How to Be an Antiracist
June 30, 2020 11:34 AM - by Kendi, Ibram X. - Subscribe

Ibram X. Kendi writes part a distillation of the thesis from his 2016 Stamped from the Beginning previously and part personal memoir of his own journey through racist ideas to an antiracist perspective.

It's a fairly quick read, and Kendi does not hesitate to use his earlier perspectives as a way to underline his points, making the book almost confessional at times. There is plenty of theory mixed in with the autobiography, and every reader should find tools for their own use. While the book is focused specifically on American anti-black racism, many of the concepts should transfer to other forms of racism in non-US settings.
posted by GenjiandProust (9 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
By the way, he reads the audiobook, and it is a very nice reading. He has a pleasant voice, and he reads with great assurance.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:38 AM on June 30, 2020

Was just going to say that exact thing about the audiobook!
posted by iamkimiam at 12:00 AM on July 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I just finished it. It's not as scholarly as his awesome Stamped from the Beginning, but it is very personal, interweaving his own story with the analysis of anti-racist thinking. As with Stamped, I was bowled over by his sheer intelligence and the sharpness of his insights.
posted by bearwife at 1:07 PM on July 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I haven't read Stamped from the Beginning yet, and I think this idea is covered in more detail there, but I was struck very much by the argument that policies create the ideas to justify them. It's so sensical and clear, but a lot of intellectual history I've read frames the problem in the exact opposite way, that ideas create action. It cuts through all the endless handwringing loops that I find myself in, both on racism and other political topics.

I marveled throughout the book at how well the memoir stories wove into the academic pieces. There were several places that made me pause at how naturally it was done, which of course means it was probably a really hard task. Kendi's acknowledgments at the end proved this true; it must have been incredibly difficult to create a narrative of your life that fits the arc of your academic book. I really, really hope every academic reads this book and takes its argument to heart, and I also hope students study the way it was written as well.
posted by lilac girl at 9:00 PM on July 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah, and I wonder if that concept applies to other oppressions (like sexism or homophobia) as well. On first thought it seems applicable to analyzing antisemitism.

I was surprised by a number of his conclusions, like his rejection of the construction "Black people can't be racist because they lack power." I have always heard that as "Black people can't be racist towards white people because they lack systemic power." It's obviously easy for powerful Black people to be racist towards and to harm less powerful Black people, for example Justice Thomas concurring with a racist decision, but I am not sure Thomas could harm Justice Roberts effectively. Also, I was surprised at his rejection of microaggressions, which seem a useful concept. I feel like I need to go back and reread these sections to see what I missed.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:18 AM on July 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

(I haven't read the book yet - it's on my list - but to your point, GenijandProust, some anthropologists who work on racism I respect a lot have been very skeptical of the book in general and that particular claim on twitter.)
posted by ChuraChura at 11:07 AM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thanks for that ChuraChura. My immediate response to that thread is that it’s a little hard on Kendi, Especially in its accusations of him being misogynist and homophobic. I feel he showed a lot of respect for the queer women he describes in the memoir, and addresses his recognition of his own homophobia and how he’s attempted to move away from that. One can reasonably say “not enough,“ but a blanket condemnation isn’t fair. One of the responses in the thread pointed out that this should not be the only book you read about anti-racism, and I think that’s incredibly important.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:48 AM on July 3, 2020

Kendi's personal story is frank about his past attitudes toward women and LGBT people, as well as his own past racism. That he picks apart the flaws in his own thinking is very powerful. It reminds me of Michelle Alexander's similarly powerful prelude to The New Jim Crow, about how she came to realize the flaws in her own thinking about the war on drugs. Very few of us are so pure that we don't have a lot of attitudes and beliefs we regret. Coming to realize our own error is -- very anti racist.
posted by bearwife at 12:33 AM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

He says what other people call microaggressions, he calls racist abuse, because calling it microaggressions serves to minimize, and because it's a way to avoid using the word racism for racist behavior.

Also I haven't finished the book, but I think all his stuff about Black people can't be racist was about Black people with power being racist to other Black people, not Black people being racist to White people.

The book has a great index, incidentally.
posted by gryftir at 5:07 AM on July 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

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