I can’t define racism. I’ll have a go at anti-racism, though.
Anti-racism is the belief that your race makes a difference to how you experience life. So I guess racism is the denial of this.
I do not think it is ever relevant or useful or meaningful or anything but destructive to call a person racist.
Racist comments, or words, or attitudes, are those that fail to acknowledge, or those that enforce, the way people of different races experience the world. Often this takes the form of something like “Everyone experiences things the way that I do, and I’m okay, so what’s your problem?” - forgetting that “I” am white and therefore somewhat privileged - or “If you don’t experience the world the way I do, it’s some kind of problem with you, because it can’t be a problem with me.”
I am very frustrated by the attitude that something can be called racist only if it is (a) intentionally racist and (b) attributable to an identifiable source.
Example: I have a friend who is quite clearly (by the way he talks, dresses, acts etc) African. When he first meets someone and they ask the inevitable question - “Where are you from?” - he says “Here.” He hates the question and it took me quite a while to realize why.
The reason is because it makes difference the most important feature about him. It’s like the person who asks the question is saying “Of all the things I could know about you - your likes, dislikes, interests, loves, passions, talents, etc - the most important thing there is for me to establish is how you differ from me.” And for an African, that is quite a loaded statement, because of all the history of nastiness befalling Africans because of, essentially, that difference.
Note that he doesn’t mind if someone asks the question after they have expressed interest in something other than his obvious difference. He is, primarily, a human being, and to be treated as Different before being treated as A Person, is what bugs him.
The problem, of course, is that asking where someone is from is a common question for everyone. If one Canadian asks another Canadian (“I’m from Montreal. How about you?” “Saskatoon.” “Oh, my cousin lives there …”) it’s no big deal, right? It’s a conversation starter, it’s interesting, it’s all kinds of things that are perfectly innocuous.
BUT to an African it may mean something different.
I’m not for a second saying that it’s racist to ask an African where they are from. What I’m saying is that what, to you, is a perfectly innocent question, to someone else may have a different meaning. Just like what, to you, may be a funny cartoon, to someone else may be cringe-worthy and possibly hateful. Being anti-racist is being aware of this, and understanding that your interpretation of events, your experience, will probably be different than other people’s (based on things like your race), and acknowledging that their experience is valid too.