A typical throwaway statement people make in causal and academic spaces is that “‘race’ is a social construct.”
This statement is, of course, factual and even a given. People struggle the most with that though “race” is a social construct, both systemic and everyday racism is too concrete. As a scholar of “race,” racialization, and racism, the last 12 years have sadly proven that entrenched and embedded racism is fundamentally in all society’s institutions.
Even the U. S. Constitution, which has provided hope for decades of civil rights activists, we have witnessed how racists can weaponize the same U. S. Constitution against those who our foundational legal structure was never intended to represent nor include. A knee-jerk response is always to find or expose the “racists.”
But that still leaves untouched how racism’s enactment is precisely how our institutions were meant to operate.
Anti-Racism is an Action
So, the challenge of anti-racism appears insurmountable because many try to attack it as an individual or personal problem or defect. Anti-racism is a priori about collective actions, unities, and solidarities.
Racism’s power is its ability to divide and rule or divide and conquer.
Anti-racism means the joint movement against fundamental structures that produce all forms of racism. Anti-racism tears down racism’s systems and builds anew in a sweeping or extensive way.
Anti-racism is not just talking or Tweeting; anti-racism is an action that requires both small and large acts of resistance and attacks to expose the inherently exclusionary nature of everyday “normal” policies, practices, and institutions.
Anti-racism’s everyday work is changing structures, policies, laws, guidelines, rules, customs, traditions, mores, norms. If these are changed, then racism’s tools will prove ineffective for the intentional and accidental racists.
When the tools, techniques, and methods of racism are destroyed or eliminated, individual behavior, conduct, and action will transform.
Alexandro Gradilla is an associate professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at Cal State Fullerton. Gradilla, who received his doctorate in ethnic studies from the University of California, Berkeley, says ending racism will take time and require ending institutional racism.