Five years ago, I was stunned when a man stood before reporters, announcing his candidacy for President of the United States, saying Mexicans are “rapists” and “criminals” and they aren’t sending their “best.” I shouldn’t have been since he was also the same man who put out a full page ad when the Exonerated Five were on trial for a rape they did not commit, stating they should get the death penalty. They were 16 and under. Kids. His history of racism was wide open, as was his fraudulent business dealings and his propensity to not pay contractors for the work they did. His announcement harkened back to history for me and that of Ferdinand Marcos. I knew how this would go but people were busy treating him like a joke to those of us sounding the alarm.
I began an effort to educate my friends on social media. Not only sharing my experiences with racism but those of other BIPOC. My friends have either come around, shown their true colors and we’re no longer friends, or they’re still silent. Today, I’m surrounded by a loud cry of antiracists joined by those who wish to be antiracist and to learn more.
Through this, I realized that education is my lane in being antiracist. It’s what I’ve done in one way or another since I was a teenager, inside of and outside of classrooms. So, in order to help those who are embarking on this journey and those of us still learning (because we should always be learning as the world changes) I decided to use my blog as a reference point rather than just making posts on Facebook and threads on Twitter.
After getting some feedback, clarification of terminology seemed to be a running thread and I figured it would be a great place to start. I’m not going to just give you dictionary definitions but how I see these through my own lens and experience as a hapa Filipinx-American.
Access: I come across people who think access means that a thing or a service is available to everyone. While that is part of it, that thing or service also has to be readily available (no long wait periods), affordable for everyone including those who live below the poverty line and the unhoused, easy to get to (just because you have a car or can easily take public transportation, not everyone does or can), available within reasonable distance, people know how to use the thing or service (think internet), and it has to be accessible for disabled people (physical, accommodations, translations for deaf/hard of hearing and blind, etc.) and those who don’t speak English (in the U.S.). I may have missed a component but from the list you should see that access means more than being available. Let’s talk birth control as an example. Public health departments make it available for free in their offices but it’s not accessible if people who need it can’t get there even if it’s free. I’ve had people insist because condoms are available at any store, they’re accessible—not if the cost is more than the person who needs it can afford. Yes, there are people who have told me and others that people shouldn’t be having sex if they can’t afford birth control. That’s not how sex works and we shouldn’t be excluded from having it for capitalist reasons. For those who work and have their birth control covered under the ACA that’s great, but some of us can’t use hormonal birth control and some of us work for places that, because of Hobby Lobby, won’t allow the health insurance they buy for the employees to cover it. Now look at the internet. Most people think everyone has access but they don’t. Rural areas are often left serviceless because ISPs don’t want the expense of covering those areas. This means as society increasingly puts things online (job applications, job postings, turning in schoolwork, etc.) people are constantly left out. If someone has the transportation or the money to take public transportation to get to a library they can access the internet there for free. But as we’ve seen during the pandemic, the library closures meant internet access being cut off for those who relied on the libraries for it. There’s also the issue of the websites themselves. Do they provide instructions/information in other languages? Are they accessible for blind people who may rely on apps to read out information for them and to use talk to text to fill out forms? Do videos have captions for deaf people and subtitles for those who speak another language? Last point, users have to be able to know how to use the internet (and the computers, tablets, or smartphones they’re accessing it through) and navigate it.
Ally: Someone with privilege who supports a social justice cause for those who don’t have the same privilege. I’m seeing this used less, especially in the last few months, and seeing a preference for use of “antiracist.” It’s not wrong to continue to use it as others continue to do so as well. Personally, I think “antiracist” is a better descriptor and is active, whereas “ally” is a noun and anyone can proclaim to be an ally while doing nothing to change the systems built to oppression marginalized people.
AntiFa: Antifascists are people against fascism. GOP and far right supporters would have you believe that AntiFa are terrorists, violent, and believe in a dangerous ideology. However, they are not an organization with structure. There is no leader. It’s just people against fascism and racism. They will put themselves in between protesters and violent counter-protesters. In reality, we should all be against fascism, yeah?
Antiracist: People actively fighting racism in all forms. There is no gray area here. You’re either racist or antiracist. I’ve had people deny being racist and tell me it’s not fair I called them racist (like experiencing racism all my life is fair?). I don’t even know what they think when I point out that I never called them racist, that they’re telling on themselves when they think that’s what I said because they automatically pivot to another deflection of the issue being discussed.
