The 9 Most Common Mistakes White People Make When Trying to Be Anti-Racist, According to an Activist

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April 13, 2024 at 6:2AM UTC

The recent movement for racial justice has tasked white people, including myself,  with being actively anti-racist rather than settling for not being racist themselves. That means listening to and amplifying Black voices, speaking up against racist people and systems, and doing your best job at being an accomplice to those who are trying to make a more equal America. 

For many, this was of thinking is new. Even if it's not, as with taking on any difficult task, growing to be anti-racist and a strong accomplice of Black people comes with mistakes. Here are nine of those mistakes, as highlighted by writer, speaker and activist Jen Winston (@jenerous) in a recent Instagram post. She also shares how to cut down on these mistakes and grow as an anti-racist. You can click on any of the screenshots to view her full post.

1. Choosing not to be intersectional. 

Not centering Black women and Black trans people makes anti-racist movements ineffective, as Winston explains below. 

2. Posting in "solidarity" instead of taking action. 

It's not enough to voice support, according to Winston. Instead, action must be taken. 

3. Calling ourselves "allies." 

You can't call yourself an ally to the Black community — only Black people have that power. Instead, refer to yourself as an "accomplice" in changing racist systems. 

4. Saying "POC" when we mean "Black,"

Black isn't a bad word. Winston explains when to use POC and when to use Black. 

5. Donating before we do research. 

Not every organization or individual that's "fighting for racial justice" is supporting to work or desires of Black activists and organizers. Before you give money, do your homework to make sure you're making a donation you can be proud of. 

6. Calling for peaceful protests.

White people don't get to tell Black people how to respond to generational trauma, as Winston points out. We also shouldn't  patronize the Black community by telling them what's "effective" for their political causes. 

7. Saying "unarmed Black man."

As Winston says, this seemingly innocuous statement suggests Black men are usually armed — an incredibly dangerous stereotype to reinforce. 

8. Sharing images of police officers kneeling.

Winston lists many reasons spreading these photos or videos is counterproductive to the social change happening right now, but it boils down to this: It covers up the reality of real, systemic police violence against Black people. 

9. Not realizing how hard racial justice work really is.

Fighting racism is hard. Black people have been doing it for generations. Realizing how difficult this work is, especially emotionally and mentally, will help you fight burn out and prepare for the long fight against racist systems. But realizing how privileged you are for anti-racism to be a new lesson you're learning is important, too. 

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