Anti-racism, like other general social attitudes, ideas and movements, has many variations and faces. At its simplest and least ideological, it consists simply in opposition to racism based on a sense that all races are basically the same, and we should all accept each other's differences. In more developed and ideological forms it tends to involve the belief that racism is both pernicious and socially pervasive, so that strong measures are called for to control and even eradicate it.
The more ideological forms of anti-racism are associated with:
- Contemporary liberal and leftist movements in general.
- Affirmative action, which is largely based on the view that pervasive discrimination is responsible for differences in the proportional representation of different racial groups in occupational and similar categories. That view has led, at least in the view of critics, to racial quotas and reverse discrimination.
- Diversity training, which tends toward the view that basic re-orientation of corporate and cultural attitudes is necessary to counter entrenched patterns of insensitivity and discrimination.
- The antifa ("antifascist") movement, the targets of which prominently include racism, and which favors direct action that frequently becomes violent.
The theoretical basis for an anti-racism movement was laid during the 1920s and 1930s by anthropologists such as Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and Ashley Montagu. Major events in the rapid practical development of the movement in the years following the Second World War include:
- The 1950 UNESCO Statement on Race, followed in 1951 by the UNESCO Statement on the Nature of Race and Race Differences [need links]. Both statements asserted that biological differentiation of races is without foundation, and that race is a social myth rather than a biological phenomenon.
- The 1963 United Nations General Assembly adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the 1965 adoption of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
- The United States Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Proponents of the stronger forms of anti-racism say that rooting out discriminatory attitudes and practices is a requirement of simple justice. Critics say that ethnicity amd some degree of ethnocentrism is legitimate and beneficial, that there are non-discriminatory explanations to most racial differences in social and economic position, and that the presumption that discrimination is pervasive, hidden and immensely destructive leads to intolerable bureaucratic interference in the daily lives of individuals, organizations, and communities.