Anti-Racist/m Actions FAQ

  • What is Anti-Racist Action?
    • ARA is an international network of people from all walks of life who are dedicated to eliminating racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination from their communities. ARA got its start in Minneapolis in 1987; since then, we’ve expanded into dozens of communities in five countries and three continents, making us one of the world’s largest and most extensive anti-racist youth movements.
    • All vouched-for chapters agree on the ARA Network’s four Points Of Unity, but can decide on what actions they will take in their communities.
  • What does ARA do?
  •  ARA’s work generally falls into four broad categories:
  • We Educate:
    • by doing serious and credible research on hate groups and issues involving racism and other forms of discrimination.
    • by sharing information with allied anti-racists in dozens of organizations worldwide.
    • by using this research to write and publish dozens of pamphlets, dossiers, articles, magazines, web pages, radio and television programs.
    • by distributing thousands of copies of all kinds of literature about racism and discrimination for free at schools, conferences, protests, concerts and parties.
    • by sending speakers to talk to hundreds of school groups, youth groups, church groups, community organizations and conferences all over the world.
    1. We Organize:
      • by acting as the primary contact for a new generation of anti-racist activists.
      • by mobilizing youth to combat racism and discrimination, Anti-Racist Action has become a key vehicle for young anti-racists to get involved in and help shape the direction of this struggle, more than any other movement or organization.
      • by initiating or supporting nearly every major anti-racist demonstration in North America in the last five years.
      • by hosting some of the most diverse, well-attended, constructive and practical anti-racist conferences, trainings and gatherings the anti-racist movement has ever seen.
      • by recognizing that racism is a multi-faceted issue entwined with a number of other problems our society faces and then using that knowledge to connect with literally hundreds of different groups and individuals from all walks of life.
      • by strengthening our understanding and resolve and improving our communities through work on issues related to racism, such as poverty, homophobia, prisons, police abuse, workers’ struggles, sexism, & reproductive rights.
      • by defending other anti-racists and anti-fascists across the globe. For example, the ARA Anti-Racist Defense Fund has contributed over two thousand dollars to anti-racists in eight countries who were in trouble and needed our help. ARA Network chapters donate 10% of all money they raise, plus a biannual contribution of $25 per chapter or $10 per member (whichever is greater) to the Defense Fund. We also accept private donations to the Defense Fund. Click here for more information on the Defense Fund or to make a donation.
    2. We Confront:
      • by refusing to ignore the terrorists and thugs that comprise racist and fascist groups..
      • by publicly challenging hate groups when they attempt to recruit, organize, mobilize, propagandize and cause harm to people.
      • by using innovative, creative and highly-effective tactics that directly involve entire communities.
      • by denying hate groups the opportunity to monopolize public spaces and by denying hate groups the chance to turn public spaces into danger zones for people of color, women, immigrants, gays and lesbians, the disabled and others.
    3. We Celebrate:
      • through our commitment to developing a fun, authentic anti-racist youth culture.
      • by hosting parties, concerts and other events that encourage participation of people of diverse backgrounds in having fun in a safe and liberated environment.
      • by organizing regular weekend gatherings for young anti-racists to come to know and support each other.
  • How does a group become a vouched-for chapter?
    • The first step is finding a group of people that share common interests and goals. All people in this group must agree to the ARA Network’s four Points of Unity. Once you have that established, contact your nearest ARA Network chapter. They will arrange a face-to-face meeting with you. Once you are checked out and solid, then you are welcome into the Network. It is good to do this so that other members of the network can have your back and you can take part in the ARA network anti-racist defense fund. We will also supply you with information and literature to help get your chapter off the ground. There are some groups out there that call themselves an ARA chapter. But the ARA Network only recognizes chapters that have joined the Network. The ARA Network cannot endorse the actions of a group calling itself Anti-Racist Action unless they are members of the ARA Network. If you are contacting a chapter that is not a member of the ARA Network, please use caution. A list of current ARA Network chapters can be found here.
  • How is ARA different from other anti-racist groups?
    1. ARA is youth oriented.
      • The vast majority of our members and supporters are young people. We think the time for young people to deal with hate is now, not later. Most other anti-racist groups are hierarchical “top-down” organizations dominated by adult “officials” and “authorities,” who don’t do much to directly involve youth in fighting against hate and don’t pay any attention to the experiences and belief of young people.
