How To Be An Antiracist

book review, of a sort

How To Be An AntiracistRecently, I did what was billed as a book review of How To Be An Antiracist (2019) by Ibram X. Kendi. I’m not sure it was a review as much as a reflection of how much I related to it.

That said, if I were to suggest a review, the pull quote by James Forman, Jr., author of Locking Up Our Own and son of a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader in the 1960s, would suffice. “Ibram Kendi uses his own life journey to show why becoming an antiracist is as essential as it is difficult. Equal parts memoir, history, and social commentary, this book is honest, brave, and most of all liberating.”

It is particularly honest when it comes to Kendi himself. The first section of the book is My Racist Introduction. He still has “nightmares” about a speech he gave at a competition on MLK Day 2000 at Stonewall Jackson High in Manassas, VA. “A racist culture had handed me the ammunition to shoot Black people to shoot myself… Internalized racism is the real Black on Black crime.”

Check out this page of terms by Kendi. Note the assimilationist ideas that try to “fix” people. This is an attitude for which Pope Francis went to Canada to apologize to the First Nations people. The church had said their language, their garb, and even their hair was “wrong.” Compare this with the segregationist ideas that “suggest that a racial group is permanently inferior.”

You might be surprised by the number of times people have told me, “Race is just a social construct.” Yes, I know, but it “doesn’t lessen its force.” Kendi cites Carl Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae (1735). His role in the origins of scientific racism was huge.


Like me, Kendi is not a fan of one trendy term. As he notes, “microaggression is used because, in a ‘post-racial’ era, this term replaces ‘racism’ which went out of fashion. Racism has become the R-word like the N-word is used for the word it replaced.”

I’ve written about the curse of Canaan. Kendi explains English travel writer George Best’s role in this myth. “Proof did not matter when biological racial difference could be created by misreading the Bible.”

“Assimilationists believe the post-racial myth that talking about race constitutes racism.” I’ve heard similar talk from segregationists who fear the evil Critical Race Theory will harm innocent children. The former group “fails to realize that if we stop using categories, then we will not be able to identify racist policies.” This is why I, as a Census enumerator in 1990 and 2020, as well as a librarian, continue to support the racial categories, especially since they’ve allowed for more than one selection since 1997.

The issue of colorism is an odd history. While some enslavers believed a body was better the Whiter it is, others felt “Dark people more perfect than the so-called human mule, or mulatto. I wrote about racial categories.

What got Malcolm X killed was the idea that Kendi states, that Black people can be racist toward White people. I was always bothered by the talk from the Nation of Islam about the “White devils.” “To be antiracist is… knowing there are antiracist Whites and racist non-Whites.”

“When Dinesh D’Souza writes, ‘the behavior of the African American underclass… flagrantly violates basic codes of responsibility, decency, and civility,’ he is deploying class racism.”


Kendi opines, and I believe correctly about individualizing an error in White spaces but generalizing the error in the Black space instead of the individual. “How many times did I have a bad experience at a Black business and then walk away complaining not the individuals involved but Black businesses as a whole?”

Also, “whenever Black people voluntarily gather among themselves, integrationists… see spaces of White hate.” In the book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum (1997/2017), “One reason students from similar racial backgrounds may gather together is that “connecting with peers who are having a similar experience as your own serves as a buffer, as a protective force…”

Kendi: “I became a Black patriarch because my parents and the world around me did not strictly raise me to be a Black feminist.” Certainly, black women experience misogynoir.

At a Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library Literary Legends gala a few years ago, I talked to Barbara Smith, a co-founder of Combahee River Collective. I asked if she knew my mother’s first cousin, Frances Beal. Yes, indeed she did. Both are mentioned on page 187 of the book. “Frances Beal… audaciously proclaimed in 1968, ‘the black woman in America can justly be described a ‘slave of a slave.””

I could go on, but this will give you a feel for the book. It is very readable and quite relatable, as he explains his foibles while trying to be an antiracist.

Say nothing and close his Twitter

“The American people demand equitable results.”

no twitterIt is my considered opinion that if the incumbent wants to be reelected to stay in the White House, it wouldn’t be that difficult. All he has to do is say nothing and close his Twitter account. OK, that’s a bit hyperbolic. Still, I do believe that, even in 2020, every time he doesn’t say or tweet something amazingly wrongheaded, he’s accused of finally becoming Presidential.

Fortunately, this appears to be utterly impossible for very long. The item that’s gotten the most play recently is his interview with Axios National Political Correspondent, Jonathan Swan. It was conducted on July 28 but aired on August 3. on HBO It is worse than I could have possibly imagined. The answers were just bizarre. And, as is usually the case any time he speaks, PolitiFact needed to fact-check 22 claims from the interview.

Twitter and Facebook removed recent false claims of his about COVID-19. not for the first time. His assessment of the Beirut explosion seemed to be based on talking through his hat.

Are his recent executive orders even legal? Or actually executive orders? Kevin Drum posits that “the stuff that’s legal is unimportant and the stuff that’s important is illegal.”

Something he has promised, since before Day One, is a better health insurance plan. There is NO plan. He hires people with great hyperbole and fires them with even more.

His record has initiated a series of The Lincoln Project advertisements, often quoting the man’s own words. Chuck Miller describes the evolution of the snake, a story djt told quite frequently. It’s odd; often, what he describes of others is what he does, who he is.

