How to Be an Antiracist

by Ibram X. Kendi

Hardcover, 2019

Call number

305.800973 KEN

Collection

Publication

One World (2019), Edition: First Edition, 320 pages

Description

""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)

User reviews

LibraryThing member lisapeet
This is a smart and necessary book, and though I knew a lot of the basic premises around the antiracism and areas of intersectionality Kendi examines, I found it really useful to have those thoughts laid out point by point in organized fashion. He scaffolds each area with his own autobiography,
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outlining how he has grappled with his own racism, and is very, very careful with his words so there isn't any confusion as to what he's saying. While it slows down the progression some, I think that's ultimately for the better. There's a certain cadence to his writing that recalls a preacher's intonation, which—again—slows it down, but also serves its purpose. For me, it's a good set of definitions to have under my belt for the purposes of checking myself and weighing my words, as well as being an effective template to look at these times. Kendi's a good historian, which adds both substance and value to the book, and I'm glad I read it.
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LibraryThing member evano
I've always thought I was not a racist. Having been the target of anti-semitism as a child, I thought I understood that I would never want to make anyone feel the way I felt -- to be hated and hurt for a label someone applied to you that had nothing to do with anything you had done. But looking
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through the lens of this book, it's clear that there's no difference between racist and not-racist.

Racism is the default mindset of this country. It permeates everything we breathe, eat, think, do, and say. It is like an odor that is at first nauseating, but after time, we become inured to it and cease noticing it. We built it into our laws, our customs, our religions, and our public and private spaces. Being racist, we are oblivious to the stink.

Being not-racist means only that you might occasionally remember that there is a stink that offended your senses. It makes no difference whether you think you're breathing the fresh air of racist truth or you wear a paper mask to fool yourself that the stink isn't in you. Kendi says that if you are not working, acting, doing anything you can to remove the stench permanently, then you are a racist.

And now, after witnessing Kendi's long and arduous journey to understanding for himself what an antiracist is, the title reveals itself to be a question directed at every one of us, individually and collectively. It isn't the instruction manual the title suggests, but, having read it, you can't stop smelling that horrific odor anymore.

You can put the book down, and eventually become oblivious to the stench once again. Or you can act. You can find something to do that will help remove the smell -- not just perfume it or hide it. That action -- and the one after that, and the one after that -- is how to be an Antiracist.
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LibraryThing member chrisblocker
I've a longstanding interest in Malcolm X. There were many aspects of his character that fascinate me. One is the transformation he made in the final year of his life—his second awakening, the birth of el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. In these days, el-Shabazz embraced the idea that there were other
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factors that went into making one “a devil,” not merely one's ethnicity. His overnight change of heart opened up considerable possibilities, a movement with a more unified front. I always wondered where el-Shabazz would've taken us had he been given the chance. I imagine he'd have taught us a few things, even if most of us would've been unwilling to listen.

It may be presumptuous of me to make such a comparison, but I see a lot of el-Shabazz in Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi is a brilliant, open-minded scholar who, unlike many of his contemporaries, fesses up to a history of hatred. Too many well-intentioned people deny ever having (or being capable of) a racist thought; by acknowledging his own racist past, Kendi puts himself on equal footing with those he's trying to instruct in the ways of anti-racism. The approach makes all the difference. Guaranteed, some will read (or glance at) this book and see nothing but another black man who hates white people—these are the same people who knew this would be the case before even turning the cover. I imagine they're not the ones Kendi wrote this book for.

In his previous book, Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi tackled the history of racism from its relatively unknown beginning, presenting a thorough and scholarly exploration; in How to Be an Antiracist he breaks it down into a contemporary format, highlighting the complete spectrum of racial hatred, addressing the question of what it means to be truly anti-racist. By presenting his own personal story, Kendi puts his victimization and vulnerabilities in full view, a move that makes him infinitely more accessible to the reader. The result is a book that is incredibly inspiring.

How could a book about racism be inspiring? By being informative, hopeful, and prescriptive. By not hiding behind platitudes. By keeping the tone instructive, not reactive and not incensed. Kendi shows that he has a very strong grasp of the subject—and though readers may disagree with a point or two of his from time to time—no one is dissecting the issue quite as thoroughly, and certainly no one is presenting a means to dismantle the racist system one mind at a time, as Kendi strives to do here.