Bias: A tendency, inclination, or prejudice towards or against a thing, idea, person, or group. Everyone has bias. Implicit bias directs us in an unconscious manner, this is how we can say one thing and yet do another. Think of people who, once called out publicly, apologize saying “that’s not who I am.” It is and at the very least, it’s buried so deep in their subconscious that they can’t acknowledge it while it works in service to institutional and systemic racism. The good thing is we can unlearn implicit bias because it’s not set in stone. Explicit bias is conscious and arises as a direct result of a perceived threat, like White people calling the cops on Black people for just existing in public as they do or screaming at a BIPOC to “speak English” if they’re on the phone or talking to someone they’re with in another language or shooting at a Black kid who knocked on your door to ask for directions.
Bigotry: An intolerance for those who are different from them/have a different mindset based in flawed logic and displayed in an obstinate manner. Anyone can be a bigot. The main difference between a BIPOC with bigoted ideas and racism is power and power structures which I’ll explain further under “racism.” Note that being intolerant towards racism is not bigotry. This would be the paradox of intolerance.
BIPOC: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Use of the BIPOC acronym acknowledges that there are groups of us who have suffered more than others. This isn’t a Hardship Olympics thing. It’s stating that while there are examples of racism that we all experience, some of us don’t know the generational trauma of slavery or genocide and that areas of systemic racism affect them at disproportionately higher rates than the rest of us.
Centering: Often, we use this to talk about White people making our issues about themselves. It’s based in fulfilling their needs and feelings; generally, to stop the discomfort the topic of racism creates for them. It is evidenced by deflecting the topic to something of their choosing, gaslighting, minimizing the pain and trauma of BIPOC while making their discomfort seem greater because of their own fragility, weaponizing their tears, creating straw man arguments or other logical fallacies, demanding that BIPOC stop talking about our experiences and talk about what they want, etc. When you’re new to antiracism work or feeling overwhelmed it can be a struggle to know about centering and figure out how to not center yourself. In order to do this, it’s always a good idea to amplify the BIPOC voices that need to be heard.
Code-switching: The practice of shifting between different linguistic codes based on social context or conversation. People often refer to it being used in one conversation but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. BIPOC often have to do this in order to be accepted by the power structures of our job, our church, and social organizations we may belong to when they are not populated by our own people. Some will describe it as a double consciousness. Look at in the systemic sense that standard English is the expectation of everyone and any deviation from that is unacceptable and a sign that we’re uneducated and unable to learn. It invalidates any other language, especially those used primarily by BIPOC. This is why it’s racist to tell BIPOC that we’re “well-spoken” or “articulate.” We are perfectly capable of making our point in the language of our choice but because it’s not the standard set by the power structures, it’s not a valid articulation in the eyes of anyone who buys into that standard. I’ve been code-switching my whole life but I didn’t know there was a word for it until several years ago. In my upcoming book, Tainted Love, I explore the racist ways we’re forced into code-switching just to be treated like a human being, and not just by the power structures but by our own in-groups.
Colonialism: The practice of gaining partial or full political control over another country driven by imperialism, occupying it with settlers and then exploiting its resources for economic gain. Often, the natives of the colonized country are seen as “barbaric” and “savage” which results in forced assimilation to the colonizing “culture” and the dying out/colonization of the native culture. Natives are not allowed to use their own language or openly practice elements of their culture. Hawaiians were not allowed to practice hula and it only survived colonization by kupunas teaching in secret. Filipinx took their martial culture underground during Spanish colonization. “Indian Residential Schools” were formed here in the States to force Indigenous children to assimilate to Western standards under the guise of “civilizing” and “Christianizing” them. It was a few years ago that I learned my people have their own pantheon and lower mythology that was never passed down to me except for aswang stories. Yet these stories aren’t even the same as they were prior to Spanish and U.S. colonization. They were changed through colonization (think pagan celebrations being co-opted by Christianity) and even trying to decolonize them would result in them being different than their originals. The lack of knowledge of mythologies outside of Roman, Greek, and Norse has allowed for the whitewashing of creatures like wendigo, rougarou, and batibat. *glares in Filipinx at The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina for that last one* The effects of colonization are lasting. We still get told to speak English, we’re still expected to conform to “American standards.” Vernacular languages are viewed by outsiders of the languages as a sign of being uneducated and unintelligent. People police our grammar as if English is the only valid language when we don’t have a national language in this country. When you dive into all the ways racism affects our society individually, institutionally, and systemically you can trace it back to colonization so understanding colonialism is just as important as understanding the different types of racism. As I’ve come to learn more about where my dad, grandparents, great-grandparents, and many other extended relatives immigrated from the more colonization equates to erasure for me. Erasure of our own spirituality. Erasure of our own writing systems. Erasure of our very own identities. “Colonialism is a structure built on lies, tricks its subjects into being the architects of their own oppression.” ~The Groom Will Keep His Name and Other Vows I’ve Made About Race, Resistance, and Romance by Matt Ortile
Colorblind: While it’s a noble ideal, the fact is that claiming to be colorblind in regards to race is harmful. When you don’t see our color you don’t see the systems that work against us, the microaggressions that we’re nailed with multiple times a day, the workplaces that make us work twice as hard for none of the reward that our White counterparts enjoy, and the extrajudicial deaths that people want to justify with “well if they only had…” Honestly, when people say they’re colorblind it tells me they have enough privilege to turn their back on the atrocious injustices happening today and a virtue signal akin to “I don’t talk about religion or politics.”