He’s the butt of some pointed satire. Here’s an Honest Government Ad, a “message from the White House.” Borowitz in the New Yorker declares Americans Support Using U.S. Postal Service to Ship Him to Different Address.

Lest We Forget

“Early in [his] term, McSweeney’s editors began to catalog the head-spinning number of misdeeds coming from his administration. We called this list a collection of his cruelties, collusions, and crimes

“It felt urgent then to track them, to ensure these horrors — happening almost daily — would not be forgotten. This election year, amid a harrowing global health, civil rights, humanitarian, and economic crisis, we know it’s never been more critical to note these horrors, to remember them, and to do all in our power to reverse them. This list will be updated between now and the November 2020 Presidential election.”

Is This the Beginning of the End of American Racism?

In the September 2020 Atlantic, Ibram X. Kendi posits that IMPOTUS “has revealed the depths of the country’s prejudice—and has inadvertently forced a reckoning.” Hmm.

Back in 2019, “Trump now faced reporters and cameras. Over the drone of the helicopter rotors, one reporter asked Trump if he was bothered that ‘more and more people’ were calling him racist. ‘I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,’ Trump replied, hands up, palms facing out for emphasis.” He says that a lot.

Kendi, the author of How To Be An Anti-Racist, suggests the current regime “has paved the way for a revolution against racism.” The “denialism has permanently changed the way Americans view themselves. The Trump effect is real and lasting. The reckoning we have witnessed this spring and summer at public demonstrations transforms into a reckoning in legislatures, C-suites, university-admissions offices.

“On this path, the American people demand equitable results, not speeches that make them feel good about themselves and their country. The American people give policymakers an ultimatum: Use your power to radically reduce inequity and injustice, or be voted out.”

My, Kendi is more optimistic than I. Has America truly embraced an anti-racist agenda for the long term? Or will they have moved on to some other concerns come November? Je ne sais pas.

Self-reflection is indeed a PITA

My wife and I were watching on TV the New York Times bestselling author Ibram X. Kendi, Ph.D. He was discussing the ideas presented in his book How to Be an Antiracist, a book I have not yet read. But after listening to the virtual presentation, I feel that I need to.

It’s because he noted, in the question and answer period from viewers, how he had to confront embarrassing and uncomfortable actions in his past. Oooh, self-reflection. That sounds like fun! And, of course, I have done more than my share. I think, to the degree that I’ve done so in the past, this blog works because I know I don’t have all the answers. I DO have a lot of the questions.

Yet, there are a few situations from my past I’m feeling the need to write about. In fact, I’ve already written about one of them, but I think I needed some sort of context. The topic involves race and family.

Others do not seem to have a racial component, to my knowledge. One incident, in particular, has been gnawing at me for years. It’s also how I could have handled that better. In fact, it was one of those treppenwitz moments.

Something useful from DHS?

The trick here is to stay in the self-reflection mode and not too much in beating myself up. And I am quite capable of the latter. This article from the Department of Homeland Security, of all places, speaks to something I know.

“Many of us are pretty rough on ourselves. We think things about ourselves we’d never say to family, friends, or co-workers. It’s a behavior that’s worth taking the time to change.”

I know all of this is fairly oblique. I blame Arthur.

It could be, in part, a recognition of my own mortality. I am more than middle-aged. I’m not going to live to be 134; of that, I am fairly certain. As I write this, it’s suddenly dark a couple of hours after dawn. A storm is surely coming, as the dewpoints are oppressive and the temperatures remain high.

But once the rains and winds come through, things will start to clear up. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Become an anti-racist, please

“Racism is an insidious cultural disease.”

All the black people in your life are tired
Posted on my cousin’s FB feed last week. I TOTALLY get it.
I’m rather pissed off, OK? The Trumpy people to whom I am somehow related engaged me in conversation this past weekend about George Floyd. But the FOX News watchers managed to obfuscate it with” Yes, but.” Suddenly, it’s the question of “If the demonstrators can go out to protest, why can’t we open the churches?” Kellyanne Conway would be proud.

But I’m also rather annoyed with white liberals who are shocked, SHOCKED that police abuse still takes place. Haven’t you been paying attention? And they’re sending me solutions – “this is a chance for REAL dialogue!” I’ve been having “real dialogue” at least since my sister Leslie and I, as high schoolers, went to the nearly lily-white Vestal (NY) Junior High School to talk to the choir kids.

People Need to STOP Saying “All Lives Matter”. And they REALLY need to quit with, “That’s not what Martin Luther King, Jr. would do.” Remember, they killed him, too.

I saw the video of Van Jones on Conan O’Brien this week. Jones said, and I’m paraphrasing, “White people, you need to do the work.” He specifically recommended that they watch Thirteenth and read The New Jim Crow. I TOTALLY agree. In fact, they both appear on PARADE magazine’s 40 Anti-Racist TV Series, Docs, Movies, TED Talks, and Books to Add to Your List.

“There’s no such thing as ‘not racist’” – Ibram X. Kendi

Anti-racist? YES – check out this link! It’s not just, “I can’t be prejudiced, I have a black friend.” It is becoming “actively conscious about race and racism and taking actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives.”

Dealing with racism should not be black or brown people’s problem. “Being anti-racist is believing that racism is everyone’s problem, and we all have a role to play in stopping it.”

Here’s a quote by author Scott Woods:

The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not.

Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on.

So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.

counteracting interpersonal racism

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