Cover image for How to be an antiracist
Title:
How to be an antiracist
ISBN:
9780525509288
Edition:
1st ed.
Physical Description:
viii, 305 pages ; 22 cm.
Contents:
Definitions -- Dueling consciousness -- Power -- Biology -- Ethnicity -- Body -- Culture -- Behavior -- Color -- White -- Black -- Class -- Space -- Gender -- Sexuality -- Failure -- Success -- Survival.
Personal Subject:
Summary:
Ibram X. Kendi's concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America--but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it. In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.
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Summary

Summary

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * From the National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning comes a "groundbreaking" ( Time ) approach to understanding and uprooting racism and inequality in our society--and in ourselves.

"The most courageous book to date on the problem of race in the Western mind."-- The New York Times

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review * Time * NPR * The Washington Post * Shelf Awareness * Library Journal * Publishers Weekly * Kirkus Reviews

Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism--and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At it's core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist , Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas--from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilites--that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their posionous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.

Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.

Praise for How to Be an Antiracist

"Ibram X. Kendi's new book, How to Be an Antiracist , couldn't come at a better time. . . . Kendi has gifted us with a book that is not only an essential instruction manual but also a memoir of the author's own path from anti-black racism to anti-white racism and, finally, to antiracism. . . . How to Be an Antiracist gives us a clear and compelling way to approach, as Kendi puts it in his introduction, 'the basic struggle we're all in, the struggle to be fully human and to see that others are fully human.' " --NPR

"Kendi dissects why in a society where so few people consider themselves to be racist the divisions and inequalities of racism remain so prevalent. How to Be an Antiracist punctures the myths of a post-racial America, examining what racism really is--and what we should do about it." -- Time


Author Notes

Ibram Xolani Kendi was born in New York City in 1982. He received undergraduate degrees in journalism and African American studies from Florida A&M University in 2004. He worked as a journalist before receiving a doctoral degree in African American studies from Temple University in 2010. He is currently an assistant professor of African American history at the University of Florida.

He has published fourteen essays in books and academic journals including The Journal of African American History, Journal of Social History, Journal of Black Studies, Journal of African American Studies, and The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture. His first book, The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965-1972, was written under the pen name Ibram H. Rogers. His second book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2016.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Kendi follows his National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning with a boldly articulated, historically informed explanation of what exactly racist ideas and thinking are, and what their antiracist antithesis looks like both systemically and at the level of individual action. He weaves together cultural criticism, theory (starting each chapter with epigraph-like definitions of terms), stories from his own life and philosophical development (he describes his younger self as a "racist, sexist homophobe"), and episodes from history (including the 17th-century European debate about "polygenesis," the idea that different races of people were actually separate species with distinct origins). He delves into typical racist ideas (e.g. that biology and behavior differ between racial groups) and problems (such as colorism), as well as the intersections between race and gender, race and class, and race and sexuality. Kendi puts forth some distinctive arguments: he posits that "internalized racism is the true Black-on-Black crime," critiquing powerful black people who disparage other black people and racializing behaviors they disapprove of, and argues that black people can be racist in their views of white people (when they make negative generalizations about white people as a group, thereby espousing the racist idea that ethnicity determines behavior). His prose is thoughtful, sincere, and polished. This powerful book will spark many conversations. Agent: Ayesha Pande, Pande Literary. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

When we realize old words do not exactly and clearly convey what we are trying to describe, we should turn to new words, writes Kendi, winner of the National Book Award for Stamped from the Beginning (2016), in his memoir-with-history about confronting personal racism and embracing antiracism. Accordingly, to contextualize his experience as a Black youth, budding scholar, ethicist, and activist, he defines different kinds of racism (biological, behavioral) and describes antiracist policies and terms in light of racial strife today. While admirably fit for agitating discussion, some terms are confusing and feel labored, like Kendi's hyphenated identifiers: gender-racism, queer-racism, class-racism, space-racism. And his descriptions of his life in Queens, New York, Manassas, Virginia, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, seem structured to set himself up as proof of his sociological declaratives. (He decided to live in a poor neighborhood because he believed culture filtered upward, that Black elites, in all our materialism, individualism, and assimilationism, needed to go to the bottom' to be civilized. ) Kendi does successfully model self-examination and inspires readers to consider whether ignorance or self-interest drives racist policies into reality.--Sean Chambers Copyright 2019 Booklist


