Who among us isn’t a racist? Not one person. By his own admission Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, is a racist. He engagingly weaves history and his personal story, noting that his parents raised him as a “racist, sexist, homophobe.”
Many of us say we are not racist. Kendi suggests that ideas, actions and policies are either racist or antiracist. He sees change coming when policies change, “In the way people have learned to see racial abuse coming out of the mouths of individual racists, people can learn to see racial inequities emerging from racist policies.” An example he cites is 500 Black babies dying each year in Birmingham; the result of policies that lead to a lack of proper food, shelter and medical facilities.
He traces the conjoined twins of capitalism and racism back to the transatlantic slave trade of African people that started around 1450. In this century, Kendi points to the persisting racial inequities in poverty, unemployment and wealth as a result of the conjoined twins. The economic disparities between White, Black and Latinx households will only get worse if racist housing policies, tax policies benefiting the rich, and mass incarcerations continue, he says. That legacy from 500 years ago lives on.
He suggests: “Antiracist policies cannot eliminate class racism without anti-capitalist policies. Anti-capitalism cannot eliminate class racism without antiracism.” That feels like a daunting statement. Yet, Kendi explains at length why this is true and challenges the reader to explore and confront beliefs that restrain us from seeing the value in each person and striving to change our preconceptions.
This is a content-rich book. It’s packed with history, personal experiences, philosophy and insights. All help us to appreciate different perspectives and challenge our own point of view. And, it’s a book that needs more than one reading. There’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot to absorb. It will change the way you think and live.
Kendi doesn’t provide easy answers. This isn’t your usual “how to” book. It’s designed to give you pause, to cause you to reflect, to challenge some of your ingrained beliefs, and to take action to change policies. To become an antiracist. It won’t be easy, yet it’s a journey we need to start.
Find more about Ibram X. Kendi and the Antiracist Policy & Research Center: www.ibramxkendi.com/