    2. ARA doesn’t rely on the cops or the courts.
      • Most anti-racist groups focus all their efforts on creating new laws or getting the police to respond to racism. But the police are more interested in maintaining the status quo and protecting property than fighting racism. This means that police are not likely to get involved with fighting hate groups until they have hurt or killed someone. We think that that’s too late and that any anti-racist group that doesn’t organize an effective opposition to hate groups before they hurt people is not doing their job.
      • Another problem with anti-racist groups that work too closely with the police is that they are afraid to criticize the police when they pull racist, sexist, or homophobic shit. By maintaining a distance from the legal system, ARA is in a better position to call the cops and the courts on racist practices and behaviors.
    3. ARA is self-funded.
      • We don’t rely on government handouts to fight hate, so when we think the government is doing or saying something wrong, we’re not afraid to call them on it. Other anti-racist groups whose existence depends on government handouts or corporate sponsorships and foundation grants tend to be a lot more reluctant to condemn racism, sexism or homophobia on the part of the government or big business.
    4. ARA is all about creating direct, community responses to hate.
      • We’ll let other anti-racist groups sit in their offices and meet with bureaucrats to discuss having a conference to set up a study group to recommend policy changes to an ad-hoc coalition of lobbyists to approach officials to draft an amendment to a bill calling for funding to maybe do something about hate in the coming fiscal year. The real fight against racism, sexism and homophobia is in the street, where real people live their lives. That’s where ARA is from and that’s where you will always find us!
  • Is ARA violent?
    • ARA has never advocated violence as a solution to hate. The problem comes when we confront hate groups that are violent. Sometimes, they choose to use violence to attack people opposed to hate. What they don’t expect is for their victims to be able to defend themselves. ARA reserves the right to defend its members and other people against racist violence. This is both our legal right and our obligation. It’s also just common sense
  • Is ARA run by a secret communist/anarchist/Jewish/Freemason conspiracy?
    • ARA is one of the few movements in the world without a set political agenda or controlled by a group that has a secret agenda. ARA is non-sectarian, which means we welcome people of all political persuasions and people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds to join us. Our only major requirement is for members to agree with the ARA Four Points Of Unity, which are publicly available on all ARA Network websites.
    • ARA believes in direct democracy and strives against leadership and hierarchy. Any chapter may make proposals to the network; each chapter receives two votes and decisions are passed by 2/3 majority. This makes it impossible for a certain group of people to “run” ARA.
  • But I heard from my cousin’s teacher’s brother’s niece that she got… … an email about a posting on a newsgroup pointing to a website that had the text from a newspaper article about a television show that said that ARA is violent.
    • When you’ve been effectively fighting hate for 22 years like ARA has, lots of rumors circulate about you. Most of the time, these rumors tend to be totally unfounded. Some of the time, these rumors have been started by the very hate groups we target, in an effort to discredit us! We think that if a hate group is so scared of ARA that they go out of their way to start up false rumors about us, we must be doing something right!
    • Sometimes if there is a skirmish at a protest, people will automatically assume a) whoever was involved was a member of ARA and b) that person is guilty of something or other. Of course, making assumptions doesn’t make those assumptions true!
    • We don’t advocate violence as a solution to hate, but we also don’t tell people what is the “correct” way to respond to hate group activity. We trust that people can figure this out for themselves. ARA exists to fight against bigotry and discrimination, not to police anti-racists! We believe in, uphold and practice the right to self-defense against racist violence!
  • I saw some ARA people wearing masks at an action. What’s up with that?
    • You probably also noticed bigots with cameras at that same action. Racists like to take pictures of anti-racists so that they’ll be able to identify them and attack them later on. To protect our safety, we sometimes choose to wear masks so that we don’t have to worry about racists hurting us, or people close to us, after the action.
  • Won’t protesting hate groups cause them to be violent?
    • Our 22-year history has proven to us that the only guarantee of hate crimes and racist violence is not standing up to hate groups! A large and strong anti-racist opposition to a hate group tells that hate group that their violence will not be tolerated. It also lets people who are likely targets for hate crimes know that they have allies in their community who they can count on.
    • Doing nothing to oppose hate groups gives racists a green light to start hurting people, because they know that no one will stand up to them or try to stop them.
    • Anti-racism doesn’t cause racist violence; it prevents racist violence by making the racists know that a lot of people are prepared to take the steps necessary to prevent them from hurting others. Without strong anti-racist opposition to hate groups, it’s not a question of whether a bigot will hurt an innocent person; it’s a question of when!
    • Racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the nazis have always been a major source of violence, and their tendency, like those of other bullies is to attack people they think are defenseless. Organizing and uniting to defend ourselves is the best way to top this cowardly racist violence.
