on the institution of slavery. Angela starts by exposing the history of anti-Black racism, with slavery and lynching as examples to show how today’s punitiveness was consolidated in our societies.
“Las estrellas son negras” por Arnoldo Palacios
Writer Arnoldo Palacios is detailed when he narrates the hunger, anger, poverty and black starry nights of Chocó. “Las estrellas son negras” speaks of economic inequality and racial injustices in the Colombian Pacific. The work exposes, to a certain extent, the marginalization and abandonment to which the people of Chocó have been condemned by the Colombian state.
“La invención de las mujeres” por Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyèwùmí
We rarely think of racism in reference to the binary gender system. Nigerian sociologist Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyèwùmí challenges the articulation between biological determinism and social gender and race constructions through the experience of Yoruba society. Are the categories of “woman”, “man” and “patriarchy” universal? In “La invención de las mujeres” you’ll surely find out.
“Capitalismo y esclavitud” por Eric Williams
To understand structural anti-Black racism, it is essential to understand how slavery and capitalism intertwine. Eric Williams, a Caribbean historian from Trinidad and Tobago, talks about its origin and states that the enslavement of African people around the production of cotton, sugar, tobacco, among others, are what made the enrichment of Europe possible.
“Feminismos negros: Una antología”
“Feminismos negros. Una antología” is fundamental to understanding the struggle of Black American women, their reflections, main points of debate with white feminism and theoretical positions. It is a must-read because it brings together great Black feminists like Patricia Hill Collins, Angela Davis and Sojourner Truth. From this anthology, I especially recommend “Horrores sureños: la ley Lynch en todas sus fases” by Ida B. Bells, which shows how lynchings of Black men falsely accused of rape constituted a systematic practice of anti-Black racism.
“Una autobiografía” por Assata Shakur
Assata Shakur—who was once on America’s most-wanted list and a Black Panther party activist—wrote her autobiography in Cuba in 1987. Assata Shakur was beaten and tortured while deprived of her freedom. She escaped from prison and has been living in political asylum on the island since 1985. The model of imprisonment to which Black people are submitted is made clear by the account of Assata’s life experience. Assata Shakur represents inspiration and hope for the construction of a radically free world.