Anti-Racist Should Mean Anti-Race

How can we expect to form a world rooted in the affirmation of life with the same language of the Western European colonial past?

Nathalie E. Amazan
7 min readFeb 27, 2022
Alpujarra Mountains, Spain, 2021.

The summer of 2020 was the first time in my life in which I witnessed and engaged in consistent mass protests for an overall awakening for a new world free of state violence. I’ve spent most of my college education critically studying political theory, race and criminality, and histories of social movements in the U.S. In 2020 was the first time I felt like an active participant in the resurgence of movements for liberation.

While marching, writing, and advocating for “Black Lives” throughout the summer I found myself beginning a series of self-interrogating questions about what it was I was actually saying: “Black Lives Matter.” What is a “Black” life? What does it mean to be “Black”?

“There is no such thing as race. None… scientifically, anthropologically, racism is a construct- a social construct. And it has benefits. Money can be made off of it, and people who don’t like themselves can feel better because of it. It can describe certain kinds of behavior that are wrong and misleading” — Toni Morrison. [1]

In my four years of college education I had firm knowledge in the history of the construction of race as a social category with no basis in science. However, for some reason I along with millions of people on this Earth talk like being “Black” is an intrinsic natural part of certain human beings. I began to find this matter-of-fact use of “Black” as a grand impediment to liberating ourselves from the living history of Western European colonization.

Although race itself is a myth, the centuries of colonial domination has made it “real” in the fact that skin complexion, facial and body features, and where we or our parents were born have real life consequences in our treatment.

Despite these lived realities, it is critical to understand ourselves beyond the origins of Western European colonization. We should contemplate the facts that colonization is not unique to Europe nor are its victims unique, but that humans have been suffering from the hands of humans greedy for power and wealth since before the creation of Europe.

The year 1619 is commonly understood as when the first human beings were kidnapped from West Africa and sold into enslavement in the Americas. However, brutality of this nature certainly did not begin in 1619. For thousands of years before then, human beings were tortured, oppressed, enslaved, and colonized by one another. In fact many of the English who fled to the Americas had themselves been brutalized. Common punishments in the colonies of the Americas were similar to punishments that were routine in England including whipping and branding.

It wasn’t until around the late seventeenth century that so-called white Americans began to formulate a culture around the myth of race and whiteness to not only soothe the divide that existed between more powerful and less powerful so-called whites but also to cement their power over all so-called non-whites. This manufactured differentiation based on the creation of race was intended to bolster the idea of “white” superiority to justify the economic exploitation and treatment of so-called Black people and non-whites. This attempt to colonize the minds of all people with the permanence of race as an identity has lasted for centuries.

The reality that the Irish, Italians, and Germans were all not considered white at various moments of recent global history and the Japanese were considered white in some places like South Africa speak to the fact that race is a category in constant flux for the purposes of domination. If we want to liberate ourselves from the evils of racism, we must address it at its root- the evils of the category of race itself.

The illusion that humans are created into separate races bolsters the impact of Western European colonialism. There is more DNA shared between people of different so-called races than within a so-called race category, unfortunately this ground-breaking discovery has not received the utmost attention that it deserves in breaking down the way we think about the world and each other. [2]

Malcolm X, a U.S. born leader in global liberation movements has taught us much about the importance of critically engaging with the invention of race. On his Hajj journey to Mecca, a foundational holy pilgrimage for all Muslims, Malcolm or El-Hajj Malik Shabazz reflected greatly on these issues:

[Mecca] was when I first began to perceive that ‘white man,’ as commonly used, means complexion only secondarily; primarily it described attitudes and actions. In America, ‘white man’ meant specific attitudes and actions towards the black man and toward all other non white men. But in the Muslim world, I had seen that men with white complexions were more genuinely brotherly than anyone else had ever been. The morning was the start of a radical alteration in my whole outlook about ‘white’ men. [3]

He goes on to say,

… to me the earth’s most explosive and pernicious evil is racism, the inability of God’s creatures to live as One, especially in the Western world. [4]

Finally, in one conversation with an American ambassador, Shabazz says,

We both agreed that American society makes it next to impossible for humans to meet in America and not be conscious of their color differences … the white man is not inherently evil, but America’s racist society influences him to act evilly. The society has produced and nourishes a psychology which brings out the lowest, most base part of human beings (emphasis added). [5]

Adhering to the language of race is nourishing a psychology that brings out our lowest most base selves. It is through language that knowledge is produced; and it is with knowledge that we understand and live in the world.

How can we expect then to heal and grow from the traumas of racism while adhering to the same language of the most recent traumatic colonial conquests? Racism is a disease which relies on legitimizing the concept of race; there is no racism without race. Therefore, we cannot stamp out racism without stamping out race itself. Adhering to the category of race re-traumatizes us every day when we discuss it as a matter-of-fact. If we care about creating a new world free from prejudice, we must be steadfast in the rejection of the identities that have been forced upon us.

Not only do we need to reject the identities that have been forced upon us but we must forge new ones based upon the histories of our ancestors and our aspirations of who we want to be in this world and the world to come. Our ancestors were not so-called Black, White, Brown, or Yellow. Calling them such perhaps legitimizes the oppression that they were fighting against. They were and are Taino, Yoruba, Igbo, etc. They are what they called themselves, not what their colonists called them and forced us to accept as truth.

Beyond the adherence to the language of race is perhaps a future of healing; and an increase of compassion and advocacy for all those suffering in this world no matter what they look like or don’t look like. If we continue to alienate ourselves into these forced identities we limit our creative abilities to imagine ourselves and our fellow human beings outside of the boxes that have been placed upon all of us. We instead will continue being anxious, angry, guilty, and fearful of the “other/s”. These feelings cannot be the basis for building a strong society. We have deep spiritual generational wounds which require our utmost attention. There is too much creativity and beauty in the ways that we were created to continue to limit ourselves by the bounds of so-called race.

In my freshman year of college I took an Existential Philosophy course. It was an incredible class that gave me an array of philosophers to read and think with; Jean Paul Sartre was one of my favorites. One of his foundational ideas is the idea of bad faith which can be summarized at least partly by this understanding:

A person who claims that they fundamentally have a certain identity is in bad faith: denying their freedom to be otherwise and their choice to be that particular way. [6]

Bad faith is denying our freedom to choose to be something other than what we are told or expected to be. I think there is something inherently spiritual and freeing in this view of bad faith. We have created our understanding of the world through the fiction of race. Once we reject it as truth and our own attempts of rationalizing it as such, our spirit, i.e, our core being opens up a new way for us to exist with each other. No longer do we have to fear each other and even fear ourselves, but we are able to build capacity for honesty and growth in all of our relationships. We are able to see other people as not just a “White man” or a “Black woman”, but human beings with deep history that existed before the invention of race, culture that embraced peoples from all over the world, hurt to heal from, and love to share with one another.

Simply, the world could be more loving if we step out of the identities forced upon us and choose for ourselves what we want to be. When we can shed the language of our colonial past and begin healing from its traumas with new language, then perhaps we can create a compassionate future rooted in the affirmation of all of our lives.

2022. Written by Nathalie E. Amazan and Sazia Patel.

[1] YouTube, Toni Morrison: 57 Seconds on “Race”, (July 11, 2016), available at

[2] Natalie Angier, Do Races Differ? Not Really, Genes Show, (Aug. 22, 2000), available at

[3] Malcolm X & Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X As Told To Alex Haley 340 (1999).

[4] Id at 345.

[5] Id at 378.

[6] Meg-John Barker, Queer: A Graphic History 33 (2016).