Courageous Conversations Speaker Series

The Racist Violence of "Not Racism"
A webinar from the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Title: The Racist Violence of "Not Racist" 
Speakers: Dr. Alana Lentin 

Webinar Description

This talk adds to the conversation on the relationship between ideas and practices of race-making and asks whether, today, the language of racism is fit for purpose. In a post-postracial age, public discourse on racism has gone beyond the four Ds of racism management: denial, debatability, distancing and deflection. Today, the defining struggle is over what racism is and who gets to define it, with those affected by racism cast as less capable of doing so. ‘Not racism’ - the search for justifications of acts of often extreme violence as other than racist - is a prominent act of discursive racist violence, with detrimental effects on antiracist politics in a time of mounting white supremacism. The role played by an increasingly powerful and mediatised group of self-described ‘contrarian’ academics in legitimising ‘not racism’ should not be discounted. Such academics regularly defend the right of eugenicists, Islamophobes or anti-immigrationists to air what are described as mere ideas in a ‘marketplace of viewpoint diversity’. This paper links this contemporary phenomenon to the early 20th century history of the conceptualisation of racism and argues that the potential for 'not racism' has always been found within the problematic relationship of racism to race as an assemblage of technologies for differentially assigning value to categories of the human. The narrow and foundationally Eurocentric origins of racism as a term that roots practices of domination in the history of (bad) ideas, rather than in the practices of Euro-modern colonialism undergirds 'not racism'.

Speaker biography

Dr. Alana Lentin is an Associate Professor of Cultural and Social Analysis at Western Sydney University. She is a European Jewish woman who is a settler on Gadigal land (Sydney, Australia). She works on the critical theorization of race, racism and antiracism. Her latest book is Why Race Still Matters (Polity 2020) and she previously published The Crises of Multiculturalism: Racism in a neoliberal age with Gavan Titley (Zed, 2011). She co-edits the Rowman & Littlefield ‘Challenging Migration Studies’ books series and co-presents the Race in Society web series on YouTube with Dr Zuleyka Zevallos. She is an editorial board member of Ethnic and Racial Studies and Identities among other journals. Her academic and media articles as well as videos, podcasts, and teaching materials can be found at


Additional Resources

Further readings

Alana Lentin. Why Race Still Matters (Polity 2020),

Debbie Bargallie and Alana Lentin. “Improving Racial Literacy: what will it take?” Croakey (October 1, 2020),

Alana Lentin. “Looking as white: anti-racism apps, appearance and racialized embodiment,” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 26 (28 March 2019): 614-630.

Alana Lentin. “Understanding Race: The future is here – revealing algorithmic racism” (October 22, 2018),

Further resources