How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

“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 nationalize the inequitable effects of their policies, while everyday people consume those racist ideas, which in turn sparks ignorance and hate.”

A stunning conclusion to a stunning book, and Kendi notes that it took him years of painstaking research, reading, comprehending, conversation with friends, family, and mentors, inner turmoil, self-reflection, self-doubt, and even overcoming his own ignorance and bias to arrive at that point. For whatever reason I put off reading this book until recently, even though I knew that it was the “it” book of 2019 and 2020 — almost required reading for those that wanted to fully grasp and understand the social justice movements of last summer and truly comprehend what it means to be an antiracist thinker and policy maker. Kendi weaves in and out of memoir form with this one, taking us for a ride on his long and winding journey towards antiracist thought and activism, and he fills the pages with loads of wrenching statistics and histories that challenge misconceptions on areas such as crime, urban plight, affirmative action, standardized tests, and other important areas that cannot possibly be ignored. At times it almost reads like a textbook, as he very carefully lays out the different definitions, concepts, and contexts that define certain subtopics such as behavior, class, ethnicity, biology, and power, to name a few. Even though I’m a bit late to the game here (or maybe I’m right on time?) I’m truly glad I finally picked this up because the notes are an invaluable resource for understanding what can and must be gained if we are truly committed to an equitable, fair, and humanistic society for all.

  • racist ideas make people of color think less of themselves, which makes them more vulnerable to racist ideas
  • function of racist ideas is to manipulate us into seeing people as the problem, instead of the policies that ensnare them
  • denial is the heartbeat or racism
  • racial equality = antiracist
  • roots of the problem in power and policies = antiracist
  • confronts racial inequities = antiracist
  • only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it — and then dismantle it
  • racist and antiracist are not fixed identities
  • power instead of people, changing policy instead of groups of people
  • antiracist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial equity between racial groups
  • “racist policy” (term) says exactly what the problem is and where the problem is
  • racism itself is institutional, structural, systemic (terms are redundant, such as systemic racism)
  • construct of race neutrality feeds white nationalist victimhood by positing the notion that any policy protecting or advancing non white Americans toward equity is “reverse discrimination”
  • antiracist idea: racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences — there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group
  • no one becomes a racist or antiracist — we can only strive to be one or the other
  • DuBois: “double consciousness”, or “dueling consciousness” — an American, a Negro, two souls
  • assimilationists believe people of color can be developed, become fully human, just like white people
  • segregationist ideas cast people of color as “animals”, unteachable after a point
  • three way fight between assimilationist, segregationist, antiracist
  • antiracist policies are geared toward reducing racial inequities and creating equal opportunity
  • conquer the assimilationist consciousness and the segregationist consciousness
  • we are what we see ourselves as, whether what we see exists or not
  • race creates new forms of power: the power to categorize and judge, elevate and downgrade, include and exclude
  • racist power creates racist policies out of raw self interest; racist policies necessitate racist ideas to justify them — all of this lingers over the life or racism
  • self interest of racist power (important theme)
  • racist ideas to justify racist policies of an era (any era), redirect blame for their era’s racial inequities from those policies and onto people
  • doesn’t use micro aggression (“detests the post-racial platform that supported its sudden popularity); uses the term “abuse” because aggression is not as exacting a term
  • race is a genetic mirage — people are born with ancestry that comes from their parents but are assigned a race
  • imagining away the existence of races allows the ruling classes and races to keep on ruling
  • if we stop using racial categories, then we will not be able to identify racial inequity
  • biological antiracism: skin color is as meaningless to our underlying humanity as the clothes we wear over that skin
  • we practice ethnic racism when we express a racist idea about an ethnic group or support a racist policy toward an ethnic group
  • ethnic racism, like racism itself, points to group behavior, instead of policies, as the cause of disparities between groups
  • majority of Americans on welfare are not African American and the majority of African Americans eligible for welfare refuse it
  • central double standard of ethnic racism: loving one’s position on the ladder above other ethnic groups and hating one’s position below that of other ethnic groups
  • immigrants and migrants of all races tend to be more resilient and resourceful when compared with natives of their own countries and the natives of their new countries — “migrant advantage”
  • communities with a higher share of long-term unemployed workers also tend to have higher rates of crime and violence
