How to Be an Anti-Racism Activist

An anti-racist activist in Italy. Luciano/

Anti-racist activism in the U.S. dates back to the early 1800s when abolitionists first mobilized for the liberation of slaves. So, how did the abolitionist's campaign? They wrote, they spoke and they rallied, to name but a few of their tactics.

It’s hard to believe, but many of the methods abolitionists used to battle racism still apply two centuries later. Interested in joining the distinguished Americans who’ve fought against racial inequality? Get started by choosing from an array of strategies.

The Power of Your Pen

Writing surfaced early on as one of the anti-racist movement’s best weapons. People simply won’t rally for a cause they know nothing about. So, if you want to be an anti-racist activist, get the word out about racism.

Say a business in your community treats patrons of color shabbily or outright refuses to serve them. What do you do? Write letters to the editors of local newspapers. Not only might they publish them, they might also allow you to write a guest column on the issue. But don’t stop there. Write to the legislators in your community—the city council, the mayor, congress people.

Additionally, the Internet allows you to make everyone on the planet aware of racial injustice. Write a blog or a set up a website about the bigotry you encounter and before long, you’ll be far from the only one concerned about the problem.

Don’t Fight Alone: Join an Anti-Racist Group

Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t act alone to obtain civil rights for all Americans, and neither should you. A number of anti-racist groups have long fought against inequity. They include Anti-Racist Action, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Find the chapter of such groups nearest to you and get involved. They might need you to fundraise, recruit and lead workshops, among other activities. Even if you end up doing something as mundane as making the staff coffee, teaming up with an anti-racist group will likely give you an insider’s view on how to act against discrimination, speak to the public about bigotry and rally people for a cause.

Take It to the Streets

When an egregious act of racism becomes public knowledge, you can bet that a demonstration will soon follow. The next time an anti-racist group organizes a protest, don’t hesitate to join in. March to city hall. Hand out leaflets to passersby. Get interviewed on the evening news.

Engaging in civil disobedience is a great way to educate the public about discrimination in your community. As a budding anti-racist activist, it’s also a helpful networking tool. While protesting, you’re sure to meet like-minded individuals you can work with in the future to fight racism.

Know Your Facts

What if your activism really does land you on the evening news? Can you speak convincingly about why you’re fighting racism and why the people at home should join you? Make sure you’re prepared to answer questions about your cause by researching it thoroughly. There’s nothing more embarrassing than seeing an activist grow tongue-tied when asked to elaborate on an issue.

Say the police shoot an unarmed black man in your community. As an activist, it’s your duty to find out what reasons, if any, the officers have given for the shooting as well as whether the officers have been penalized or have a history of using excessive force. It’s also in your best interest to know if the victim triggered the shooting in any way or has a criminal background. Gathering these kinds of facts will not only make you a credible source for the media but also help you persuade the public to get involved in the fight.

While knowing the ins-and-outs of specific incidents is important, so is being able to discuss racism as a whole. Learn the important figures, events, and dates in the fight for racial justice. Read literature about racism, especially those authored by activists. Start with Ronald Takaki’s A Different Mirror or Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Take in films, art, and theater involving racism also. As the saying goes, “knowledge is power.”

Consider a Career Switch

Want to make a career of fighting racism? It can be done. Perhaps now’s the time to finally apply to law school and become a civil rights attorney. You might also consider working for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to help fight discrimination in the workplace. Who knows? Volunteering for an anti-racist group might just lead to a full-time job.

In Closing

If you want to be an anti-racist activist, take comfort in the fact that you have an assortment of organizations, literature and political figures to draw upon in your quest. While it’s important to take part in activities such as rallies or letter-writing campaigns to fight racism, it’s also important to speak out against racism in everyday life. So, the next time a coworker tells a racist joke or a family member complains about a certain ethnic group, do your part and speak up. It’s hard to fight racism at large if you can’t stand up to it in your own backyard.