15 ways to strengthen anti-racist practice

Woodcut print of older Baldwin and quote "Love takes off masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."

This list is a collection of ideas and resources we’ve refined both from personal experiences and insights from our mentors and comrades in struggle.

We have given this list to thousands of people over the years. And we’re asking that you continue this tradition by sharing with folks in your life looking for a starting place for white anti-racist study, organizing, and action.

15 Tools for White Anti-Racist Activists

  • Learn about the history of white supremacy and how it connects with capitalism, imperialism, hetero-patriarchy, ableism, and other systems of oppression. For suggestions about where to start, check out the reader from the 2015 Anne Braden Program. There, you’ll find articles, video clips, essays, and poems on the topics referenced below.
  • Study the feminist thought of Women of Color and queer people of color and develop your understanding of the intersections of oppression and privilege.  Angela Davis, bell hooks, Andrea Smith, Audre Lorde, Audre Lorde Project, Barbara Smith, Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, Betita Martinez, Incite! Miss Major, Women of Color Against Violence,  #BlackLivesMatter, Sylvia Rivera, TGI Project.
  • Think through how white supremacy impacts the issues you work on.  How do the issues you work on affect communities of color? How is leadership structured in your organization, communities of faith, network? How do these structures challenge or reinforce white supremacy? Are the folks at the table of decision-making the same folks who experience the impacts of those decisions?
  • Learn about social movements led by people of color and indigenous people past and present in the U.S. and around the world.  Look for examples both inside of and outside the U.S.  These are all great resources for learning about social movements: Black Girl Dangerous, Colorlines, Feminist Wire, Leaving Evidence Blog, Left Turn Magazine, Upping the Anti, Organizing Upgrade, Left Roots, Freedom Archives, Social Justice Journal.
  • Seek out information about the struggles of Black, Indigenous, Arab, Latino, Asian, and Pacific Islander people where you live. Get on email lists, go to events, volunteer to support, and/or become a donor. Getting on the email lists of racial and economic justice organizations is a great way to start. You can also look for in the event listings in your local newspaper.  If you’re already connected to a social justice organization, you could start finding more organizations by seeing who they work in coalition with. If you’re not already connected, look for news articles in your local paper on progressive issues, see if there’s a local social justice foundation that lists its donors, or check out local member organizations like national networks like Jobs with Justice, Detention Watch Network, Right to the City Alliance, Grassroots Global Justice, National Day Laborer Organizing Network. Going to events, volunteering to support, bringing friends and family to help out, and becoming a donor are all great ways to learn more.
  • Remember that education is an important part of organizing, but a workshop will not set anyone free. Offer concrete support to people of color led organizations that you share political affinity with, and organize others to do the same. This can look like a range of things from volunteering to childcare, fundraising, or office support work, to getting your organization to participate in campaigns led by people of color, to developing longer term political alliances.  
  • Know who and what you are accountable to.  Consider both specific organizers and organizations that you have relationships with, and the broader set of politics that guide your decision-making. Build intentional relationships with activists or organizers of color who share your values and politics. Look for ways to support their work, and seek out feedback on yours. Make sure you’re giving as much or more than you’re getting. 
  • In mostly or all white organizations, work to build relationships of trust and accountability with anti-racist organizations and communities of color.  See if there are ways to do solidarity work and eventually, if there are ways to collaborate.  Develop your organization’s work with goals of challenging white supremacy in society and building anti-racist principles in white communities.
  • Intentionally lift up and build the leadership of people of color in your organizing. From who speaks to the media or at rallies or events to who determines demands and strategy for campaigns, make every opportunity you can to support, highlight, and develop the leadership of people of color, especially those directly impacted by the issues you work on. This means supporting the leadership, vision, and power of folks of color over the long haul, not tokenizing or simply trying to diversify your organization.
  • Regularly assess your organization’s messaging, demands, recruitment tactics, decision-making structure, coalitional work, internal practices and culture: is anti-racism a priority? is feminist practice a priority? and challenging ableism and economic oppression? Honestly and collectively review where there is room for improvement, and make plans to make change.
  • Practice humility and receiving feedback with an open heart.  One of the side effects of privilege often means we are told that all of our opinions are the most valuable, smart, and right. Hearing otherwise gracefully is an important skill to gain. The mistakes are inevitable; the process of learning from those mistakes requires humble and honest reflection.  The more work you do, the more mistakes you will make. Remember that feedback on our practice of anti-racism is often someone who we’ve impacted, but who is still willing to give us feedback. This is a gift toward our growth. Don’t be distracted if the wrapping is hard to look at.
  • Study the history of white people working against racism.  You could start by watching “Southern Patriot” about Anne Braden, or read “Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power” by Amy Sonnie and James Tracy.
  • Find an anti-racist mentor who has more experience than you, who will share lessons from their history, help you learn from your own experiences, and support you to think through questions you have and challenges you face.
  • Build intentional relationships with white activists or organizers who share your values and politics. Having a support network of other white people striving to practice anti-racism is crucial to this work, so we are not relying on people of color to hold our learning or emotional processes when we make mistakes.
  • Explore your own stake in collective liberation.  How have you been negatively impacted by systems of oppression, even when you’re on the “benefitting” side? How would you benefit from the success of freedom struggles?  Practice talking about racism and other systems of oppression, as well as your vision for the world you’re trying to build.