14 Aug
2019
Posted in: Books
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The Opposite of “Racist” Isn’t “Not Racist”

I was so moved — and enlightened — by Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” (which I posted about here) that as soon as I heard he was coming out with a follow-up book — “How to Be an Antiracist” — I pre-ordered it.

And now, finally, it’s here. It arrived on my Kindle yesterday. And I can’t put it down.

It begins with Kendi describing his own unwitting racism. (Kendi is Black.) He write:

“I was a dupe, a chump who saw the on-going struggles of Black people and decided that Black people themselves were the problem. This is the consistent function of racist ideas — and any kind of bigotry more broadly: to manipulate us into seeing people as the problem, instead of the policies that ensnare them..

“The good news is that racist and antiracist are not fixed identities. We can be a racist one minute and an antiracist the next. What we say about race, what we do about race, in each moment, determines what — not who — we are.

“I used to be racist most of the time. I am changing. I am no longer identifying with racists by claiming to be ‘not racist.’ I am no longer speaking through the mask of racial neutrality. I am no longer manipulated by racist ideas to see racial groups as problems…

“This book is ultimately about the basic struggle we’re all in, the struggle to be fully human and to see others as fully human. I share my own journey of being raised in the dueling racial consciousness of the Reagan-era Black middle class, then right-turning onto the ten-lane highway of anti-Black racism — a highway mysteriously free of police and free of gas — and veering off onto the two-lane highway of anti-White racism, where gas is rare and police are everywhere, before finding and turning down the unlit dirt road of antiracism.

“After taking this grueling journey to the dirt road of antiracism, humanity can come upon the clearing of a potential future: an antiracist world in all its imperfect beauty. It can become real if we focus on power instead of people, if we focus on changing policy instead of groups of people. It’s possible if we overcome our cynicism about the permanence of racism.

“We know how to be racist. We know how to pretend not to be racist. Now let’s know how to be antiracist.”

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