Everything you need to know about the Anti-racism Awareness Week (22-26 March)
From the 22nd to the 26th of March 2021, you can attend virtual lectures and workshops on the theme of anti-racism organized by a student-led group called Anti-Racism Awareness (ARA). We interviewed members Nikita, Josephine, Rabia, Thuy Tien, and Nathan about their campaign, their experience with racism, expectations from the event, and how their initiative will make students feel better at the university.
“We were raising awareness about racism before it became a trend” - Nikita, the founder of the group.
In May 2019, within the framework of Radboud Honours Academy, Nikita, Josephine and other members of a think tank that specialized in racism organised a week full of activities educating on racism. “We were asked to organize a campaign about racism by the rector of our university, and the end result was rather innovative.”
As Josephine highlighted, it was a small-scale event, but a very important one.“At first, we wanted to write an advisory report, but, later, it became evident that just a report wouldn’t be enough”. Josephine and Nikita agreed that the whole group felt the need to do something more. “We knew that a campaign would have had more impact. Even if we talked to just 10 people, it would feel like contributing more to the change of situation.”
The first campaign was called Racism Awareness Week, but the team decided to change it into Anti-racism Awareness Week. Josephine explained, “There is a difference between these terms with regards to how much responsibility you’re willing to take. Saying ‘I’m not racist’ is a way to exclude oneself from the problem, whereas being anti-racist is trying to work towards a solution.”
Nikita added that there is a difference on a systematic level as well. “If everyone says they aren’t racist, nothing will change because the problem wouldn’t be addressed, but if you’re anti-racist, you’re changing the way society operates.”
Josephine and Nikita mention: “Just because one’s opinion is not racist, it doesn’t mean that they would act if they saw someone being racist, on the contrary, it contributes to the racist system. Non-racists remain comfortable with the oppression of others, whereas anti-racists don’t.”
Rabia, Thuy Tien and Nathan joined the group later. Thuy Tien said, “I was enthusiastic about joining this team. I wanted to help the group to raise awareness about racism and discrimination because such things shouldn’t exist in 2021.”
“Now I do speak up when I think that someone is being racist, but before I would remain quiet to avoid uncomfortable situations. I know that many Asians do so too because being passive is a part of the culture”.- Thuy Tien
The diverse ARA group consists of 16 enthusiastic students that, in addition to their heavy courseload, spend their Monday evenings working on the initiative. Rabia highlighted, “We don’t have concrete subgroups: everyone contributes to the development of the initiative be it with literature research, writing a social media post or designing informative posters. It is amazing to work in such a dedicated group”.
When asked about their target audience, the group agreed that they work for those Radboud students and staff members that are interested in racism and are willing to learn more about being anti-racist. The team also attempts to create a safe space for students of color and guide them to departments like Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).
“Colorblindness ignores the beauty of differences. Instead of labelling ourselves 'colorblind', it is better to acknowledge the differences and move on”. - Nathan
Participating in the activities of ARA Week could act as an entry activity for those who want to help people of color raise their concerns and educate themselves on racism and equality.
“In an ideal world, everyone is happy and equal. We’re not there yet though, so, it is important to raise the voices of people of color. If you’re white, it’s up to you to use your voice that, for some reason, holds more power at the moment.” - Josephine
People of color usually do not respond to racial discrimination because they might be perceived as aggressive or rude. For instance, when Nikita was working as a cashier in a supermarket, she encountered a situation when a child called her “Black Pete”. She did not know what to do about it, but it definitely felt very condescending and awkward.
Josephine highlighted that in such cases, people with white privilege should get involved and represent those who encounter such a situation. “I would have tapped that child on the shoulder, and told them that it isn’t okay to say something like that”. She thinks that in the process of learning about inequalities and becoming an activist, one should leave their ego behind. “Don’t be afraid of being vulnerable. This is a sensitive topic, so you might feel uncomfortable when doing your research and reflecting on your previous experiences. That might hurt your ego, so it is important to leave it at the door.”
“It’s hard to describe the sense of comfort that you feel when someone is willing to learn about your struggles and inequalities. We will end this loop of generational trauma based on racial discrimination if people strike conversations about it" - Rabia
The group agreed that those who are new to the theme should not be afraid of making mistakes because it is a learning curve for everyone. You can do your own research on how to be anti-racist, and following ARA on social media can be a good way to find resources. They also believe that after their campaign, minority students of Radboud University will feel better and know who to approach with their concerns.
Author: Knar Ohanjanyan