Not-racist v anti-racist: what’s the difference?

This article was first published in June 2020.

John Amaechi is a psychologist, a New York Times best-selling author and a former NBA basketball player. In the wake of the George Floyd killing and the Black Lives Matter protests, and at a time when many people want to learn how they can be better allies for black people, we asked John what it means to be anti-racist.

There's a big difference between being not-racist and being anti-racist. I know it doesn't seem like it. I know that both of these things seem equally good, but they're not.

Sometimes, we sit and we look around us and we think, ‘how can I possibly change all this?’ And sometimes you can’t. But what you can do is make sure wherever you go, people know where you stand. They know that you’re an anti-racist. You become a beacon of light that way. You become someone who makes other people want to be anti-racist too. You’ve got tools at your disposal. Learn. Read. And make everybody clear where you stand.

If you need support

You should always tell someone about the things you’re worried about. You can tell a friend, parent, guardian, teacher, or another trusted adult. If you're struggling with your mental health, going to your GP can be a good place to start to find help. Your GP can let you know what support is available to you, suggest different types of treatment and offer regular check-ups to see how you’re doing.

If you’re in need of in-the-moment support you can contact Childline, where you can speak to a counsellor. Their lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There are more links to helpful organisations on BBC Action Line.

It's important that you keep yourself safe when confronting racism. For support and advice, see the articles below.

What should I do if I hear racist language?
How to deal with racist bullying at school
Racism: How to protect your mental health