Colorism: The bias against darker skin and preference for lighter skin, this includes within in-groups. This is the phenomenon that has resulted in Hollywood using lighter skinned BIPOC to populate their “diverse” casts, as well as companies that manufacture beauty products making skin whitening products targeting BIPOC women. With the recent uprising, Indian and Indian-American celebrities who posted their support of Black Lives Matter received backlash because they endorse(d) skin whitening products that directly ties to colorism and racism. Johnson & Johnson recently announced they were pulling their skin whitening products while Unilever is rebranding their “Fair & Lovely” instead of pulling it. Some of us learn it at a young age from our own families/communites. There have been a lot of conversations recently in the Filipinx groups I’m in around the messages we received as kids like “don’t stay out in the sun.” Don’t get darker than you already are because dark skin also ties into class and the jobs available to Filipinx. Dark skin is a sign of working in the fields while lighter skin means you’re educated with a job that keeps you inside. This is a result of three hundred years of Spanish colonization that valued light skin above all overs followed by U.S. occupation that strove for homogeneity.
Generational wealth: This isn’t about being rich or wealthy. It’s about having assets (tangible and intangible) to pass down to the next generation when you die and they pass on. A house. Retirement plans. Savings. Land. Equipment. Securities. Copyrights. Patents. Trademarks. And so on. One of the barriers BIPOC have to building generational wealth is systemic racism. BIPOC cannot pass assets on to the next generation if they were not allowed to buy a house that increases in value. They cannot pass on assets if they were shut out of jobs, denied loans, etc. that would’ve led to patents, trademarks, etc. They cannot pass on assets if employers continue to pay less than living wages that prevent them from saving and building a retirement fund. From the lack of reparations for the enslaved Black people who were freed to Indigenous tribes not being compensated for the land that was stolen and the genocide of their people to Japanese-Americans losing all their property while held in concentration camps by their own country and having to start over once released to Native Hawaiians being dispossessed of their lands by White colonizers, we have a centuries long history of BIPOC being denied generational wealth over and over.
Genocide: Would you be surprised to know that genocide is more than just killing groups of people because of their religion, ethnicity or race, or nationality? Article 6 of the International Criminal Court statue regarding genocide includes: causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberate infliction of conditions intended to physically destroy the group, imposing measures to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children in the group to another group. The forced separation of families of asylum seekers at our Southern border and subsequent fostering/adopting out of the children was rightly labeled as genocide.
Institutional racism: There are definitions of institutional racism that state it is the same as systemic racism and those that state they are different. Let’s go with they are different but not mutually exclusive, focusing on businesses and organizations. I recently shared screenshots on FB of different types of institutional racism that were laid out in different Twitter threads. One was a man who supervised other workers and noticed his supervisors were more critical of BIPOC employees as far as time off, productivity, etc. but would not say a word about White employees. Another was a Black man who was the only BIPOC in a writers’ room and the White showrunner openly made racist comments in front of him as well as behind his back. He was encouraged to not say anything or the show he was working on would be shut down and everyone would lose their job. There are many ways institutional racism can affect BIPOC, from not getting a call for an interview because their name is “too ethnic” to being denied promotions while others less qualified and White get promoted.
Internalized racism: An acceptance by BIPOC, both conscious and unconscious, of the racial hierarchy that places White people above all BIPOC that results in internalized oppression. This is best evidenced by White people and BIPOC with internalized racism sharing videos/posts/etc. of BIPOC parroting talking points that benefit the White majority. While none of our racial groups are a monolith and everyone is free to believe what they want, BIPOC who espouse, rather loudly, the beliefs that support systemic racism and White Supremacy are demonstrating internalized racism and White people jump at the opportunity to use them as confirmation bias even though that person does not represent the majority of their in-group. I’ve said before on social media that sharing these people’s ideas as proof that racism doesn’t exist is racist.