Guardian Review

A vital study offers a way out from the 'tangled disingenuousness of mainstream narratives around racism'. I once considered outing a manager at work as a racist. I hesitated from the discomfort of embarking on such action, an unwillingness to fall into the category of victim, and because of the potentially serious consequences for the manager to be so labelled. I also knew that it was near impossible to prove; the racism was covert, though obvious to me. But in the end, I pulled back for a more prosaic reason: I realised that the boss to whom I'd have to report my assessment was more obviously racist than the offending manager. It's a mark of the transformative and unsettling power of Ibram X Kendi's writing that I relaxed into How to Be an Antiracist with the comforting and self-righteous knowledge that the title was not addressing me. After all I am black; I couldn't possibly be racist, could I? By the book's end, I wasn't so sure. Donald Trump has made the assertion repeatedly that he is the "least racist person in the world". But Kendi, the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University in Washington, DC, argues that a minimum requirement for claiming antiracist bona fides is not to deny that which is palpably true. He highlights how Trump and his enablers have often countered criticism with "the white-supremacist idea that calling something racist is the primary form of racism". How to Be an Antiracist offers a way out from the tangled disingenuousness of mainstream narratives around racism. Whether you're an institution such as the BBC, fumbling editorially in determinedly refusing to describe Trump as a racist, or an individual in moral paralysis, dumbfounded by the febrile emotions now at large in a resurgence of racist attitudes, you are not alone; hope is on its way. At its simplest, the book argues that to be an antiracist is to take an active and persistent stance against racism. In Kendi's conception, words and phrases that obscure the offence - unconscious bias, microaggressions and others - should make way for clearer-eyed definitions. Rather than institutionalised racism, which always takes some unpacking from the abstract, let's call out the active ingredient: racist policy. Kendi believes that "we become unconscious to racist policymakers and policies as we lash out angrily at the abstract bogeyman of the 'system'". But it's not just white people whose prejudicial thoughts and actions have been affected by racism. Kendi places himself front and centre of the argument, exploring how black people, too, have been seduced by racist ideology, owning up to his misguided adoption as a youth of the "virtuous/reprehensible black man" dichotomy, in which he distanced himself from those African Americans considered to be unworthy and guilty of letting down the race. The teenage Kendi avoids stepping on the "kicks" (trainers) of other black boys "like they were landmines". Fed on noxious mainstream media tropes and propaganda about "ghetto blacks" and the "growing army of super-predators", he describes being "stalked inside my head by racist ideas". Poor racist whites have also been "played" by the establishment, buoyed, writes Kendi, by the notion that "I may not be rich, but at least I am not black". In the 1960s, US president Lyndon B Johnson expanded on that pitiable belief: "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best coloured man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you." Writing calmly but insightfully in a series of brisk chapters, Kendi teases out the evolution of racism - from its historical underpinning and providing cover for the "civilising mission" of slavery and colonisation, through to the present, so-called "academic achievement gap" between black and white students, and the allegedly neutral standardised tests that serve as "the linchpin of a racist idea of behavioural racism". Ultimately, racism is not the product of hatred and ignorance but, rather, the design of "racist power [to exploit] out of raw self-interest", Kendi asserts. He cites cynical voter registration suppression techniques as a clear example in the 2000 presidential election of George W Bush, which was determined by the disqualification of thousands of votes from black people in Florida. In the course of How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi moves from his rigid framework and selective perception of the inequalities endured by black people as primarily explained through the prism of race; he's increasingly inclined towards the view held by Martin Luther King Jr - espoused in his Poor People's Campaign - of the intersection of racism with capitalism. Further, to be an antiracist is to challenge spurious (if perhaps well-intentioned) notions such as the "culture of poverty", which allegedly traps impoverished black people in dependency - in opposition to, and ignorant of, the "culture of work". "We can't let these conversations devolve into the impotent simplicity of who is or isn't a racist," said the African American senator Cory Booker in the aftermath of the mass shootings in the US cities of Dayton and El Paso. Booker spoke movingly of this "moral moment" at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, where four years ago a white supremacist shot and killed several of the congregation. Echoing Kendi's call to action, he argued: "If the answer to the question 'Do racism and white supremacy exist?' is yes, then the real question isn't who is or isn't a racist, but who is and isn't doing something about it?" This vital book asks those same age-old questions: When does silence become complicity? Why do we fear taking action more than the devastating consequences of inaction? Kendi's writing is a search for a language to enable the antiracist that resides in all of us. Towards the end, the 37-year-old scholar draws on the analogy of fighting the colon cancer that has threatened his own young life. How to Be an Antiracist encourages self-reflection on the compelling truth: "Racism has always been terminal and curable."


