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How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

How to Be an Antiracist (edition 2019)

by Ibram X. Kendi (Author)

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281762,997 (3.81)7
""The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it -- and then dismantle it." 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 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." --… (more)
Title:How to Be an Antiracist
Authors:Ibram X. Kendi (Author)
Info:One World (2019), Edition: First Edition, 320 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:Sociology: African-American Studies

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How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi



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A sort of followup to Stamped From the Beginning and a modern black secular version of Augustine's Confessions wrapped into one.

The author interweaves his own story of coming to an understanding of "antiracism" in contrast to the racist views he was raised and acculturated to believe. Each chapter provides insights into the author's life and experiences and how he has come to perceive a lot of racist baggage in his life and explains his pursuit of antiracism.

Many of the premises of Stamped From the Beginning are further explained and the means by which the author came to them made known: the failure of uplift suasion; the development first of racist policies in the name of self-interest and then the racist ideology afterward to justify them; the racist-antiracist contrast.

The author is willing to challenge prevailing orthodoxy on a number of fronts: a denial that only white people can be racist, discomfort with speaking of microaggressions, implicit bias, and systematic racism, etc. He does not challenge them the way that they tend to be challenged by conservatives; he challenges them because he sees them as insufficient for their purposes. A powerful aspect of the book is the demonstration and recognition that black people can be racist against other black people, that colorism is a thing in many cultures around the world, and that black people can have power and use it for either racist or antiracist ends. He would rather go after racist policies than systematic racism.

The author has come under much criticism because of his "totalitarian" perspective, the binaries throughout the work: racist or antiracist, a willingness to wield the coercive power of the state to resolve inequalities, etc. His perspective is fairly totalitarian, but those who would critique him would do well to first sit in how totalitarian the white supremacist regime proved, particularly against black people, from the 1500s until living memory. One might think of such a perspective as a failure of liberal political principles, but most who would think of it as such have not lived under regimes in which they bear the brunt of the failures of liberal political principles.

Having said that, there is some merit of concern about the clarity of the perspective. The antiracist ideal has much to commend it, but it remains exactly that - an ideal - and the history of the world is littered with the refuse of oppression and ugliness whenever idealists attempt to force the world to fit its ideals. The binaries which Kendi declares are compelling, and all do well to meditate upon them before they might think of the difficulties and challenges which would come about in imposing many of them.

Furthermore, while the honest portrayal of the author is compelling with all of the things he has had to learn, even to this day, it leads to the question: in what ways may the author still have things to learn? We all have things to learn, of course; if we wait to write until we have everything figured out, we would never write at all. The last chapter explains the pressure under which the author found himself: a dire case of cancer, and the strong possibility that he would not have lived much longer. Thanks be to God that he is doing better; but with so much learned in such a short period of time, perhaps the work and premises of antiracism ought also be seen as still in process?

Antiracism is hard to argue with, but it is being explained in a totalizing way. Yes, an intersectional perspective is helpful, but if antiracism is everything, it is really nothing. Yes, white supremacy is America's "original sin," and colonialism and all that it led to still the haunting legacy of the spread of "Western civilization"; but are there not other factors, other motivations, and other aspects to explore?

And what of that liberal political and philosophical order? Its failure is manifest, but the power of its ideal has motivated a lot of change, and the author's entire enterprise of discovery and understanding is seeped in it and founded upon it. Yes, there needs to be a good dose of humility injected into Western civilization. Yes, there is much to appreciate about other cultures, and no one culture is intrinsically superior or inferior to any other. But what do we make of the culture in which we live, and how do we find redemption for it?

The premise of antiracist views of people, that no one "represents" a race, that each person represents him or herself, and that each should be treated as having equal value, and historical inequalities should be reckoned with, has much to commend it. But it does leave an unresolved tension - race is a social construct, we should not judge based on race, but what do you do when an entire culture is based on a racial identity? What do you do with it?

Kendi is a great and powerful social commentator. I look forward to see how these ideas continue to develop, mature, and advance. I wish the detractors would look past the things that stoke their fears to really see the narrative and the perspective, and perhaps show the grace of looking at the whole paradigm from his perspective, and not just their own.

This is certainly worth grappling with. ( )
  deusvitae | Nov 28, 2019 |
Well-written combination of autobiography and reflection on American society by the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy at American University, a National Book Award winner. Insightful, provocative, and deeply insightful.
  FriendshipFLibrary | Nov 19, 2019 |
Kendi’s biggest divergence from other things I’m reading is his insistence that black people can be racist, because racism is a mode of thought and not just an exercise of power. (His argument that people like Clarence Thomas can be anti-black racists does not entail this, but he also argues that anti-white beliefs wrongly blame races rather than people for bad behavior.) He argues for political change first, attitude change to follow maybe. ( )
1 vote rivkat | Oct 11, 2019 |
The title already intrigued me and after seeing the author it seemed like it would be worth reading. Author Kendi is already known for his 'Stamped From the Beginning' so it seemed like this would be a good follow-up.

Kendi alternates between his memories of encountering racism, how to respond, how society has responded to both him and the perpetrators, etc. He also talks about the medical trials he and his family go through. In between we also get text about racism, what it means to be anti-racist (vs. not racist), the details, history and nuances of what it means to actual be ANTI racist vs. just not being one.

I wanted to like it. I read the introduction and had to stop myself from underlining the library book. It seemed like there was a lot for him to say and stuff that maybe would make me uncomfortable, some that would resonate, and some that would make me think. And there is a lot of that.

I honestly had very similar problems with 'Stamped.' There are some great passages, lines, excellent CONTENT. But...I don't think he's a very good writer or really needs a strong editor to help shape the work. Normally I'd be interested in how the author's personal history has shaped what I'm currently reading but I found his biographical sections really boring.

It's a pity because I know a lot of people like his work and he does have a lot of good things to say. It's just that his style perhaps doesn't work for me.

Recommend getting it from the library. ( )
  acciolibros | Sep 1, 2019 |
How to Be an Anti-Racist rethinks some of the orthodoxies of dismantling racism. It follows Kendi’s personal journey from the “respectability politics” of assimilation to the anti-racist understanding that there is nothing wrong with Black culture and the old respectability politics are rooted in racist ideas that evolve to justify racist policies.

Kendi focuses on policy-making which he thinks is the heart of racism. Policy is crafted in self-interest by those in power. Their self-interest is often served at the detriment of Black people. Racism is the tool used to justify and explain the politics of white self-interest. It’s obvious, but that is not how we usually think of it, we go to the idea of ignorance, but ignorance is not why redlining happened, Redlining was in self-interest and stereotypes and fear-mongering justified redlining.

I hesitate to talk too much about How to Be an Anti-Racist because his ideas build on each other as he develops a greater understanding of how racism works in his own life. That step-by-step progression is, I think, important to understand and synthesize his ideas. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I do want you and everyone to READ THIS BOOK!

Kendi makes the point that our old way of overcoming racism is not working, so we need to try something else. He makes a good case and I think this may be the most important book on racism I have read in a long time. He will have folks who object to his challenging the orthodoxy of Racism = Prejudice + Power. He points out that some Black people do have power and pretending otherwise does not hold them unaccountable. He suggests Black people can be racist and often are racist against other Black people, even supporting white supremacist policies that harm other Black people. Folks might not like that idea, but he makes a good argument. So READ THIS BOOK. I think you will be amazed.

I received an e-galley of How to Be an Anti-Racist from the publisher through NetGalley

How to Be an Anti-Racist from Penguin Random House
Ibram X. Kendi author site
The Antiracist Research and Policy Center

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2019/08/29/9780525509288/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Aug 29, 2019 |
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