Intersectionality: The interconnectedness of social categorizations (race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religion) that overlap and create interdependent modes of discrimination and privilege. This is such a big part of racism but never gets as much attention because it’s so complicated. Suffragettes (U.K. & U.S.) whose protests weren’t just peaceful marches and picketing, cut telephone wires, set fires to unoccupied churches, threw rocks, etc. to increase the pressure for their right to vote for White women only. This is often left out of the conversation in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and women’s right to vote. When the Suffragettes realized that giving all women the right to vote would possibly mean that Black men would also get the right to vote, that just didn’t sit right with their pearls and White Supremacy. When the movement began White Suffragettes started to articulate their plight regarding lack of rights to slavery—just think about all the current examples of White people co-opting Black suffering and pain. Black Suffragettes were pushed out of the movement but continued to work for the right to vote for themselves and for Black men. Fast forward to the Women’s Marches of the last five years. I know some of them had issues with intersectionality and accepting the needs of all groups that intersect with being a woman. In Cincinnati, organizers refused to adjust their slogan at the request of the local BLM organization to make it more inclusive and acknowledge intersectionality. That was a signal to me that it would once again be like the Suffragettes pushing out intersectional needs in favor of what White women wanted and I could not be party to that.
Microaggression: A comment or action that subtly, unconsciously, or unintentionally reveals prejudice towards a marginalized group. These are usually brief but occur daily and can include hostile comments or actions. The result is the indignity of the marginalized group. These are often passed off as someone just being rude or a jerk as well as “I didn’t mean to…” as a way to intentionally or unintentionally (hello, bias!) gaslight the person the microaggression is directed at. It happens in workplaces where we’re conditioned to accept it and not make waves. It happens in schools, between friends, in churches, in social organizations… EVERYWHERE. “No, where are you really from?” and variations of that question is a common microaggression towards Asian-Americans who were born here and/or their families have been here more for two generations or more. Other common microaggressions I’ve experienced are (not an exhaustive list): “That’s gross” (in relation to ethnic food), “Where did you learn to speak English?”, anglicizing our non-anglican names without our permission/giving us a nickname to avoid learning to pronounce our name/refusing to learn how to pronounce our name/pressuring us to choose a name that makes the person feel more comfortable/constantly calling us by another Asian-American coworker’s name instead of our own, us calling out a friend using damaging Asian stereotypes and they say “Oh, I didn’t mean you” (yes, you did), when we talk about how damaging a racist Asian stereotype is and someone who has never experienced explains to us how it’s not racist, pointing out coded language to friends to show how it affects us and they decide to focus on something unrelated to the racism, and gaslighting.
Myth of the Model Minority: Sadly, there are Asian-Americans who believe this is a reality because they made it so anyone can if they work hard enough, not acknowledging the systems in place that make it harder for Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people and that there are no bootstraps, nor are there boots. This myth that pointed to Asian immigrants and said, be like them, work hard and you can succeed too was nothing more than a wedge to divide BIPOC and prevent us from working together to overturn the systemic racism that kept us all down. Thankfully, more Asian-Americans are pushing back against the ones who still perpetuate this myth in order to dismantle it and make sure we’re using our privilege for getting rid of the systems that continue to operate on their racist foundations
Paradox of intolerance: “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.” ~ Karl Popper (I can’t explain it better than he does, folks)
Prejudice: The preconceived like or dislike (more often the latter) for a person or group based on race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, class, disability, etc. that is not grounded in logic or reason. Bias but make it with an attitude (affective, behavioral, and cognitive). Prejudice does not always lead to discrimination but like bias, we are all capable of having prejudice.
Racism: When we talk about racism it’s important to understand that it’s about power structures: who built them and who continues to benefit from them centuries later. Those of you who interact with me on social media might be familiar with me saying, Racism = Prejudice + Power. Who built our power structures? White men. Who continues to benefit centuries later? White people. Our power structures created the privilege that White people benefit from whether it’s systemic, institutional, or individual.
