After waking up during high school, I would lay in bed, creating lists in my head describing the type of the person that I wanted to become. This list often started with words like kind, open-minded, thoughtful, and ambitious. As I became more aware of both politics and racial justice, I started including new words and phrases such as tolerant, unprejudiced, and progressive.

Since then, these words and phrases have shifted meaning, and I’ve replaced many of them with new ones. From dealing with my sexuality and navigating homophobic spaces, I’ve learned to distinguish between tolerance and respect. After witnessing others and myself misjudge people of color, I knew that completely absolving oneself of implicit biases was not easy or likely. I’ve since then learned that my objective could not be to promote non-racism but instead to contribute to anti-racism.

But what does it mean to be anti-racist? Angela Davis defines this person as one dedicated to a seperate system in which racial equity and humanity are the norms. An anti-racist understands that our default choices often reinforce the racist structures around us. As I write this, I struggle finding the words to describe what anti-racism should look like in practice, especially for those like me, who come from many vantages of privilege.

For example, how do I support the lineage of activism spearheaded by Black, Indigenous, and people of color without interfering in harmful ways? How can I settle with the discomfort of having my ideas challenged?

When I learn about race, I’m frequently conscious about how our lived experiences influence our worldviews. I find out that we are shaped by many things, perhaps the most consequential of which are our identities like our family, religion, partisanship, gender, and of course race.

However, I also learn that we are just as powerfully molded by our lists of potential identities. They guide us down less-worn paths and reveal our inner struggle. The opportunity to revisit my motivations and role in racial justice is largely what draws me to this fellowship. I hope to learn how I can most actively contribute to anti-racism, not just for the sake of who I think I am, but also for who I want to become.

Ben Wallace is a second-year student from Apex, North Carolina, studying “Constructions of Race and Racial Attitudes in America” through Program II. He is interested in how he can leverage different mediums, from documentary to data, to investigate racial disparities and advocate for social justice. On campus, he serves as a co-chair of The Chronicle’s Community Editorial Board and produces podcasts for Hear at Duke.

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