This intimate relationship between power and anti-racism…

I would like to follow up on my previous article ¨How white is European Youth work field¨ and dig a bit deeper into the concept of power and it´s relation to anti-racism. I want to have a look at what are some of the things that we can actually do as youth workers, trainers or any other type of experts working in the field of youth.

Let´s start from one of the most classic definitions of racism: Racism = Prejudice + Power (which to be fully correct should be prejudice*power). Since I was always very good in mathematics, I see the definition from this perspective. This equation says that to reduce racism we need to reduce prejudice or power, or both.

Looking backwards on the youth field in Europe, on educational activities that exist, EU priorities and the topics of youth projects, there is a lot of work that has been done on the prejudices. We discover, we learn, we try to apply, not always it is possible, and probably we will always be having stereotypes, which can be very easily turned into prejudices. 

So, if we tried to remove prejudices and it did not fully work (although a lot of great things has been done I must admit), why not to change perspective, and instead of prejudices start talking about POWER whenever we run educational activities in the field of youth. And as well start sharing power, with those who systematically are being limited to access the power. 

So, I decided to reflect a bit what does it mean to have power and how we can use it, what we can do to contribute to the anti-racist movement. Here are some of the ideas. 

Power = money

I think that everyone agrees with this statement. And how this relates to the European youth work field? Well, there are quite a lot of things that are being done already or can be done:

  • Finance the Anti-racist actions through the European funds
  • Ensure that young people don´t have the financial obstacles to participate in the activities
  • If we want People of Color to teach us about racism, we should pay them for this
  • And finally, hire people of color as experts, youth workers, consultants etc. 

On the personal level we can as well donate 🙂 You know, money is power.

Power = representation 

There is a very interesting white privilege checklist, which we can use to see what is our privilege status related to race. A lot of points from this list are connected with visibility and representation, for example, the statement: ¨I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented¨ or ¨ I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race¨. 

And since the representation is such a big thing, because it is power, we can reflect what can we do in the youth work to improve this situation. 

  • When we do any activity and use visuals, we should ensure the diversity representation within them. The same applies to any visual materials like publications, videos we are using etc.
  • When we talk about the representation and usage of the images of diverse people, we need to ensure that we are not fostering racial stereotypes.
  • When we can invite experts to a conference, why not invite experts who belong to groups of people of color. Often people who belong to the majority are better recognized and have better visibility having the same level of expertise. In this case, we might be a bit more proactive and reach out to minorities. And even better if the activity is NOT about race. 

Power = Communication platforms

Being able to communicate, having followers, being able to spread your opinions and ideas is becoming more and more connected to power. There is already an interesting concept called NEW POWER, which reflects on the attributes of these new forms and possibilities that we have to influence and to make a change. I definitely recommend the book ¨New Power¨, but I think the article on this is another story. Let´s focus right now what we as trainers and educators can do:

  • We can use the platform of training courses that we implement to address racism and diversity as a transversal element our NGOs to share information on racism and anti-racism. There are a lot of materials developed by people of color, even in such countries like Poland 🙂
  • If there is any petition going on we can as well as use our platform to support the case.
  • If we produce any intellectual outputs we can use it as well as a platform to promote anti-racism. 

Power = recognition

There are different types of recognition, for example, if we want to work in the specific profession we should have an official title which recognizes that we have the necessary competences, or if we are artist a form of recognition is when general public ¨consume¨ our work. Recognition of people of color is very important for reducing the deeply rooted bias that POC are less intelligent, or the fact that we mainly associate POC with the physical work. So, what can we do about it?

  • First of all, I believe that we need to challenge ourselves, and simply consume more work of people of color, as simple as reading books, watching movies, listening to music etc. In this way, we work on our subconscious and we balance the images that we get from mass media
  • You can as well recommend work of POC to others, like I would love to recommend you a video by Reni Eddo-Lodge, the author of ¨Why I am no longer talking to white people about race¨, here you have a link:
  • And you can use materials and examples produces by people of color in your daily activities in the training room or with young people. Just remember to give them the credit to ensure recognition

Power = empowerment

Power it is as well connected with the state of mind, sometimes we might believe that we don´t have power, that we cannot influence anything, simply because the whole life we were told that we cannot do certain things, and not because it is a reality. And I believe that this is one of the most important points what we need to do when we work with young people. Empower them! Help them to believe in themselves, encourage them to speak up, and create future leaders who will help us reduce our stereotypes. And I will not speak how to empower young people, we should know it already, right?

2 thoughts on “This intimate relationship between power and anti-racism…

  1. Lots to think about here. Things we can change at the institution level, things we can work on at the personal day to day level. Thanks!


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