Kirkus Review

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award-winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.In fact, the word "woke" appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi's towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that "racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas," the author posits a seemingly simple binary: "Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas." The author, founding director of American University's Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. "Internalized racism," he writes, "is the real Black on Black Crime." Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi's life that exemplifies ite.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting "to be Black butnotto look Black"and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: "Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today." If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he's just as hard on himself. When he began college, "anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts." This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.Not an easy read but an essential one. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

In this sharp blend of social commentary and memoir, Kendi (founder, Antiracist Research & Policy Ctr., American Univ.) expands on ideas introduced in his award-winning book, Stamped from the Beginning. Here, the author argues that segregationists believe that other races are intrinsically inferior while assimilationists believe that a poor environment has made people of different races weaker and in need of uplift. Antiracism, or the concept that all races are equal and that only racist policies keep people of color oppressed, is what we must strive for, but that's easier said than done. As a black child, Kendi watched with rage as his white teachers favored white students. At 17, he delivered a speech that bemoaned black culture, and as a college student, he took solace in the antiwhite teachings of the Nation of Islam. Finally, as a professor with an antiracist mind-set, Kendi is ready to spread his message, his stories serving as a springboard for potent explorations of race, gender, colorism, and more. VERDICT With Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi proved himself a first-rate historian. Here, his willingness to turn the lens on himself marks him as a courageous activist, leading the way to a more equitable society. [See Prepub Alert, 2/4/19.]--Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal & Library Journal


