September 17, 2021 | NEWS | By Susie Dummit | Illustration by Sydney Morris

On Sept. 9, 2021, Dr. Shaun Harper hosted the talk “Anti-Racism 101,” marking the start of the series “Dismantling Hate: An Educational Series Toward Understanding and Action” at Colorado College. 

Harper is the founder and executive director of the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center, as well as a successful author and professor. He is the recipient of dozens of top honors in his field, has testified twice to the United States House of Representatives, and spoken at numerous White House events. 

Around 40 people attended the in-person screening of the event in Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center and over 200 participated via Zoom. 

Harper began by acknowledging and honoring the Tongva people whose ancestral land he was speaking from, and then shifted to address the current “trendiness” of anti-racism. Like many other institutions, CC has claimed itself to be an “anti-racist” institution, with anti-racism as a stated goal. But true anti-racist work goes deeper than a statement of intentions, and this is what Harper’s talk focused on.

One of the first key points that Harper emphasized was the difference between allyship and anti-racism. While it may be convenient to label oneself as an ally, there’s a lot more that needs to be done in order to support people of color.

“If you are a very proud self-proclaimed ally, I’m not necessarily attempting to embarrass you or call your allyship into question,” Harper said. “But I do want to make sure that we understand the difference between allyship and anti-racism.”

He presented these five points:

  1. Allyship is broad and imprecise.
  2. Allyship is light — so far it has done far too little to improve circumstances for people of color.
  3. Allyship is often viewed as standing alongside marginalized persons, as opposed to standing up against the people, structures, practices, policies and cultural norms that cyclically reproduce marginalization.
  4. Anti-racism is decidedly activist; it is a declaration of staunch opposition to racism.
  5. Anti-racism is what the movement currently requires.

Harper stressed that allyship is a step in the right direction, but it will never be enough to counteract racism and the power structures that uphold it. Many employers and institutions require brief courses on allyship, giving white coworkers a metaphorical stamp of approval for their role as an ally, but Harper argued that this is not enough.

“Look, I am a Black gay man and I certainly appreciate people who have been allies to me and other queer people and other queer people of color,” Harper said. “I’m not attempting to embarrass, but what I am saying though, is that a three-hour ‘safe zone’ 1990s-esque training, I’m not so sure that it is precise enough for what this particular moment requires.”

Harper then delved into what we see in typical equity work today, and what it is lacking in terms of anti-racism. He outlined these seven characteristics:

  1. Inattention to reparations for historical negligence, inequity and harm.
  2. No discussion of race in equity task force meetings — imprecise notions of equity.
  3. The production of raceless equity reports.
  4. Emphasis entirely on deficits.
  5. Too little emphasis on dismantling classroom racism.
  6. No remediation of racial illiteracy among faculty, staff and administrators — including those on the equity task force.
  7. No data on campus racial climate. 

Many institutions create policy and generate reports on equity, but it is more common for these reports not to address race, thus making anti-racist equity work invalid since it doesn’t address the issues students of color are actually facing.

Finally, Harper shared his take on the nine requirements of anti-racism, listing these core ideas:

  1. Denouncing white supremacy and racism in all their forms.
  2. Specifying racial equity.
  3. Investing in the reparations for historical negligence, inequity and harm.
  4. Strategy and intentionality.
  5. Curricular mapping and integration.
  6. Assessing campus racial climate and making strategic use of the data.
  7. Professional learning experiences that develop racial literacy and help faculty, staff and administrators become more highly skilled.
  8. Policy and practice analysis and revisions.
  9. Accountability.

Tying these ideas together, Harper painted a clear picture of what current anti-racist work is lacking, and what must be done for CC to truly deserve the title “anti-racist” as an institution.

The next event scheduled for CC’s “Dismantling Hate: An Educational Series Toward Understanding and Action” is “Dismantling Anti-Black Racism: A Keynote Conversation with Dr. Della Mosely” and will take place on Oct. 4, 2021.  A psychology professor from University of Florida and co-founder of “Academics for Black Survival and Wellness,” Dr. Della will discuss the need for, process, and outcomes of dismantling anti-Black racism. The event will take place in the screening room of Cornerstone Arts Center.

