OPED: Anti-racism efforts sustain, magnify racist stereotypes
I was six years old when I heard the n-word for the first time used in anger, as an insult towards my father. I was about 10 years old the first time that I was informed I talked "white." I was in eighth grade the first time a bully pulled my hair hard and demanded to know if it was "fake."
I was in law school the first time I heard that box braids would not be a suitable hairstyle for a clerkship in the courthouse. I had barely been in a legal practice for a year the first time I heard the n-word used in anger, as an insult towards myself. I had been married almost three years the first time a hairdresser expressed apprehension at the prospect of dealing with my natural hair, and asked if my husband approved of me wearing my hair curly.
The teachings of those at the forefront of alleged "anti-racism" methodology would likely say that the experiences I’ve described above could all be sourced to microaggressions, racism and white supremacy. It may be surprising to know that all of those experiences occurred among members of my own race.
The so-called "anti-racist" position would hold that these intraracial experiences are still due to the effects of racism and white supremacy. In their view, racial minorities in society’s power structure cannot be guilty of racism, only prejudice and self-hate. Anti-racism argues that the only way for past discrimination to be remedied is with present discrimination – all exacted at the hands of discerning centered intersections and anti-racist allies.
I disagree. In fact, I have endured some of the most vitriolic race-based attacks from local white proponents of so-called "allies" of "anti-racism" in Anderson Township occurring after my public opposition to so-called "anti-racist" curriculum and policies through public comment and testimony, radio interviews and op-eds.
I receive threats to my Black-owned, woman-run law firm and my physical well-being. My mailbox has been vandalized twice. Hate mail plagues my voicemail, mail, email as my name is tossed around the now-private "Anderson Township Liberals and Moderates" Facebook group. I have been doxxed, followed and labeled with racially derogatory insults like "white man’s pet."
This is all because my inconvenient truth doesn’t fit into the power dynamics alleged by so-called anti-racist proponents. But I won’t tailor my Black experience or my history to fit anyone’s narrative.
Let me be clear: I am proud to be Black, and my Blackness is not defined by anyone’s insults or labels. I have never denied that racism exists – I experienced it firsthand as just a handful of Black students in my graduating class at Turpin High School. I am adamant, however, that intraracial and interracial hate can never be solved by "anti-racist" methods. Especially not in the classroom.
"Cultural Sensitivity" and so-called "anti-racism" training won’t fix students who are ignorant to any exposure to Black people besides what they see on television. It won’t heal the envy and strife that springs from the sharp socioeconomic divide at home in our township. It won’t increase tolerance or dissolve division.
Instead,"anti-racism" and the like tend to arm the white self-ascribed "allies" with a newfound sense of self-righteousness and aggrandizement. It enables the illusion that allies know the minority race better than minoritized individuals know themselves. It gives "anti-racist allies" confidence to silence Black voices that fail to align with "anti-racist" beliefs. "Anti-racism" encourages the exact opposite of its name – it perpetuates and magnifies racist stereotypes, inventing societal obstacles that require white "allies."
"Anti-racism" does not aim to use history to empower or inspire – it twists historical perspective in order to suit an ideological position.
My family history wasn’t used by my parents to convince me of my oppression or embitter my outlook. My parents came from literally nothing, raised by Black single mothers surviving on welfare and food stamps. They built their own small business from the ground up. They taught me that if they could overcome adversity and prevail, so could I. In this same way, history needs to be taught in a way that invokes that same empowerment and inspiration, not shame and defeat.
We have all seen the sensational headlines such as "All-white school board members cancel Diversity Day" and passage of a "resolution that 'promotes racism.'" Here’s a truth you won’t see hitting the headlines: the reality is that vocal Black Anderson parents were a large part of pushback against "invasive" and "offensive" materials and activities for the originally planned "Racial Awareness and Diversity Day."
As adults, we are free to explore theoretical answers and ideologies in response to national problems. But having grown up as a K-12 graduate of the Forest Hills School District, I can say with confidence that so-called "anti-racist" efforts are not the solution to any of the problems I endured in this school district.
Despite headlines claiming that the focus on critical race theory was born from political obsession, what I have seen firsthand from clients and community members speaks to different origins. In the wake of COVID-19 remote learning and telecommuting, more parents were granted the ability to work from home and observe the inner workings of the classroom. And from board meetings to the ballot box, Anderson Township parents have given a resounding "no" to co-parenting with the government.
It’s time to stop weaponizing race to silence inconvenient viewpoints like my own. It’s time to stop exploiting ethnicity and gender for political sensationalism and eye-catching headlines. It’s time for so-called "anti-racist" allies to leave the division to math, and start solving real problems.
Rachel Citak is an attorney and lives in Anderson Township. She is a member of the Enquirer editorial board. Twitter: @rachelrcitak