Why Anti Doesn’t Transform

Why Anti Doesn’t Transform



Proclaiming that we are anti-racism and anti-oppression will not transform our culture.  We have been proclaiming such for fifty years and things are no better than when we first began the announcement.  And that is not because we have not acted.  We have.  We have invested millions of dollars and tons of action.  The euphoria of the triumphs of the nineteen sixties and seventies has waned with the resurgence of racism and oppression in the present moment.

To be anti is to be against.  There is certainly nothing wrong with being against what is debilitating and destructive to democracy. The problem with against is that its energy is limited to consciousness-raising about what is wrong.  It is a negative voice.  It poses the need for change but does not pose the change that is needed.  It is only the first step in transforming culture, howbeit, a necessary one.  Change does not happen without an awareness of its need and anti is the voice of this need.

The second step, which is the prerequisite to social transformation, is stating what must be embraced for transformation of attitude and behavior to occur.  It is a pro statement.  It is what will complement the anti-statement and point toward correction. Here is an example.  I am anti-racism.  Racism is a form of negating oppression. But for that to change I must offer its solution.  So I proclaim that the cure is pro-respect  – an affirmation of the innate worth of every human.  There can be no racism where mutual respect and worth affirmation are lived by the citizenry. However, we can embrace the need to cure without embracing the cure that is needed. Until the cure is embraced, racism and its oppression will continue.

If I wish to effectively combat racism and oppression I must do more than be anti the problem.  I must be pro the solution.  And the pro must be as clear as the anti.  It must be empowered with the same adamant quality of conviction and energy.

Robert T. Latham


  • Yes, we are at a kairos moment, a time with infinite capacity for catastrophe or transformation. What will it be? It is really up to us!

  • Yes, anti-racism or anti-anything is only half of a response. A complete response requires that we do more than analyze and complain. We must confront, collaborate, create, and participate in a response towards building a racially just, multiracial, multicultural society. Then and only then will we experience transformation.

  • I agree with your premise of the weakness of anti. In the present national climate, anti is often counter-productive as well as weak. It invites anger and push-back. While I support the current indivisible resistance movement, I am uncomfortable with the negative messages which often outweigh the positive ones in protests, tweets, signs and more. I see a need for an expanded scope beyond a narrative of respect. Words need to be encased in concrete solutions and actions. In these days of our own outrage–and fear–I find myself longing for a massive movement that has only positive messages and demands.

  • Important reminder. It is too easy to be Anti-racism. It is hard work to work toward multiculturalism, but very rewarding. It has made a clear difference for the communities we have worked with and connected us to many folks we would never have met.

  • Reminds me of a conversation you and I had, probably 25 years ago. You suggested that social justice work would only make a difference if we changed people’s hearts. I don’t believe hearts are changed by “anti-” work … but as UU’s, we seem mighty committed to it.

  • A global realization that, genetically, we humans all are essentially the same should remove a primary rationale for the remarkable ethnic cleansings that pop up now and then or any basis for racial prejudices.

  • The Indivisible Group we are part of had a discussion on this topic last night at which I shared a little of the original content and the responses on this blog. Not everyone, but most agreed with the need to be more positive. A challenge noted is changing anti messages into effective positive ones that convey equal passion, And it was agreed that action is always the most critical element for stimulating change. It’s a start.

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