Susie Dummit

On Sept. 9, 2021, Dr. Shaun Harper hosted the talk “Anti-Racism 101,” marking the start of the series “Dismantling Hate: An Educational Series Toward Understanding and Action” at Colorado College. 

Harper is the founder and executive director of the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center, as well as a successful author and professor. He is the recipient of dozens of top honors in his field, has testified twice to the United States House of Representatives, and spoken at numerous White House events. 

Around 40 people attended the in-person screening of the event in Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center and over 200 participated via Zoom. 

Harper began by acknowledging and honoring the Tongva people whose ancestral land he was speaking from, and then shifted to address the current “trendiness” of anti-racism. Like many other institutions, CC has claimed itself to be an “anti-racist” institution, with anti-racism as a stated goal. But true anti-racist work goes deeper than a statement of intentions, and this is what Harper’s talk focused on.

One of the first key points that Harper emphasized was the difference between allyship and anti-racism. While it may be convenient to label oneself as an ally, there’s a lot more that needs to be done in order to support people of color.

“If you are a very proud self-proclaimed ally, I’m not necessarily attempting to embarrass you or call your allyship into question,” Harper said. “But I do want to make sure that we understand the difference between allyship and anti-racism.”

He presented these five points:

  1. Allyship is broad and imprecise.
  2. Allyship is light — so far it has done far too little to improve circumstances for people of color.
  3. Allyship is often viewed as standing alongside marginalized persons, as opposed to standing up against the people, structures, practices, policies and cultural norms that cyclically reproduce marginalization.
  4. Anti-racism is decidedly activist; it is a declaration of staunch opposition to racism.
  5. Anti-racism is what the movement currently requires.

Harper stressed that allyship is a step in the right direction, but it will never be enough to counteract racism and the power structures that uphold it. Many employers and institutions require brief courses on allyship, giving white coworkers a metaphorical stamp of approval for their role as an ally, but Harper argued that this is not enough.

“Look, I am a Black gay man and I certainly appreciate people who have been allies to me and other queer people and other queer people of color,” Harper said. “I’m not attempting to embarrass, but what I am saying though, is that a three-hour ‘safe zone’ 1990s-esque training, I’m not so sure that it is precise enough for what this particular moment requires.”

Harper then delved into what we see in typical equity work today, and what it is lacking in terms of anti-racism. He outlined these seven characteristics:

  1. Inattention to reparations for historical negligence, inequity and harm.
  2. No discussion of race in equity task force meetings — imprecise notions of equity.
  3. The production of raceless equity reports.
  4. Emphasis entirely on deficits.
  5. Too little emphasis on dismantling classroom racism.
  6. No remediation of racial illiteracy among faculty, staff and administrators — including those on the equity task force.
  7. No data on campus racial climate. 

Many institutions create policy and generate reports on equity, but it is more common for these reports not to address race, thus making anti-racist equity work invalid since it doesn’t address the issues students of color are actually facing.

Finally, Harper shared his take on the nine requirements of anti-racism, listing these core ideas:

  1. Denouncing white supremacy and racism in all their forms.
  2. Specifying racial equity.
  3. Investing in the reparations for historical negligence, inequity and harm.
  4. Strategy and intentionality.
  5. Curricular mapping and integration.
  6. Assessing campus racial climate and making strategic use of the data.
  7. Professional learning experiences that develop racial literacy and help faculty, staff and administrators become more highly skilled.
  8. Policy and practice analysis and revisions.
  9. Accountability.

Tying these ideas together, Harper painted a clear picture of what current anti-racist work is lacking, and what must be done for CC to truly deserve the title “anti-racist” as an institution.

The next event scheduled for CC’s “Dismantling Hate: An Educational Series Toward Understanding and Action” is “Dismantling Anti-Black Racism: A Keynote Conversation with Dr. Della Mosely” and will take place on Oct. 4, 2021.  A psychology professor from University of Florida and co-founder of “Academics for Black Survival and Wellness,” Dr. Della will discuss the need for, process, and outcomes of dismantling anti-Black racism. The event will take place in the screening room of Cornerstone Arts Center.

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