  • Isn’t it better to just ignore racists and hope they’ll go away? …Don’t they really just want the publicity they get from protests against them
    • Ignoring a problem never makes it go away. If hate groups encounter no opposition to their activities in a community, they’ll take that to mean that they have no opposition there willing to stand up to them and they will act accordingly. This makes it more likely that hate group activity will increase and they will start hurting people. This also isolates the people they target – people of color, immigrants, religious or ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, the disabled, women, etc. – making them feel vulnerable and afraid because it seems like no one has their back.
    • Besides, the mainstream media are always giving nazis and racist groups millions of dollars in free publicity on talk shows and in pseudo-documentaries that glamorize white power groups. The nazis will get publicity whether we oppose them or not, so that’s not a factor. What we want to publicize is that there are people ready and willing to stand up for human rights and justice.
    • When Hitler first appeared on the scene in Germany, people thought the best thing to do was to ignore him, hoping he would just go away. That example alone proves how foolish it is to close our eyes and hope that the racists will just disappear on their own.
  • What about free speech?
    • Free speech shouldn’t endanger people’s lives. You can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, because people will probably get hurt trying to get out. We think that hate speech acts in the same way – by trying to make certain kinds of people seem less than human and by glorifying violent acts against them – it’s just a matter of time before a follower or supporter of a hate group puts words into action.
    • A cross burning, for example, is not free speech or the free exercise of religion — it is an act of racist terror and intimidation.
    • We think that hate speech, turning people into scapegoats and targets for hateful action, is an abuse of free speech and that people’s lives are more important than the right of someone to publicly encourage others to target certain groups for a campaign of murder, rape, assault, genocide, ethnic cleansing and terror.
    • If you actively go out of your way to tell people that 90% of the world’s population should be enslaved or that the best thing they can do is kill someone because of their skin color, religion, ethnic background, immigration status, sexual orientation, disability, etc., we think you’ve forfeited your right to free speech.
    • Most countries in the world agree with this position and have adopted hate speech legislation, making it illegal to call for acts of terror against a group of people because of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. ARA does not advocate such legislation, because we believe people need to take the responsibility to confront and solve these problems ourselves. Since we are dealing with exercising our free speech and right to assemble to oppose fascists and racists, without relying on police, that doesn’t constitute a violation of freedom of speech. We know that laws passed to “ban the Klan” would just end up getting used against anti-racists.
  • But c’mon – racist beliefs are so messed-up no one in their right mind… …would buy into them. Isn’t it better to let racists spread their beliefs and propaganda far and wide and let people decide whether or not they’re right?
    • Racists’ beliefs are really weak and easily discredited. And we also think that most of the people that come across racist propaganda are going to be able to see through their lies.
    • The problem is that racist propaganda leads to racist action. And as the numerous murders, rapes, bombings, arsons, and assaults committed by members of hate groups every year demonstrate, the danger is very real, even from such a tiny number of people.
    • We think it would be better to prevent racist propaganda, recruiting and organizing efforts every chance we get. We think preventing as many people as possible from joining hate groups will save innocent lives later on.
    • We also know that in the face of concerted opposition, many people who have racist beliefs have decided not to put them into practice, or in some cases have learned how wrong those beliefs are and abandoned them.
  • Why do you only focus on white racism?
    • We think that racism is two things: the belief that people can be divided into separate and distinct categories of “races” that can then be ranked according to which ones are superior or inferior to the others; and the power to act on this belief in a way that harms people. There is only one “race” — the human race.
    • While “non-white” people may believe that races really exist, it is “white” people that hold the power to put such beliefs into practice to hurt people.
    • Science has proven that even though races are not real on any biological basis, racism is very real, and groups defined as distinct by racism face very real social, political and economic differences as a result.
    • This is why “white” people perpetrate the majority of hate crimes in our society, or why the victims of racism are almost always people of color.
    • Sometimes, “white” people are the victims of racism or racism occurs between different people of color. But compared to the amount of people of color victimized by institutionalized white racism, it’s not hard to see where the real problem lies.
    • ARA chooses to focus its efforts where the most and worst kind of racism is happening. And that happens to be the kind of racism that victimizes people of color.
  • What about reverse racism?
    • If you check out our definition of racism again in the previous question, you’ll understand that it would be hard for us to take “reverse racism” very seriously, because people of color just don’t have the power to put racist beliefs into action like white people do. In most Western societies, the most powerful positions (CEO’s, politicians, judges, cops, etc.) have been reserved for and monopolized by “white” people for decades – this is only just beginning to change. “White” people still hold most of the power in our society and the most powerful “white” people still tend to use their power to hurt people of color.
