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Talking about anti-racism can ‘perpetuate racism,’ activist tells school board

Sounds like a Catch-22

What is an anti-racist to do? If you don’t talk about anti-racism, you’re perpetuating racism. But if you do talk about anti-racism, you could also be perpetuating it.

That’s what I learned from watching a recent school board meeting out of Iowa.

During a March 8 school board meeting for Cedar Falls in Iowa, a local activist told the school board that white teachers should be careful when discussing anti-racism, so that they do not themselves promote racism in the process. White teachers shouldn’t presume that they are needed to lead the discussions and comments they make can further entrench racist power structures, the activist said.

Kathryn Mahoney shared the content of a Facebook post written by someone else in several local liberal group pages, including Women’s March Iowa and Antiracist Education Now.

She encouraged the school board, which had just heard from a black mother who accused the district of being racist toward her son, to consider the words of another activist, Neha Sobti.

Mahoney is a local attorney and links to a number of articles about racism and anti-racism on her website.

“Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that meetings about ‘anti-racism’ among educators can actually perpetuate racism,” Mahoney quoted Sobti as saying.

Sobti’s Twitter profile said she is an education and organizer and doctoral candidate “co-constructing anti-racist school discipline systems.”

“In many ways I think anti-racist work has been stolen from BlPoC people and in the process…appropriated and white-washed,” Sobti said.

“Don’t talk about the pain of BIPoC people and students “out there” or in your personal life when there are BIPoC people IN your meeting…it’s offensive,” Sobti added.

“[H]ow are YOU perpetuating racism every moment every day and how are you going to change that?” Sobti said.

That, Mahoney explained, is how people can dismantle the power structures put in place by white people. All white people apparently.

“I saw that [post], I hope you look at that Facebook page, because it’s really helpful to us as we impact these things we need to do,” Mahoney told the school board.

MORE: Professor warns that anti-racism is ‘the new religion’

MORE: Watch the full school board meeting

IMAGE: Dusan Petkovic/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and a M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.