  • much stronger and clearer correlation between violent crime levels and unemployment levels than between violent crime and race
  • ebonics had grown from the roots of African languages and modern English just as modern English had grown from Latin, Greek, and Germanic roots
  • when we refer to a group as Black or White or another racial identity — Black Southerners as opposed to Southerners — we are radicalizing that group
  • whoever cares the cultural standard usually puts themselves at the top of the hierarchy
  • to be antiracist is to see all cultures in all their differences as on the same level, as equals
  • when we believe a racial group’s seeming success or failure rebounds to each of its individual members, we’ve accepted a racist idea
  • antiracist is to recognize there is no such thing as Black behavior, let alone irresponsible Black behavior
  • just as race doesn’t exist biologically, race doesn’t exist behaviorally
  • antiracism means separating the idea of a culture from the idea of behavior
  • mistakes are generalized as mistakes of the race
  • use of standardized tests to measure aptitude and intelligence is one of the most effective racist policies ever devised to degrade Black minds and legally exclude Black bodies
  • sinister implication in achievement gap talk — that disparities in academic achievement accurately reflect disparities in intelligence among racial groups
  • racist idea of an achievement gap is the linchpin of behavioral racism
  • lack of resources leads directly to diminished opportunities for learning
  • racial problem is the opportunity gap, as antiracist reformers call it, not the achievement gap
  • to be antiracist is to think nothing is behaviorally wrong or right — inferior or superior — with any of the racial groups
  • behavior is something humans do, not races
  • when the gains of a multicolored race disproportionately flow to Light people, and the losses disproportionately flow to Dark people, inequities between the races minor inequities within the races
  • anti dark colorist follows the logic of behavioral racism, linking behavior to color, studies show
  • inequities between light and dark African Americans can be as wide as inequities between Black and White Americans
  • to be antiracist is to eliminate any beauty standards based on skin color and eye color, hair texture, facial and bodily features shared by groups
  • see beauty equally in all skin colors, broad and thin noses, kinky and straight hair, light and dark eyes
  • accentuates instead of erases our natural beauty
  • either racist policies or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today
  • racist ideas love believers, not thinkers
  • Black people were only 11 percent of registered voters but comprised 44 percent of the purge list (Florida, 2000)
  • a total of 179,855 ballots were invalidated by Florida election officials in a race won by 537 votes
  • the only thing wrong with White people is when they embrace racist ideas and policies and then deny their ideas and policies are racist
  • to be antiracist is to never mistake the global march of White racism for the global march of White people
  • racist power, hoarding wealth and resources, has the most to lose in the building of an equitable society
  • claims of anti-white racism in response to antiracism are as old as civil rights
  • going after white people instead of racist power prolongs the policies harming Black life
  • in the end, hating white people becomes hating Black people
  • white women are the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action programs
  • 500K white lives lost in the Civil War
  • white supremacist is code for anti white
  • Black people can’t be racist, because Black people don’t have power — powerless defense
  • this shields people of color from charges of racism even when they are reproducing racist policies and justifying them with the same racist ideas as the white people they call racist
  • Black people can be racist because Black people do have power, even if limited
  • racist ideas make Black people believe White people have all the power, elevating them to gods
  • to say Black people can’t be racist is to say all Black people are being antiracist at all times
  • reports surfaces as early as the 60’s that Black officers were as abusive as white officers
  • to be antiracist is to equalize the race classes
  • root the economic disparities between the equal race classes in policies, not people
  • whoever creates the norm creates the hierarchy and position their own race class at the top of the hierarchy
  • stereotype of the hopeless, defeated, unmotivated poor Black is without evidence
  • recent research shows that poor Blacks are more optimistic about their prospects than poor Whites
  • upward mobility is greater for White people, downward mobility is greater for Black people
  • poor Blacks are much more likely to live in neighborhoods where other families are poor, creating a poverty of resources and opportunities — double burden
  • inextricable link between racism and capitalism
  • markets and market rules and competition and benefits from winning existed long before the rise of capitalism in the modern world
  • what capitalism introduces to the mix was global theft, racially uneven playing fields, unidirectional wealth that rushes upward
  • to love capitalism is to end up loving racism
  • to love racism is to end up loving capitalism
  • capitalism is essentially racist — racism is essentially capitalist
  • to be antiracist is to recognize neither poor Blacks nor elite Blacks are the truest representation of Black people
  • just as racist power racializes people, racist power revitalizes space. the ghetto. the inner city. the third world.