    • The very term “reverse racism” implies that there is a “natural” racism directed against people of color by white people. Thus it is based on a socially-defined racial hierarchy that puts white people “on top.”
  • What’s so wrong about being proud of being white? Two things are wrong with “white pride” or “white power:”
    1. It’s taking pride in random circumstance, in something you had nothing to do with. You have no say in what “race” you were born as, so why in the hell would you take pride in it? That makes as much sense as being proud of being left-handed, short, or lactose-intolerant.In fact, since about .01% of human genes determine the things that we think of when we think of “race” (hair color and type, skin color, eye and nose shape, etc.) (SOURCE: Natalie Angier, “Do Races Differ? Not Really, Genes Show,” New York Times, August 23) and since it takes as many or more genes to determine your height or your blood type or whether or not your stomach can properly digest milk – it would make MORE sense to have “height pride” or “blood type pride” or “lactose intolerance pride” than it would to have “racial pride!”
    2. Two, it’s taking pride in something that doesn’t exist. That’s right folks, there’s no such thing as distinct human “races!” Scientists have been saying so for decades now.Check out this articles for an explanation why::
      • No Basis For Race

      Try asking a racist to give you a scientifically-sound definition of human “races.” That means they’d have to give a definite number of mutually-exclusive human races and explain exactly how a person can determine what race someone belongs to using scientific and objective criteria.

      In particular, the definition of “white” first started to come about based on racial slavery and on European invasions and conquests of other continents and people. It has been reinforced in the U.S. and Canada by stripping “white” people of family histories, cultural links to specific nations and ethnic groups, in favor of identifying with a social group based on privilege. White privileges, like any privileges, are based on “good behavior,” and can be taken away at any time. Wouldn’t you rather have human rights than white privilege?

  • Well, what about being proud of being Black?
    • We have much less of a problem with “Black pride” or “Black power” than we do with “white pride” or “white power.” The reason is that if you’re Black and you’ve grown up in a world where being Black = being treated like and looked upon as shit, then to say “fuck you, I’m PROUD to be Black!” challenges the racism you’ve lived under and the racist assumptions that some people have about Black people. So when people of color turn the tables on racists and claim their “second-class citizen” status as a point of pride, we see that as an effective anti-racist strategy.
    • Black pride is not based on Black people gloating about how much power they have over other people or how many more possessions and money they enjoy than other social groups. It also identifies the real contributions that Black people have made. White pride and white power on the other hand are based on claiming white people are superior to all others – sometimes that whites are the only true human — and on mythical beliefs that white people are the source of all human achievement or culture.
  • If you hate bigots, aren’t you being hypocritical?
    • Not at all. Bigots hate people that they know nothing about, basing their hate on stereotypes. Bigots hate people without knowing or understanding who they are or what they believe in.
    • We know all about bigots because we research them and speak directly with them when we choose to confront them. In fact, a few of our members used to be the very racists that we confront – until we got through to them and helped them to understand how wrong their beliefs really were.
    • We know that bigots want to hurt people for absolutely no justifiable reason – people that include our friends, our families, are classmates, our teachers, our co-workers, our bosses, and ourselves. That’s all we need to know to oppose bigots.
  • How can I join ARA or start a chapter in my area?
    • The first step would be to look over the ARA Points of Unity and make sure that you agree with all of it. The next step is to contact the ARA chapter nearest to you.
  • How can I support the work of ARA? There are a lot of things you can do to support ARA! How about:
    • Keeping informed about what ARA is up to by subscribing to the ARA-NEWS ezine.
    • Attending an ARA action near your area.
    • Visiting ARA websites and encouraging other people to visit ARA websites.
    • Keeping ARA informed about racist, sexist or homophobic activities in your area.
    • Downloading some of our flyers, pamphlets and posters, and distributing them in your area.
    • Setting up an anti-racist info table at a concert, at your school, at your work, at a party, etc. and giving out ARA literature and selling ARA stuff.
    • Making a donation to ARA.
    • Several ARA chapters produce regular periodicals, including:
      • On the Prowl from ARA Toronto
      • The Research Bulletin from ARA Chicago
      • Turning the Tide: Journal of Anti-Racist Action, Research & Education from ARA Los Angeles.
    • You can subscribe to, help distribute, and write for these publications.
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