Both anti-racists and anti-racialists want racial progress, but they have a drastically different understanding of what it looks like.
President Joe Biden has declared war on white supremacy. Shortly after the hideous racist massacre in Buffalo, New York, he urged his fellow citizens to banish this hateful ideology from our public life: “We need to say, as clearly and forcefully as we can, that the ideology of white supremacy has no place in America.” But what exactly do we mean by white supremacy, and what would it mean to bring it to an end?
Debates over race and racism—their importance to U.S. history, their salience for present-day politics, and what steps the government should take to address them—are central to our politics. Although there is widespread agreement that the state of race relations in America is a matter of urgent concern, there is deep disagreement over the nature of the problem. Is it the persistence of racial disparities in income, wealth, and elite representation, regardless of whether they’re the product of state-enforced racial discrimination or the uneven distribution of social capital across families and informal networks at a given point in time? Or is the problem the brightness of the boundaries separating minority ethnic groups from the societal mainstream? Call this the distinction between anti-racists and anti-racialists. Both want racial progress, but they have a drastically different understanding of what racial progress would look like.
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