Representation: I’ve talked about representation of marginalized people on screen and in books at length on social media and here on the blog. You might be tired of hearing about it but there is still a misconception that representation means that we see more of people from marginalized groups in the stories we watch, the news we view, the stories we read, etc. Seeing more of them is visibility and still tokenism, especially if they are only in supporting roles. Representation means seeing ourselves in lead roles with agency and our own desires and wants without relying on stereotypes, being the multi-dimensional humans we are whether that story means focusing on our marginalized identities or just telling a story that is relatable to everyone. If we talk visibility, yes we are more visible now but we still get the same amount of lines we got when we were less visible. Seeing ourselves represented helps us build our identity when we are young, our self-esteem, our vision of our future. With some increased representation in movies in recent years I still find myself crying tears of joy, wishing I had had even this much (still not enough) representation when I was growing up, outside of the Japanese superhero TV shows I used to watch as a kid. I had no books that reflected me or my experiences as a Filipinx-American girl, daughter of an immigrant, or as a hapa (mixed-race). I had no dolls that looked like me and once we left Hawai’i, peers who looked like me were few and far between. Representation also means BIPOC (and other marginalized groups) are in positions behind the camera, in gatekeeping, in executive offices, in board rooms, the teachers in our classrooms, the administrators running the schools, the board members in charge of the school district, the people on our city’s council, the Members of Congress, the judges populating our courtrooms and the lawyers prosecuting and defending, in the Oval Office, etc.
Reverse Racism: DOES NOT EXIST. If you understand what racism is based on what you’ve learned so far, you figured this out.
Systemic racism: The systems on which we function as a society—economic, education, healthcare, criminal justice, etc.—that were/are created and maintained by racism. These systems can work separately or together in any combination. Banks refusing loans to low risk Black families that keep them in poor neighborhoods with low property values where schools are underfunded and can lose more funding for not performing well on standardized testing. As a result of underfunded schools, BIPOC kids, particularly Black kids with undiagnosed learning disorders are more likely to be labeled as “problem kids” instead of getting the testing, diagnosis, and services that will help them in school. This then feeds the school-to-prison pipeline, which we’ve seen an increase of with School Resource Officers increasing presence since the Columbine shooting. We also see more policing of Black bodies, especially girls, when it comes to dress code violations which eats into their instruction time. Laws and policies enacted after politicians were elected because of their “tough on crime” promises like the War on Drugs, Three-strikes Law, Stop and Frisk, etc. were all designed to target stereotypes of criminals who are BIPOC, especially Black people. Not only does this play into biases of the general public but feeds into racist ideology that has existed for centuries, that all of us with melanin are “savages” and “uncilvilized” and that we need to be punished for it. It’s a fact that Black people with the same record and crime as a White person gets disproportionately higher sentences. It’s a fact that Black people who were caught with small amounts of crack were given longer sentences than White people caught with significantly larger amounts of cocaine. It’s a fact that stop and frisk targets BIPOC and not White people, and it’s unconstitutional. When you add the Three-strikes law, it leans towards punishing BIPOC offenders instead of rehabilitating them while taking them out of their communities for longer periods of time and affecting the finances of their families: example, think about simple drug possession and if we instead put them in programs to help them with addiction and mental health while keeping them in their homes and jobs instead of putting them in for-profit prisons where the only “good” that comes from it is corporate profits. Now see how that tied to healthcare? Imagine if we had universal healthcare where everyone is able to have not only their physical health but mental health taken care of, maybe there would be less addiction that started as self-medication. Not only that, chronic health issues affect poor communities as their neighborhoods are more likely to be near high pollution and the exorbitant cost of insurance, doctor’s visits, and medications all keep them from being able to manage their illness(es) as well as those of us who make a living wage.
White Privilege: Most often we speak about this in terms of Peggy McIntosh’s 1988 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” in which the focus is on intangibles like White people being represented whenever they turn on the TV—a continuous mirror in media for them if you will—or having personal care products line the shelves that cater to their skin tones and hair types or being able to move about their lives without fear of racial profiling and harassment. It is these things but we also need to look at it as a legacy of racism and tied to historical systemic inequities. It is possible to be White and endure hardships in life, we all do. However, where White people tend to get stuck in this is the idea that privilege is equal to a life without hardship or struggle. That’s not it at all. Privilege means that those hardships and struggles have not been because of centuries of systemic racism. The reason they might not get a home loan is because the bank deems them a high risk while a Black person, even if they aren’t a high risk, will be denied through redlining, that although illegal, can be done by claiming it’s too risky to approve a loan. We’ve witnessed over and over again in the news where White men, who just committed mass murder, are taken into custody without being beaten or strangled into submission and treated more humanely than Black men, women, and children who are unarmed and cooperative but never make it to the police station or in front of a judge. I’ve run across White people who crumble with fragility about the use of “White” but understand this, “White” was codified into laws to ensure that White people were protected by other White people, such as anyone BIPOC not being able to testify against a White person. White people literally made sure they were defined as White, no one else.