In Ibram X. Kendi’s foundational book How to Be an Antiracist, he dissects the cancer to society that is racism by addressing the history that created racist policies, the deeply rooted ideas that perpetuate it, and the antiracist power that must be developed to overcome it. His firm differentiation between “racism” and “antiracism” lays the framework for his argument that there is no place for neutrality in this struggle – “one either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist… The claim of ‘not racist’ neutrality is a mask for racism.”
Through personal anecdotes and raw vulnerability, Kendi demonstrates not only the impact racism has had throughout his everyday life, but also how his own ignorance and internalization led him to fall victim to mainstream racist assumptions. These assumptions, or ideas, lead to blaming people instead of policy for racial inequities; when in reality, the continuation of racist power that creates the racist policies are responsible.
By clearly defining concepts, recognizing intersections, and reexamining the history of race, he is able to educate the reader while encouraging them to consider and challenge their own assumptions. His dissection of a construct that permeates every layer of society creates a thorough, yet digestible tool that everyone in the fight for equality should read. Ibram X. Kendi’s courageous examination into his lifelong evolution towards antiracism serves as the perfect stepping stone, or launching point, in one’s own journey and spurs the introspection necessary to collectively confront this 600-year-old disease.
By Martha McGregor, Peace and Justice Center Intern