‘Not Racism’™

What is ‘not racism’? This short comic by Petroglyph Studios and Alana Lentin explains how this new form of discursive racist violence can operate.

2 min read

Readers who tuned in to our Philosemitism and Antisemitism event in December may remember Alana Lentin discussing her conception of ‘Not Racism’. Building on that discussion, we’re really excited to present this short comic that visualises and unfolds the concept further. The comic has been illustrated by nicole marie burton of Petroglyph Studios, and is published here alongside an introduction from Alana which reminds us of precisely what’s at stake in these conversations. We hope you enjoy it!


‘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!

Alana Lentin


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 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.


nicole marie burton (@nicoleMcomix)

nicole is an activist and illustrator based in Ontario. Much of her work takes the form of graphic novel collaborations with scholars. These projects, produced in collaboration with researchers, use the medium of comics to make complex academic ideas simple and accessible for broad public audiences. Find out more at nicolemariecomix.wordpress.com.

Alana Lentin (@alanalentin)

Alana Lentin is Associate Professor in Cultural and Social Analysis at Western Sydney University.