By Ron Bernas
Many people will say they are against racism, but what does it mean to be truly “antiracist”?
In this introduction, University of Detroit Mercy Assistant Professor Alex Zamalin explains that even though the word itself is less than 100 years old, antiracism as a movement has a centuries-long history.
Zamalin puts the movement in historical context from antislavery abolitionists, as the United States was being founded, to those who stood up to Jim Crow laws to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and beyond. It’s about understanding the effects centuries of systemic racism have had on generations of African Americans and created the racial issues the United States continues to grapple with today. And it’s about challenging it.
Zamalin’s tone is educational, thoughtful and persuasive, and the thin book belies the depth of his research and his argument. Solutions are not easy, he writes, as evidenced by centuries of often fruitless struggle and the current rise in white supremacist rhetoric on the national and international stage.
The fight against racism, he says, continues to need a nonstop campaign waged on many fronts from all people, regardless of color, who can use education, historical context and political action to create awareness and change.
This is a book that could be put to good use in most any history class, classes on public policy, or economics classes. More important, it could spark conversations in a campus-wide book group where students and the community could find relevant ways to build awareness and take on systemic racism. There seems to be no shortage of national issues that could be looked at through the lens of antiracism.
“Regrettably,” Zamalin writes, “Few political endeavors are timelier or more necessary.”
This book, too, is both timely and necessary.
Ron Bernas is a communications specialist at University of Detroit Mercy where he has served as the editor of Spiritus since 2015. He is also the managing editor of Conversations Magazine. Bernas is also a published playwright and his work has been produced all over the world.