All the time, I read reviews where people say “everyone needs to read this.” We have our personal interests and biases—one man's treasured book is another's kindling. So take my recommendation for what it's worth: I believe that every open-minded individual, whether they blatantly embrace racist thought, hide behind “not racism,” or strive to be anti-racist, can benefit from reading How to Be an Antiracist. Maybe you won't be as touched by this book as I was. Maybe you won't underline nearly as many passages as I did (something I never do, by the way, emphasizing how much this book impacted me). But I do think most of us will get something worthwhile out of it.
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LibraryThing member lycomayflower
I expected this to be a good book and an important book, but I was a little surprised by just how much I *enjoyed* it as well. Kendi interweaves his discussion of racism and antiracism with narrative about his own life, and this technique works to great effect to illustrate the concepts he's
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discussing. He is also able in this way to show his own growth from racist to antiracist, which may help diffuse any defensiveness a reader might have about the subject matter. Enthusiastically recommended.
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LibraryThing member deusvitae
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member rivkat
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
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that anti-white beliefs wrongly blame races rather than people for bad behavior.) He argues for political change first, attitude change to follow maybe.
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LibraryThing member foof2you
This book is a must read for those wanting to know more about being an antiracist. It is well thought out and it also is a biography about how Kendi's views have change as he has grown up and through various events in his life.
LibraryThing member sanyamakadi
I don't fully agree with Kendi's premise--that racism is based solely in power and self-interest, and governed solely by policies--but I appreciate his mix of social theory and personal experience, as well as the well utilized statistics integrated throughout to illustrate his points. I recommend.
LibraryThing member bell7
Professor Ibram X. Kendi's main contention is that it's not enough to be "not racist," we must be actively antiracist. He takes us through ways in which people need to be active, not passive, towards racist policies while touching on various topics such as sexism, colorism, LGBTQ rights, and more
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as they intersect with racism and his own journey.

I was surprised to discover how autobiographical this book was, but it made for a fascinating read as Dr. Kendi explains how he came to his beliefs, and how he has changed over the years. There is a lot here, and while I tried to slow myself down and absorb, I will need to reread this at some point. I read the e-book, and found myself wishing for a paper copy to be able to flip back and forth to all the notes in the back. He sometimes has a unique, almost circuitous, delivery style that made it hard for me to follow when I wasn't familiar with the concept he was talking about, and I realized just how much I still have to learn.
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LibraryThing member jmoncton
Kendi presents an interesting and provocative definition of racism and the steps that we ALL have to take to combat racism. There's a lot that is covered in this book, including policies that we take for granted that allow racism to continue in our society. This book is deep and there is a ton of
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data, and a lot of really valuable ideas, but the writing style is dense and I found this hard to get through. I listened to it in audio which is narrated by the author, and that might have been part of the problem. It's completely understandable that the topic of racism would get anyone upset, but in audio, Kendi's passion results in an almost shrill performance. I finally switched to print because listening to this was too intense.

Still this book is important and a good and necessary conversation starter.
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LibraryThing member jscape2000
I expected too much from this book. I wanted Baldwin and Coates and Morrison. Instead, I got a plodding memoir that doubles as a textbook of recent anthropological/ sociological research. It was good, it was thorough, it was fine. It was more honest and self-critical than most memoirs I've read,
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and with enough righteousness that I believe the criticism is sincere and not just self-effacing.

But it wasn't compelling. If multiple friends hadn't told me that they loved it, that they couldn't put it down, I certainly would have set it aside. I kept waiting for the book to turn and kick into a higher gear. I wanted it to really put the pieces together and argue for a seismic change in our world and then to lay out a map to achieve that change. Instead, it offers a long, difficult, and perhaps unsuccessful struggle to be better. That's probably the more honest answer to the impossible question, but it wasn't what I wanted. I acknowledge that the problem is me.
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LibraryThing member MaowangVater
Kendi begins by defining an antiracist as “One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.” (page 13) He argues that policies and laws are the cause of this disease of the modern world. He points to Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal as the
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chief author of the myth that skin color and facial features could identify the intellectual capabilities and basic instincts of particular classes of humans, with Europeans as the smartest and more able. By doing so he justified the fortune he made in the African slave trade. It was what would come to be called Social Darwinism, centuries before Darwin and Wallace discovered evolution. As Kendi puts it:

"My research kept pointing me the same answer: The source of racist ideas was not ignorance and hate, but self-interest. The history of racist ideas is the history of powerful policy makers erecting racist policies out of self-interest then producing racist ideas to defend and rationalize the inequitable effects of their policies, while everyday people consume those racist ideas, which in turn sparks ignorance and hate.” (page 230)

It’s also a book of self-realization. Kendi examines the pervasiveness that this myth of race and other prejudices about gender, sexual orientation, and class affected his own view of the people and the world. Implicitly he encourages the reader to do his or her own self-examination, because we’ve all been, consciously or unconsciously, socially conditioned to see race, a distinction that has no basis in human biology, but makes a huge impact on our interactions with our fellow humans.

