When the National Anti-Racism Alliance (NARA) began to come together in Spring 2019, its purpose was explicit: “a nonviolent community of people who think racism is out of control in this country and who are publicly willing to identify themselves as anti-racist fighters.”
NARA’s founder, Mark Naison—an African American Studies and History professor at Fordham University—welcomed any-and-all but emphasized that “the NARA label is particularly important for anti-racist whites to display, as it lets our friends of color know that they can count on us in a crisis to stand with them.”
Rhode Island activist Nomi Hurwitz is one of NARA’s moderators, facilitating a largely-online discussion—on Facebook—between members who share information, debate strategy and tactics, and address the many ways that racial bias poisons our lives.
She and Eleanor J. Bader spoke by phone in mid-February.
Eleanor J. Bader: What drew you to NARA?
Nomi Hurwitz: I have known Mark Naison for a number of years. I met him through friends on Facebook and have benefited from reading his work. When I heard that he had started NARA, I wanted to join.
I’ve been fighting against racism for a long time. I started at 18. Now, more than 30 years later, I want to learn more about how to undo it, how to confront it when I see someone being harmed or hear a derogatory comment.
In Providence, where I live, I’ve heard white people say things that are disrespectful to African American or Latinx people, things like ‘They only have their positions because of affirmative action.’ I’ve heard white people blame their lack of success—that they can’t get published, for example—on the fact that they’re white. These comments are racist. And they can be lethal. Twenty years ago, Providence off-duty police officer, Cornell Young, Jr., an African American, was shot and killed by two white officers who did not recognize him in plainclothes when he attempted to intervene and stop a crime that was then in progress.