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter 1 Definitions Racist: One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea. Antiracist: One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea. Soul Liberation swayed onstage at the University of Illinois arena, rocking colorful dashikis and Afros that shot up like balled fists--an amazing sight to behold for the eleven thousand college students in the audience. Soul Liberation appeared nothing like the White ensembles in suits who'd been sounding hymns for nearly two days after Jesus's birthday in 1970. Black students had succeeded in pushing the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the U.S. evangelical movement's premier college organizer, to devote the second night of the conference to Black theology. More than five hundred Black attendees from across the country were on hand as Soul Liberation began to perform. Two of those Black students were my parents. They were not sitting together. Days earlier, they had ridden on the same bus for twenty-four hours that felt like forty-two, from Manhattan through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, before arriving in central Illinois. One hundred Black New Yorkers converged on InterVarsity's Urbana '70. My mother and father had met during the Thanksgiving break weeks earlier when Larry, an accounting student at Manhattan's Baruch College, co-organized a recruiting event for Urbana '70 at his church in Jamaica, Queens. Carol was one of the thirty people who showed up--she had come home to Queens from Nyack College, a small Christian school about forty-five miles north of her parents' home in Far Rockaway. The first meeting was uneventful, but Carol noticed Larry, an overly serious student with a towering Afro, his face hidden behind a forest of facial hair, and Larry noticed Carol, a petite nineteen-year-old with dark freckles sprayed over her caramel complexion, even if all they did was exchange small talk. They'd independently decided to go to Urbana '70 when they heard that Tom Skinner would be preaching and Soul Liberation would be performing. At twenty-eight years old, Skinner was growing famous as a young evangelist of Black liberation theology. A former gang member and son of a Baptist preacher, he reached thousands via his weekly radio show and tours, where he delivered sermons at packed iconic venues like the Apollo Theater in his native Harlem. In 1970, Skinner published his third and fourth books, How Black Is the Gospel? and Words of Revolution. Carol and Larry devoured both books like a James Brown tune, like a Muhammad Ali fight. Carol had discovered Skinner through his younger brother, Johnnie, who was enrolled with her at Nyack. Larry's connection was more ideological. In the spring of 1970, he had enrolled in "The Black Aesthetic," a class taught by legendary Baruch College literary scholar Addison Gayle Jr. For the first time, Larry read James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, Richard Wright's Native Son, Amiri Baraka's wrenching plays, and the banned revolutionary manifesto The Spook Who Sat by the Door by Sam Greenlee. It was an awakening. After Gayle's class, Larry started searching for a way to reconcile his faith with his newfound Black consciousness. That search led him to Tom Skinner. Soul Liberation launched into their popular anthem, "Power to the People." The bodies of the Black students who had surged to the front of the arena started moving almost in unison with the sounds of booming drums and heavy bass that, along with the syncopated claps, generated the rhythm and blues of a rural Southern revival. The wave of rhythm then rushed through the thousands of White bodies in the arena. Before long, they, too, were on their feet, swaying and singing along to the soulful sounds of Black power. Every chord from Soul Liberation seemed to build up anticipation for the keynote speaker to come. When the music ended, it was time: Tom Skinner, dark-suited with a red tie, stepped behind the podium, his voice serious as he began his history lesson. "The evangelical church . . . ​supported the status quo. It supported slavery; it supported segregation; it preached against any attempt of the Black man to stand on his own two feet." Skinner shared how he came to worship an elite White Jesus Christ, who cleaned people up through "rules and regulations," a savior who prefigured Richard Nixon's vision of law and order. But one day, Skinner realized that he'd gotten Jesus wrong. Jesus wasn't in the Rotary Club and he wasn't a policeman. Jesus was a "radical revolutionary, with hair on his chest and dirt under his fingernails." Skinner's new idea of Jesus was born of and committed to a new reading of the gospel. "Any gospel that does not . . . ​speak to the issue of enslavement" and "injustice" and "inequality--any gospel that does not want to go where people are hungry and poverty-stricken and set them free in the name of Jesus Christ--is not the gospel." Back in the days of Jesus, "there was a system working just like today," Skinner declared. But "Jesus was dangerous. He was dangerous because he was changing the system." The Romans locked up this "revolutionary" and "nailed him to a cross" and killed and buried him. But three days later, Jesus Christ "got up out of the grave" to bear witness to us today. "Proclaim liberation to the captives, preach sight to the blind" and "go into the world and tell men who are bound mentally, spiritually, and physically, 'The liberator has come!' " The last line pulsated through the crowd. "The liberator has come!" Students practically leapt out of their seats in an ovation--taking on the mantle of this fresh gospel. The liberators had come. My parents were profoundly receptive to Skinner's call for evangelical liberators and attended a series of Black caucuses over the week of the conference that reinforced his call every night. At Urbana '70, Ma and Dad found themselves leaving the civilizing and conserving and racist church they realized they'd been part of. They were saved into Black liberation theology and joined the churchless church of the Black Power movement. Born in the days of Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, Stokely Carmichael, and other antiracists who confronted segregationists and assimilationists in the 1950s and 1960s, the movement for Black solidarity, Black cultural pride, and Black economic and political self-determination had enraptured the entire Black world. And now, in 1970, Black power had enraptured my parents. They stopped thinking about saving Black people and started thinking about liberating Black people. In the spring of 1971, Ma returned to Nyack College and helped form a Black student union, an organization that challenged racist theology, the Confederate flags on dorm-room doors, and the paucity of Black students and programming. She started wearing African-print dresses and wrapped her growing Afro in African-print ties. She dreamed of traveling to the motherland as a missionary. Dad returned to his church and quit its famed youth choir. He began organizing programs that asked provocative questions: "Is Christianity the White man's religion?" "Is the Black church relevant to the Black community?" He began reading the work of James Cone, the scholarly father of Black liberation theology and author of the influential Black Theology & Black Power in 1969. One day in the spring of 1971, Dad struck up the nerve to go up to Harlem and attend Cone's class at Union Theological Seminary. Cone lectured on his new book, A Black Theology of Liberation. After class, Dad approached the professor. "What is your definition of a Christian?" Dad asked in his deeply earnest way. Cone looked at Dad with equal seriousness and responded: "A Christian is one who is striving for liberation." James Cone's working definition of a Christian described a Christianity of the enslaved, not the Christianity of the slaveholders. Receiving this definition was a revelatory moment in Dad's life. Ma had her own similar revelation in her Black student union--that Christianity was about struggle and liberation. My parents now had, separately, arrived at a creed with which to shape their lives, to be the type of Christians that Jesus the revolutionary inspired them to be. This new definition of a word that they'd already chosen as their core identity naturally transformed them. Excerpted from How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.