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Stamped from the beginning : the definitive…

Stamped from the beginning : the definitive history of racist ideas in… (original 2016; edition 2016)

by Ibram X. Kendi

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Title:Stamped from the beginning : the definitive history of racist ideas in America
Authors:Ibram X. Kendi
Info:New York : Nation Books, [2016]
Collections:Your library

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Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (2016)



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Really good, cogent overview that gives clear throughlines and a great framework for understanding American racism and analyzing ideas we come across today. Learned a lot, and got an overall view that connects other more specific things I've read. The author does an excellent job of keeping on the intersections, too, calling out 'gender-racism', 'class-racism' and more: he's exacting in considering the justice of anti-racists and their blind spots as well as criticizing assimilationists and segregationists.

Audiobook note: The reading was okay, but occasionally emphasis patterns contradicted the actual meaning of the sentence or a similar word was substituted in for what must have been meant -- I think it wasn't prepared much before being recorded. It's a decent way to absorb the information (although I had to back up to catch statistics, of course) but I wouldn't recommend it over reading the text. ( )
  eilonwy_anne | Mar 9, 2019 |
So this book was really incredible and I would absolutely use it in excerpt for undergrads. It's so good on so many fronts at tracing the intellectual history of racism and I really strongly recommend it. That being said, it has some issues; at one point Kendi starts talking about Black "LGBTs" and I was like "where is this coming from and why did no one catch this in editing?" I think also isolating anti-Black racism in the colonial era from anti-Native racism really limits some of the analysis he's able to do early on, because they're deeply connected. But I still think this is by far the best, most concise and most accessible book on the topic and I strongly recommend it. ( )
  aijmiller | Oct 3, 2018 |
Would you consider taking all of the millions of America's black people and exiling them to Africa a racist idea? Would your answer change if you knew half of the faces on Mount Rushmore belong to national leaders who where strong advocates of doing just that? This book is subtitled, "The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America". The author first intended to write a book about the history of the origins of Black Studies in American higher education, a book certain to be a best seller with lots of box office revenue from the subsequent movie, no doubt. Oh, well, let's just make things easier by merely defining the expanse of racial thought in America. The reader might actually start out thinking this will be kept short and sweet by the author (1) distinguishing between racist, antiracist, and the unsung assimilationists, and (2) dividing the book into five sections. I was going to say five sections concentrating on five individual Americans, but they don't "concentrate" on them. Cotton Mather (1663-1728), Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963), and Angela Davis (1943-present), may be known, if not well known, to many present day Americans, but, as such, the author does not make each section into mini-biographies of the five people. The discussion of each is less as personal histories or as a focal point in time, and more as a reference point to the dominant or maybe just one of many key thoughts during America's history. In each section, other well known and many more barely known individuals get discussed. If there is anything the author is, it is very, very thorough. For instance, you may have known that Voltaire, John Locke, and Ben Franklin, all contributed to racist thought in their time, but I did not. Since many Americans at any given time, struggle to name their nation's current Vice President, I'm guessing most folks are with me on being caught unaware. Indeed, the author may overwhelm some readers with the depth of his scholarship. And the variations on racial thought never stop coming forward. But no worries. Think of the instant replay in sports. Was the runner easily safe stealing the base despite the umpire's call? Was the touchdown catch bobbled just as the receiver crossed into the end zone? The author pulls out the camera recordings from every conceivable angle and lays out the ultimate answers. Absolutely no stone is left undisturbed. Will this book compete with "The Help" as a popular book on racial thought? No, and that's a huge shame, because I challenge any potential reader to not unearth some new view, or many views, on the subject that will haunt them for a lifetime, or at least until it's been fully absorbed into their psyche. ( )
  larryerick | Sep 26, 2018 |
Wow, so many thoughts about this important and impressively researched book. I don't read history books very often, much less ones this long, so it was a challenge to finish, but I'm so glad I did. Considering the huge scope of the project, and the number of texts Kendi references, the book is very readable and accessible to the layperson.

The book is very well organized, and the author's aim is true from when he sets out his initial arguments in the introduction to his conclusion in the epilogue. He knows that the book is unlikely to be read by actively racist people, or by people who believe we live in a postracial world, so he sets his target on well-meaning people (like myself) who have unwittingly been fed the subtle racist myths and traps of assimilationist thought that are hard to avoid for a person living in America. Kendi immediately connects himself to the reader by acknowledging that there are myths that even he was susceptible to before diving into his research--he makes it clear that anyone who is open to it is capable of true antiracist thinking.

Another major strength of the book: the framing of racist history around five key figures: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, WEB Du Bois, and Angela Davis. The five sections aren't necessarily all about these figures, but their influential ideas are hovering around the edges of everything happening during their lifetimes. I think the biggest virtue of this structure was Kendi's ability to show how each person's approach and thinking evolved over time. I thought the Du Bois section was most interesting, as it showed how in his younger days, Du Bois believed in the fallacy of "uplift suasion" (a great term coined by Kendi to describe the false idea that racism can be fixed if white people see black people become successful or highly educated), but that after decades of seeing this tactic fail, Du Bois's thinking turned toward true antiracist thought that put the blame of racism on discriminatory policies instead of black people's behavior.

Garrison was another interesting case, as he was a key member of the abolitionist movement, but also propagated many assimilationist fallacies throughout his time. Kendi makes a point of showing that many people who fought against slavery still fed into the growth of racist ideas (like the notion that enslaved people were simple, soulful beings who needed the guidance and protection of so-called superior whites). Nobody is portrayed as an infallible hero (though Angela Davis certainly comes the closest of the five main figures).

I was expecting to be in a state of constant anger and depression while reading this, and I put off reading the book for quite a while because I thought it would just be 500 pages of reminders about how shitty and terrible our world is. I was surprised that this wasn't the case. That's not to say that the book isn't full of horrific details about America's history of racism--it definitely is--but Kendi focuses a lot of space on showing antiracist activists who are often ignored by mainstream history and demonstrating humankind's ability to change. It is frustrating to see that racism is still so present despite the efforts of centuries of antiracist effort, yet Kendi's goal is not to shock or depress the reader, but teach them to recognize the myths that have been ingrained into our culture and how they came to be.

I am completely convinced of his main argument: that racist policies, created out of self-interest, are the seed that justifies the growth of racist ideas, and that to combat them, people of all races need to work in their own self-interest to create antiracist policies, starting in their own communities.
  thishannah | Jul 17, 2018 |
My only regret with this book is that I had to read it so fast because a queue of people are waiting to read it at the library and I cannot renew. But that's a good thing because the more widely this is read the better - and I shall revisit the book when I can. I feel Ibram Kendi has given me the beginnings of a feel for the history of the USA and the impact of that on the day-to-day news I read. I shall now re-read the epilogue and return the book. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | May 27, 2018 |
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"A comprehensive history of anti-black racism focuses on the lives of five major players in American history, including Cotton Mather and Thomas Jefferson, and highlights the debates that took place between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists"-- "Americans like to insist that we are living in a postracial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, racist ideas in this country have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit. In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois to legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro-civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America. As Kendi provocatively illustrates, racist thinking did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Racist ideas were created and popularized in an effort to defend deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and to rationalize the nation's racial inequities in everything from wealth to health. While racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much-needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose them--and in the process, gives us reason to hope."--Publisher's description.… (more)

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