A New Knapsack: Unpacking Your Anti-Blackness

Photo Credit: Luis Quintero @jibarofoto

We are in a moment of reckoning. Long decades and centuries of struggle against structural anti-Blackness are reaching their apogee. The #BlackLivesMatter movement, Black thinkers and creatives have given all non-Black people an opportunity and a toolkit with which to identify and dismantle structural anti-Blackness. Many organizers and teachers have heeded the call. Lots of us can recite the realities we’re fighting with ease. We know that 59% of people incarcerated are either Black or Latinx. We’re aware that though Black people comprise just 13% of the U.S. population, they account for nearly a quarter of the country’s Covid-19 deaths. We’ve read that Black people are 2 to 6 times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy than white people. But institutional racism is the easiest to identify. Its bedfellows, interpersonal and individual anti-Blackness are much more challenging to untangle from our psyches.

Interpersonal and individual anti-Blackness are often where we need to do some of our most meaningful work. At this point, a lot of us refuse to call police. We’ve seen the BBQ Beckys, the Amy Coopers, the Karens who are willing to risk the lives of Black people for their own comfort. We know we’re not them, but we still have a lot of work to do if we’re going to be in solidarity with Black folks. Solidarity requires trust, accountability and elasticity. In other words, it requires relationships. So here’s a worksheet that gauges our work.

A note on genesis: All of the things listed here are either learned through anti-Blackness in AAPI community workshops I’ve facilitated, from community members, in organizing spaces, or they were simply personal realizations about my own anti-Blackness. This list is not exhaustive; it is not meant to be. It is a starting point.

How to use this activity: This list is NOT, I repeat NOT meant to encourage or justify tokenism (i.e. don’t go out and try to make a Black friend or date a Black person after doing this activity.) Also, please don’t extract emotional labor from Black folks after doing this worksheet in the name of “processing.” This is a private activity meant to help you take stock of the strength of your solidarity work; nothing more and nothing less. Be honest. Remember, no one is going to see this but you.

In a quiet place, take out something to write on and something to write with. Try to make sure you’re undisturbed. Answer the questions below.

  1. I feel safest in Non-Black neighborhoods.
  2. When I hear about a crime, I imagine a Black person committed it.
  3. I mostly patronize white and non-Black businesses.
  4. I have never been in a predominantly Black social space.
  5. I have never supported the cultivation of a predominantly Black space.
  6. I do not collaborate with Black people at work.
  7. I do not have Black co-workers.
  8. I have neither noticed nor asked why I have so few Black co-workers.
  9. If I do have Black co-workers, I am not close with them.
  10. I have only dated non-Black people.
  11. I have only one or no Black friends.
  12. I have never been called out or in by a Black person. (i.e “Hey Kim, that thing you did didn’t land well for me.”)
  13. I have responded defensively when called out/in by a Black person.
  14. I have agreed — either out loud or internally — when a Black woman was described as “difficult.”
  15. Most of my conversations with Black folks have been centered around a request I have for intellectual, physical or cultural labor.
  16. I am surprised when I see or meet Black people who are formally educated.
  17. I only use Black Vernacular English when around Black people.
  18. All of my efforts around the Black Lives Matter movement have been hyper visible and/or predominantly on social media.
  19. I only call my Black friends to check-in when there are #BlackLivesMatter protests.
  20. I believe that I am a great ally to Black people.




Helping you talk to your boss, your mom and your cousin about race.

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Kim Tran, Ph.D

Kim Tran, Ph.D

Helping you talk to your boss, your mom and your cousin about race.

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