  • to be antiracist is to recognize there is no such thing as the “real world”, only real worlds, multiple worldviews
  • HBCU’s have higher Black graduation rates than HWCU’s
  • Black HBCU graduates are, on average, more likely than their Black peers from HWCU’s to be thriving financially, socially, and physically
  • whenever Black people voluntarily gather among themselves, integrationists do not see spaces of Black solidarity created to separate Black people from racism. They see White hate.
  • when Black and white teachers look at the same student, white teachers are about 40 percent less likely to believe the student will finish high school
  • the minority assimilated into the dominant culture, not the other way around
  • need to be as equally resources as they are culturally different
  • antiracist strategy fuses desegregation with a form of integration and racial solidarity
  • voluntary integration of bodies attracted by cultural difference, a shared humanity
  • resource equity by challenging the racist policies that produce resource inequity
  • equate and nurture difference among racial groups
  • increasing percentage of Black babies born into single parent households was not due to single Black mothers having more children but to married Black women having fewer children over the course of the 20th century
  • when a policy produces inequities between race genders, it is gendered racism, or gender racism
  • to be antiracist is to reject not only the hierarchy of races but of race genders
  • to be antiracist is to be truly feminist, and vice versa
  • sexist notions of “real women” as weak and racist notions of White women as the idealized woman intersect to produce the gender-racist idea that the pinnacle of womanhood is the weak White woman (gender racism towards Hillary)
  • Black men raised in the top 1 percent by millionaires are as likely to be incarcerated as White men raised in households earning 36K
  • intersectional theory now gives all of humanity the ability to understand the intersectional oppression o their identities
  • homophobia cannot be separated from racism
  • queer antiracism is equating all the race sexualities, striving to eliminate the inequities between the race-sexualities
  • we cannot be antiracist is we are homophobic or transphobic
  • queer antiracist — listening, learning, and being led by their equalizing ideas, by their equalizing policy campaigns, by their power struggle for equal opportunity
  • gender and queer equity and freedom and mutuality and complementarily and power
  • race is a power construct, the duel of antiracist and racist progress, powerful self interest (overall, major themes)
  • healing symptoms instead of changing policies is bound to fail in healing society
  • Harmless White fun is Black lawlessness
  • history teaches us — when racist policy knocks Black people down, the judge orders them to uplift themselves, only to be cut down again by racist terror and policy
  • to be antiracist is to let me be me, be myself, be my imperfect self
  • problem of race has always been at its core the problem of power, not the problem of immorality or ignorance
  • once the fears to not come to pass, people will let down their guards as they enjoy the benefits
  • knowledge is only power if knowledge is put to the struggle for power
  • if a person has no record of power or policy change , then that person is not an activist
  • we have to be courageous to be antiracist; courage is the strength to do what is right in the face of fear
  • self critique allows change
  • changing shows flexibility
  • antiracist power must be flexible to match the flexibility of racist power, propelled only by the craving for power to shape policy in their inequitable interests
  • racist power believes in by any means necessary
  • a protest is organizing people for a prolonged campaign that forces racist power to change a policy
  • a demonstration is mobilizing people momentarily to publicize a problem
  • most effective protests create an environment whereby changing the racist policy becomes in power’s self interest
  • organizing and protesting and much harder and more impactful than mobilizing and demonstrating
  • antiracists can be as doctorate in their view of racism as racists can be in their view of not racism
  • rich whites benefit more from racist policies than white poor and middle income people
  • all forms of racism are overt if our antiracist eyes are open to seeing racist policy in racial inequity
  • policymakers and policies make societies and institutions, not the other way around
  • U.S. is a racist nation because its policymakers and policies have been racist from the beginning
  • racism has always been terminal and curable
  • racism has always been recognizable and mortal
  • nothing wrong with any of the racial groups and everything wrong with individuals like me who think there is something wrong with any of the racial groups
  • source of his racist ideas was not ignorance and hate, but self-interest
  • 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 nationalize the inequitable effects of their policies, while everyday people consume those racist ideas, which in turn sparks ignorance and hate
  • racist power is not godly — racist policies are not indestructible
  • racial inequities are not inevitable
  • racist ideas are not natural to the human mind
  • race and racism are power constructs of the modern world

I love books, I have a ton of them, and I take notes on all of them. I wanted to share all that I have learned and will continue to learn. I hope you enjoy.