Comparing it to a cancer, he encourages social and political action to challenge racist ideas, and most importantly to take political action to persuade policy makers and lawmakers to change the policies and laws that support racism and other prejudices.

His note of hope at the conclusion is that although “Racism is one of the fastest-spreading and most fatal cancers humanity has ever known.” But, until its creation the fifteenth century humans lived several hundred thousand of years without it. “Race and racism are power constructs of the modern world. … Racism is not even six hundred years old. It’s a cancer that we’ve caught early.” (page 238) And with effort, perseverance and hope we can defeat it.
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LibraryThing member TallyChan5
From a Library Thing User Review: Kendi begins by defining an antiracist as “One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.” (page 13) He argues that policies and laws are the cause of this disease of the modern world. He points to Prince
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Henry the Navigator of Portugal as the chief author of the myth that skin color and facial features could identify the intellectual capabilities and basic instincts of particular classes of humans, with Europeans as the smartest and more able. By doing so he justified the fortune he made in the African slave trade. It was what would come to be called Social Darwinism, centuries before Darwin and Wallace discovered evolution. As Kendi puts it:

"My research kept pointing me the same answer: The source of racist ideas was not ignorance and hate, but self-interest. The history of racist ideas is the history of powerful policy makers erecting racist policies out of self-interest then producing racist ideas to defend and rationalize the inequitable effects of their policies, while everyday people consume those racist ideas, which in turn sparks ignorance and hate.” (page 230)

It’s also a book of self-realization. Kendi examines the pervasiveness that this myth of race and other prejudices about gender, sexual orientation, and class affected his own view of the people and the world. Implicitly he encourages the reader to do his or her own self-examination, because we’ve all been, consciously or unconsciously, socially conditioned to see race, a distinction that has no basis in human biology, but makes a huge impact on our interactions with our fellow humans.

Comparing it to a cancer, he encourages social and political action to challenge racist ideas, and most importantly to take political action to persuade policy makers and lawmakers to change the policies and laws that support racism and other prejudices.

His note of hope at the conclusion is that although “Racism is one of the fastest-spreading and most fatal cancers humanity has ever known.” But, until its creation the fifteenth century humans lived several hundred thousand of years without it. “Race and racism are power constructs of the modern world. … Racism is not even six hundred years old. It’s a cancer that we’ve caught early.” (page 238) And with effort, perseverance and hope we can defeat it
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LibraryThing member g33kgrrl
This is an excellent book that walks through Kendi's personal journey to anti-racism, and providing a blueprint - or a map - for others who seek to be anti-racist in their life. Kendi concludes that an anti-racist society will occur when we enact anti-racist policies, and I have to say I agree.
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Waiting for hearts and minds to change is less effective than changing policies, which show people that what they feared was not so scary. And even if they're still against it? Tough luck, because our policies are anti-racist. So advocating for actual policy change and concrete actions towards that are how to be an antiracist.

I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

I was very lucky to receive an electronic ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member caanderson
. One man’s journey to be an antiracist. It is a transformative concept of continuing the conversation regarding racism in America. The author talks about his own journey and how to dismantle racism. Fantastic book, worth the read.
LibraryThing member DrFuriosa
This is an engaging and informative book about becoming antiracist and looking at intersections of racism. I would be particularly interested to hear from black activist folx who read the chapter on "Failure," as it made me wonder how Kendi's argument would be received in a POC-only context. As a
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white person, I found myself nodding along, but then I realized, um, I'm white. How might this read out of my personal context?

I'm not sure that the memoir-to-analysis format always worked for me, though I did find the metaphor of cancer for racism really quite arresting.
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LibraryThing member nmele
Dr. Kendi combines his own life story with history, social science and diamond sharp logic to dissect racism and the other -isms with which it intersects. He defines racism and anti-racism and he illustrates his definitions through stories from his own history and from American history. I found the
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book challenged me to examine my own privilege, as other books have, but so multi-dimensionally that no single other book seems as comprehensive as his on the subjects of racism and anti-racism.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
This is a powerful and important book. Kendi argues that there is no such thing as "not racist" - he says a person is either an antiracist, or a racist. The neutral category of "not racist" doesn't exist, because anyone who claims to be "not racist" but doesn't actively support antiracist ideas and
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policies is, by their inaction, a racist. Antiracist ideas and policies seek to undo the harm that has been done by racism. Antiracism acknowledges that racism exists, and that it permeates all aspects of life and history in the United States, and that we need to actively work to undo the harm that racism has done.

