In the wake of the shooting of George Floyd in Minnesota in the USA, AMRI (Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious in Ireland) recently released the following statement:

“We, the AMRI Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Committee condemn all acts of racism and most recently the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, USA. We stand united with the family and friends of George Floyd. We stand with all those who have been affected by violence by law enforcement, all who have died, been harassed, denied or treated differently because of the colour of their skin. The denial of the rights and dignity of African American people and all people of colour must end now.

In offering our support to the Black Lives Matter Movement we are challenged to examine our own attitudes to all whom we perceive as ‘different’ and to be vocal in addressing the issue of racism which sadly is on the increase in Ireland. We recognize that the attitudes which are at the root of our own racism towards minorities who are different from us, Travellers, Roma, Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Direct Provision, etc. are significantly similar to those which led to the killing of George Floyd.

We ask forgiveness of our sisters and brothers of colour for our complacency in the face of racism. We promise to speak out loudly in promoting the building of a community where all are treated with respect and dignity. We pledge to act tirelessly to promote values in our daily lives here in Ireland, which lead to personal transformation and transformation of our world.”

We are all familiar with the term non-racist:

not influenced by a person’s race:
We’re a non-sexist and non-racist organisation.

The term anti-racist is not new, it has gained prominence in emphasising the fact that it is no longer enough to be non-racist, we need to actively oppose racism.

As defined by Robert J Patterson, professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University, “Anti-racism is an active and conscious effort to work against multidimensional aspects of racism.”

Racism is a complex issue, and something that needs to be addressed by understanding the lived experiences of those who deal with it daily. It is an emotive issue and where emotions run high we may be tempted to default to ingrained responses: denial, defensiveness, indignation or even anger.

As with any sensitive and emotive issue, it is important to take a step back before reacting and listen, examine our own ingrained prejudices, we all have them. Up until now, we may have defined racism from our own perspective, “I’m not racist, I don’t have prejudicial or negative feelings toward anyone based on the colour of their skin.” While this may well be the case, the issue of racism is much more insidious than this, and it can no longer be ignored.

Racism is a multi-dimensional social reality and when we fail to see ourselves as a part of the problem of racism, we are unable to see how pervasive and destructive it is as an ongoing presence in our society. We are then less likely to engage as anti-racist. Our silence and inaction make us complicit in the institutionalised systems that uphold racism.

Let us together step forward and begin to learn from those who are most affected. To this end we have put together some resources for reflection. We will add to these from time to time and invite you pause, to shift your perspective and to actively listen to the experiences of those around you.

You can find them here: Understanding Racism – Resources Ireland