How to be anti-racist: Speak out in your own circles

Pictured are three women who joined hands and prayed around a makeshift memorial on May 26, 2020, in Minneapolis, near where a white police officer knelt on George Floyd's neck.

(CNN)In light of the ongoing protests after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, some people say they want to become anti-racist.

Being anti-racist means more than ridding yourself of racist attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. It means you're also actively fighting that reprehensible trinity as it manifests in your life on a daily basis.
Donating to activist organizations and protesting injustices are definitely good starts to becoming an ally. But that's not enough. Actively rebutting prejudices in your own circles is key to lasting change, as those ideas and beliefs — unless challenged — are what our children absorb and are woven into the fabric of our culture.
"In order to interrupt systemic racism, we have to be working all the time," said Beverly Tatum, a psychologist, former Spelman College president and author of the classic books "Can We Talk About Race?" and "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?"
    What that means for you depends on who you are, where you live and who you're interacting with.
    Everyone has particular spheres of influence, in which we help shape the mindsets, and thus the behaviors, of others. Ask yourself what messages you're sending to your family, friends, workplace, places of worship and outside activities. What leadership are you providing or are you silent in the face of racism?
    "Unless I'm really being intentional and thinking about how to interrupt the racist policies and practices that are surrounding me, then my silence is supporting that," Tatum added.
    "People sometimes think, 'Well, I'm not calling anyone names or doing anything hateful, [so] I have no responsibility,'" she said. "But the system of this web that surrounds all of us is reinforced by silence. So you have to speak up against it in the places where you are."

    Individual actions equal collective impact

    It's easy to think the decisions you make are limited to how they affect your life. But individual decisions sparked by racism and prejudice have historically morphed into the collective psyches of many nations.
    How do everyday decisions lead to calling the police on black people for no reason, hate crimes and police brutality incidents?
    Every time you leave a smaller form of racism unchallenged, that bolsters your tolerance for racism, said Jennifer Harvey, a religion professor at Drake University in Iowa and author of "Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America."
    It's not only active white supremacy, racism and police brutality ending black and brown lives, said Harvey, who recently wrote "How to not raise a racist white kid" for CNN.
    "Collectively, white America has this really high capacity to tolerate racism," she added. "That grows from all of those many aggressions and hostilities that we allow to go unchecked in our environments."
    Many would never sanction what police officers did to George Floyd, Harvey said, but violence happens after tolerance builds up to lesser forms of racism. Failing to challenge racism and prejudice equals participation in a version of violence, she said, and it eventually leads to these devastating events.
    "Every time we fail to interrupt racism, we under-do our own capacity to sort of grow the kind of flourishing anti-racist world that everybody deserves to live in," she added.

    Shift your mindset

    Becoming anti-racist starts with shifting your own mindset, these experts said. This means, for example, that when you have a prejudiced or racist thought, you hold that thought and reassess it before acting it out.
    Dislodging prejudice in your mind can be hard because it's usually an unconscious bias, Tatum said. You can't filter out biases unless you're aware of them.
    Tatum likened stereotype exposure to breathing in smog in the air: "They're so pervasive in our environment that we're constantly breathing them in. And as a consequence of breathing them in, we should not be surprised that sometimes we breathe that out."