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Why the Anti-Racist Movement May Increase Hate & Violence

The desire to stand against racism is one that’s being felt, across America and around the world.  As we reflect on the tragic murder of George Floyd and many others, movements for justice and equality are gaining traction and support.

In addition to Black Lives Matter, there is a larger movement that is growing in popularity – the anti-racist movement.  How you interpret this article is largely based on whether you define “racist” as an adjective or a noun.  This article shall use the latter.

Is “Anti” the Problem?

After watching the anti-bullying movement for 10 years, I’m repelled by most “anti” movements. Why?  It tends to paint a negative light on a people group instead of directing positive attention towards those being advocated for. 

Anti-bullying programs, for example, often focus on stopping aggressors on as the sole solution for helping targets.  Youth that are targeted often have little hope, other than telling the authorities and hoping things change.  I’ve spent my career empowering targets of aggression (in the same way I wish someone would have helped me in that situation). 

Anti-Racist Versus Pro Civility

If your mindset is to be “anti-racist”, you may look for racists to stand against.  If you take a stance of fighting for civility, equality, and the equity of all people, it better positions you as a positive advocate.

While my brief description is simplified, my point is that it’s a better leadership decision to stand FOR something than AGAINST something.  If positive change is to be had, the majority of our energy should be spent standing FOR people and not AGAINST people.

Anti-Racist black white

Becoming What You Hate

Over time, it’s easy to reciprocate the behavior that you desire to stop and, ultimately become what you hate. In the end, the anti-bullying movement was more about “hating” and “rallying against bullies” (who are usually targets of aggression, acting out aggressively – ironically) than empowering targets of aggression.

After research showed that anti-bullying programs increased hostility and aggression, the Department of Education recommended that schools abandon these practices. 

A Positive Solution to Racism?

How are schools handling social aggression (commonly referred to as bullying) now?  Research shows that the most promising solution includes resilience education, social and emotional learning, and conflict resolution skills.  Can these lessons apply to those impacted by racist remarks?

Resilience education reduces the importance of the overall offense – therefore helping the student guard their heart and leverage adversity for psychological growth.  Social and emotional learning teaches students how to manage emotions, interact with other people, and make responsible decisions, even in challenging relationships.  Increasing one’s ability to resolve conflicts empowers a target of aggression with several options to defend themself.  Instead of feeling overpowered or powerless, a target of aggression feels prepared to navigate challenges, engage in conversation, and resolve conflicts peacefully.

Our society should continue to speak out and take steps to eradicate systemic racism.  Still, we know that systems will not change overnight.  If we want to help those that are suffering, we must offer a solution that empowers them today, not years later.  In conclusion, schools have abandoned the us vs. them approach to aggression and embraced a model that helps all people resolve issues civilly.  Do you think the “anti-racism movement” will follow a similar path?

Jeff Veley is a popular speaker and resilience educator, specializing in social aggression and conflict resolution.

He’s the recipient of the Civility International Award and Diversity Award for his global impact in the education and mental health fields.  As a result, the United Nations officially recognizes him as a Peace Ambassador.