Creating an anti-racist future
Updated: Apr 20
How do we create an anti-racist future? This is our blueprint for change. We'll talk about:
brap believe that sometime in the future, racism – as we experience it now, in all its guises – will not exist.
We don’t believe this is a whimsical notion. On the scale of human history racism is a relatively new invention. This is not to say that humans didn’t find other ways to discriminate against each other before. But the creation of false biological categories and their use to demonise one group of people, whilst elevating the status of another group, was not one of them.
We can’t change our futures unless we accept the possibilities of change. Unless we imagine a future where working actively towards anti-racism brings us closer to an anti-racism reality. These, in our view, are dreams worthy of pursuit. Racism is a disease. It destroys lives. And whilst its devastating impact is faced by those who are negatively racialised, all of us face the consequences of a world where routine discrimination is ‘accepted’.
One of the worst consequences of our belief that racism is inevitable is the transmission of racist ideologies to young people. Our society is built on the notion that we gift each generation something better. But evidence tells us that not only do we pass on our racist beliefs to young people, but that they begin to notice false racial hierarchies around the age of three. For cities like Birmingham, this is a disaster.
Building an anti-racist future is something each citizen deserves. Living free of this form of discrimination is as fundamental as any ambition we have for a society which is committed to principles of social justice.
We need a route map for fundamental change.
We need to create a future that is not dealing with the consequences and outcomes of a discriminatory society – but instead is addressing how we take racism off the table.
Building an anti-racist city: activity so far
In 2020-2021 brap worked with a range of school pupils, young people, teachers, voluntary sector organisations and public sector organisations to explore this ambition further. Many have begun to imagine what an anti-racist future for Birmingham could look like, encouraged by wider, global movements like Black Lives Matter.
In the last year…
We ran a summit to discuss what an anti-racist future for Birmingham might look like:
We heard the voices of young people who want to grow up in a city which is free from racism:
We heard from white leaders in the city about their strategies for taking accountability to progress anti-racism in their organisations:
We created resources for schools and youth groups in the city to help them continue these conversations with children and young people.
We worked with a range of communities, particularly younger people, to map their dreams for an anti-racist Birmingham– resulting in a blueprint of that future city:
We have supported 9,000+ people and 70+ organisations nationally during 2020-2021 to learn about anti-racism. We have developed a clearer idea about how to work with organisations to support them in their anti-racist commitments and what anti-racism looks like in practice in health, education, community work and so on.
Building an anti-racist city: next steps
In 2022 a range of organisations stand ready to take the next steps to build this anti-racist future that many of us imagine. We are seeing glimmers of hope and pockets of activity across different communities and organisations in the city. Our challenge now is to build on them, to nurture and support them.
We also recognise that this is a long-haul trip. We will hit lots of bumps and turbulence along the way. Some will disagree with and ignore what is being said. But also, those of us working on anti-racism in the city and that are supportive of this agenda need to be vigilant about how we are working too. We need to ensure that we’re not reinforcing inequalities or divisions in the way that we work. We need to be sure we’re not excluding those who have least voice.
The process that we choose to use to create an anti-racist city will be the result that we will get. If we choose to focus on creating new equality policies, new targets without doing the deep work of changing ourselves, then it is unlikely to succeed. For too long white-presenting leaders in our city have out-sourced responsibility for tackling racism to those who face racism, without at the same time, giving those people power and resources to change things. If power isn’t shared with those who lack voice, if this journey isn’t democratic and driven by people from a range of walks of life – then it is unlikely to succeed. If we don’t focus on building relationships between a wide constituency of people - including those who face racism in the city, as well as white-presenting leaders with power in key institutions, then it is unlikely to succeed.
For this reason, the blueprint for an anti-racist Birmingham focuses on building the power of those who face marginalisation and racism in the city. It focuses on encouraging allyship and holding those with power to account for their actions. The blueprint also focuses heavily on relationship-building between different parts of the system and learning activities to develop a more shared view of what anti-racism means for a city like Birmingham. Living in a world that is free from racism is new territory – it’s something that we haven’t known for hundreds of years since the concept of ‘race’ was created to support slavery, capitalism and colonisation.
Nobody has all the answers of how to create this type of world in our city – we will need to be kind to each other, to listen to each other and support each other if we are to create it now for future generations.
An anti-racist Birmingham won’t be built in a day. Over the next year, brap will be focusing on the first foundational steps of the blueprint, with the support of others that have already committed to this journey (e.g. University of Birmingham, South Birmingham College, Colmers School, St Basils, Birmingham Children’s Trust, The Active Wellbeing Society).
Committing to anti-racism
Secure commitment from 25 more organizations/groups to apply anti-racist practice in their work (committing to a longer-term approach and longer-term investment horizon for change).
Recognizing cycles of distress and lack of progress
Encouraging and supporting organizations to take accountability for previous racial harm they have contributed to.
Developing a more strategic/transformative approach to judging the impact of activity in this field that is shared across key partners (e.g. rejecting the cycle of action plans and targets that have little systemic impact)
Improving awareness of white privilege in the city’s key institutions. Supporting greater ownership of anti-racism by white people – recognizing it is their responsibility as leaders to progress anti-racism and not only the job of those who are racialized.
Creating opportunities for those affected by racism (including those marginalized within minoritized ethnic groups) to share their voice in ways that feel inclusive and empowering.
Creating spaces for healing and therapeutic support for those affected by racism and supporting them to lead in their communities.
Download this paper.