Chapter 4: Anti-Racism and Nursing Communication

What is Anti-Racism?

Have you ever said, “I’m not a racist”? 

The phrase “not racist” is problematic, and Ibram X. Kendi dismantled it in his 2019 book, How to be an Antiracist. Kendi (2019) argued that the phrase suggests neutrality about an issue in which neutrality absolutely cannot exist: one is either racist or anti-racist, and there is no in-between. See Table 4.1 for a summary of the differences.


Table 4.1: Difference between racism and anti-racism [adapted from Kendi, 2019].

Racist Anti-racist
Believes in racial hierarchy and/or takes no action to dismantle it. Believes in racial equality and acts to dismantle racism.
Believes that social problems are rooted in groups of people based on race. Believes that social problems are rooted in both power and policy and acts to challenge these.
Permits racial inequities to exist and doesn’t actively do anything to change them. Actively works to confront power and policy that maintains racial inequities.


Reflect on Kendi’s reference to actively being an anti-racist. You might realize that you are or have been racist at some period in your life. This might be difficult for you to accept, and you might resist the idea of acknowledging yourself as racist. As a Black man, Kendi was bombarded by racist thinking and ideas, which “hardened the racist ideas inside … [him until he] was ready to preach them to others” (2019, p. 6). This is the power of racism.

So, how do we move on from here? How do we take up the fight to be anti-racist whether we are racialized or not? How is anti-racism an important part of professional communication in nursing? Kendi wrote that racism is “one of the fastest-spreading and most fatal cancers humanity has ever known” (2019, p. 238). How can we fight racism the way we fight cancer? We have already explored the deeply interconnected and historical nature of racism, which has exploited and oppressed racialized people for centuries (Patel, 2022). Therefore, the fight to dismantle racism is also highly complex. The following discussion explores how to become an anti-racist.

Activity: Check Your Understanding


Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an anti-racist. One World.

Patel, N. (2022). Dismantling the scaffolding of institutional racism and institutionalising anti-racism. Journal of Family Therapy, 44(1), 91–108.



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