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‘Not Racism’™: a graphic essay

A graphic essay based on Chapter 2 of Why Race Still Matters has been published by The New Socialist. Visit the site for close ups!

Take a tour on Prezi

‘I’m not racist but…’ Why is this conversation starter always followed up with the most egregious recitations of racism? 

This short comic takes us through the concept of ‘not racism’. For every time someone who is affected by racism describes their experience, the response ‘that’s not what racism is,’ can be heard. We hear it on panel shows. We read it in newspapers. We are forced to listen to it in classrooms. For the mainstream in white dominated societies, negatively racialised people do not have enough distance from racism to be trusted to define it; they are too emotionally invested. 

‘Not racism’ goes beyond the denial of people’s experience; it is an ahistorical redefinition of racism from the perspective of those who benefit from current racial arrangements under white supremacy. ‘Not racism’ is a form of discursive racist violence.

To understand why ‘not racism’ is so common, we need to go back to the history of racism as a concept itself. We need a better understanding of the link between the ideology of racism and the practice of racial rule which has defined the modern-colonial era for at least 500 years. 

Despite the onslaught on antiracist and decolonial action from states and the media, movements from around the world show that the resistance is strong!


This comic was created by Petroglyph Studios. It was illustrated by nicole marie burton and written by Alana Lentin with Hugh Goldring. It is an adaptation of Chapter Two of Why Race Still Matters by Alana Lentin (Polity, 2020).

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.

A workshop where I presented the project in November 2021

Alana Lentin