A group of us read this book during our Tuesday morning Faith4Life sessions as we continue the journey to learn about systemic racism and ways we can combat it. Ibram X. Kendi is a professor of history and the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. He is also a bestselling author and frequent public speaker.
Many of us found the book challenging; Kendi challenges our assumptions about, and in some cases our previous definitions of, racism. He does this in an engaging way as he shares his own story with us. We learn alongside him as he learns.
The book is divided into 18 chapters, beginning with a chapter entitled “Definitions.” Each of the remaining chapters covers one specific area (for example, Gender, Color, Behavior). For each topic there is a “racist” definition and an “anti-racist” definition.
The book has caused some controversy in communities of Color. Some people find Kendi’s approach too binary—you are either an anti-racist or a racist—while others find his approach too simplistic. I think it is important to remember that he is using his story to help us understand racism and antiracism. Someone else’s story might give us a different perspective with a different sense about racism and antiracism.
The book is well researched, with many endnotes. Afua Hirsh, reviewing the book for The Guardian said “How to Be an Antiracist is more like a textbook than I would like, but then there is much schooling to be done.” You could learn a lot by visiting the sources in the endnotes.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to get a better understanding of what it might mean to truly be an “antiracist.” It’s a great place to start on the journey