The book's explanation of antiracism is interspersed with a memoir of Kendi's life and his personal process of understanding his own racism and embracing antiracism. Parts of the memoir are really heartbreaking: as a teenager, he believed the myth that black teenage boys are dangerous and violent, and it made him fear his own peers. He grew up hearing people say "Dr. King didn't die so that you could be lazy and get bad grades in school." The book also describes how racism pervades every aspect of American history, culture, and politics.

Despite this and despite writing the book while a white supremacist is in the White House, Kendi manages to remain optimistic. His vision of what antiracism is and how it can come about is enlightening. He draws important connections between racial prejudice and sexism, homophobia, and other kinds of prejudice and shows that an antiracist future also requires breaking down other forms of prejudice.

There is a lot to think about in this book. It is a very important book to read right now while our country descends into fascism. I hope that we can get closer to Kendi's vision in the future.
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LibraryThing member villemezbrown
A challenging but extremely worthwhile read. I struggled to keep up with all the ideas being offered but appreciate the mental workout as I continue to contemplate the reasoning and implications of Kendi's thoughts on racism.

I was bored at times by the academic tone Kendi occasionally fell into as
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he attempted to find a balance between his personal anecdotes, the deep historical context, and his critical analysis. I must say I was surprised that a book with a title that starts "how to be" was so backward looking. While it is necessary to understand how we got to where we are, I was disappointed that more time was not spent on action items or more specific ideas regarding the path forward.

Based on the command of history demonstrated here, I do look forward to trying Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America sometime in the near future.
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LibraryThing member ffortsa
I listened to this book and sometimes wished I had the text in front of me. Kendi is honest and sometimes scorching about his own journey from assumptions he calls racist to an understanding of actions and beliefs he deems anti-racist. Because he illustrated each component with his own life
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history, the 'education' of each chapter stings a little less.

I was especially interested in his appraisal of Brown v. Board of Education, which in his view was both racist and unhelpful. It determined that black children were entitled to attend well-funded schools but did not mandate that majority black schools be well-funded. Nor did it mandate that all schools have role models black students could relate to, or that black culture be attended to with dignity. That really opened my eyes. Even an attempt to 'do good' can be harmful.
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LibraryThing member jzacsh
Highly recommend this book. It's clearly written, has such human and relatable stories, and builds up a picture of a right against racism by focusing on a flight against racist policies and anti-racist replacements.
LibraryThing member streamsong
Definitions:
Racist: One who is supporting a racist policy through their action or inactions or expressing a racist idea.
Antiracist: One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea. “
( P1)

[[Ibram Kendi]] examines arguments about race including
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social and cultural constructs, gender, class, sex, degrees of color, black colleges and finally, survival.

He puts forth the argument that it is not enough to simply *not* vocalize racist sentiments.

If you are living within the current framework of American society, you are reaping its benefits. If you are not working to change policy that puts others at a disadvantage, you are a racist.

If you believe Bill Cosby’s sentiment that all blacks (and other minorities) can succeed if they work harder and behave themselves, you are racist.

It’s interesting and helpful that the author identifies his own evolution on these subjects and identifies that he himself held racist ideas in several areas.

It helped clarify ideas in other books I had read that I had not fully grasped.

There is an opportunity for thoughtful discussion with this book I plan to suggest this one for my book group in 2021.
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LibraryThing member StephenLibrary
""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
Show More
about ourselves and each other.
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LibraryThing member larryerick
Quite unique in my mind, this book immediately reminded me of three other books as I was reading it. The first is the author's monumental work, Stamped From the Beginning. In a way, I saw that earlier work as his educational class for the large college audience on the complete history of racism,
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while this book was his more intimate advanced symposium on what that first class all meant in terms of policy and approach to what the first class revealed. The second book that came to mind was Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me. The author in this book shifts back and forth between racial policies, philosophies, and such, and his life as a black person growing up and adjusting along the way to what was happening around him and what was changing as he did so. Finally, I could not help but think of Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility. In my mind, counter-intuitively, this black author's explanation of his own adjustments through the racist/anti-racist mine fields does a much better job of getting at understanding the issues at play on race than a misdirected white person telling white people why they shouldn't be acting so white fragile in their white supremacy. This author should teach that class, not the other. In addition, I very much appreciated this author's approach to constantly seeking out new information and new understanding of what that information means, and being willing to learn what was true and what was not, and to move forward to find more and more pieces of life's puzzle revealed, both for the individual and the society in which that individual resides. This book covers a lot of ground in a small space, and the ending to this book tells me he is merely catching his breath before going out to cover even more.
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LibraryThing member BrendaRT20
I think this is more of book for academics. Hard to read as a white person, but a very important book to read as a white person.

Pages

320

ISBN

0525509283 / 9780525509288
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