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What is an Anti-Racist Organization?

ESTHER has adopted the goal of becoming an anti-racist organization, but we have never defined very clearly what that means. This post is intended to start a discussion on that topic, and for that purpose, I suggest that we should explore the implications of the definitions proposed by Ibram X. Kendi in his book How to be an Antiracist.[i]

Racism Grows from Racist Policies

Kendi begins with the idea that racist policies are adopted out of financial self-interest and not because of racist ideas and prejudices. The racist ideas and prejudices are created later to justify the policies (p. 42). For example, the Atlantic Slave Trade did not develop because Europeans hated Africans or believed them to be inferior. The trade developed because plantation owners in the American colonies were willing to pay for slaves to work in their sugar cane, rice and tobacco plantations. The racist claims that Africans were inferior to Europeans grew up later as justifications for the slave trade and for the practice of slavery in the colonies. The sequence also works in reverse. Reductions in racist ideas and prejudices follow policy changes rather than preceding them. For example, the integration of the schools in the South was followed by a reduction in racist prejudices in that region.

Thus, for Kendi, the focus in fighting racism must be on changing racist policies, not racist attitudes. Changes in attitudes will follow when the policies are changed. This is the basis of his definitions of “racist” and “antiracist,” which are (p. 13):

ESTHER’s Prison Reform Task Force: Improving Our Criminal Justice System

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Prison Reform is Hard Work

Lisa Hanneman does not give up easily. Reforming our prisons and jails is hard, grinding work. It has demanded years of effort by Lisa and the other members of ESTHER’s Prison Reform Task Force. Lisa became involved with the group in 2016 because, in the County Jail,  her son who was a terminal brain cancer patient, could not get his cancer, anti-nausea and pain medications at the times that the doctor had prescribed. As Lisa worked to improve her son’s treatment, she discovered ESTHER, and it turned out that she was not alone. Other members of the Task Force had encountered the same problem, and the Task Force decided to take action together. You might think that this was a small problem that could be resolved easily, but you would be wrong, as Lisa discovered.

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