Summary and book reviews of How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi

How to Be an Antiracist

by Ibram X. Kendi

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi X
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
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  • Published:
    Aug 2019, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the National Book Award–winning author of Stamped from the Beginning comes a bracingly original approach to understanding and uprooting racism and inequality in our society - and in ourselves.

"The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it—and then dismantle it."

Ibram X. Kendi's concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America—but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.

In this book, Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

Chapter 1

Definitions

Racist: One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.

Antiracist: One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.


Soul Liberation swayed onstage at the University of Illinois arena, rocking colorful dashikis and Afros that shot up like balled fists—an amazing sight to behold for the eleven thousand college students in the audience. Soul Liberation appeared nothing like the White ensembles in suits who'd been sounding hymns for nearly two days after Jesus's birthday in 1970.

Black students had succeeded in pushing the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the U.S. evangelical movement's premier college organizer, to devote the second night of the conference to Black theology. More than five hundred Black attendees from across the country were on hand as Soul Liberation began to perform. Two of those Black students were my parents.

They were not ...

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Reviews

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Kendi continues interspersing the personal with the political throughout the text. He recounts the early stages of his parents' relationship and incidents from his own life, and in doing so, he charts the history of racism and Black activism from the 1970s to the present. The author's contextualizing of the impact of systemic racism within his own life story is compelling and persuasive; his personal examples serve as proof of his claims regarding how racism affects Black people, and also invite the reader to conduct self-examination. Kendi demonstrates how antiracism is a lifelong commitment one must actively choose on a daily basis, and also how that choice is not only necessary but richly rewarding...continued

Full Review (864 words).

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(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

Washington Post
The persona reflected in this memoir is compellingly attractive...Kendi also displays an admirable independence and candor. Though he situates himself far to the left among black activist intellectuals, he is unafraid to say things likely to singe the sensibilities of many of his potential followers...Despite misgivings about various features of How to Be an Antiracist, we should fervently hope to see more work from Kendi in the months and years to come.

New York Times
What emerges from these insights is the most courageous book to date on the problem of race in the Western mind, a confessional of self-examination that may, in fact, be our best chance to free ourselves from our national nightmare.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[Kendi's] unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory. Not an easy read but an essential one.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[B]oldly articulated, historically informed...[Kendi's] prose is thoughtful, sincere, and polished. This powerful book will spark many conversations.

Library Journal (starred review)
In this sharp blend of social commentary and memoir...Kendi is ready to spread his message, his stories serving as a springboard for potent explorations of race, gender, colorism, and more...his willingness to turn the lens on himself marks him as a courageous activist, leading the way to a more equitable society.

Author Blurb Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want to Talk About Race
Ibram Kendi's work, through both his books and the Antiracist Research and Policy Center, is vital in today's sociopolitical climate. As a society, we need to start treating antiracism as action, not emotion—and Kendi is helping us do that.

Author Blurb Robin DiAngelo, New York Times bestselling author of White Fragility
[Kendi] illuminates the foundations of racism in revolutionary new ways, and I am consistently challenged and inspired by his analysis. How to Be an Antiracist offers us a necessary and critical way forward.

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Beyond the Book

The Democrats, Race and the 1994 Federal Crime Bill

In How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi recalls his adolescence during the 1990s, frequently referencing comments made and policies enacted by President Bill Clinton. Author Toni Morrison famously called Clinton the "first Black president," a fairly controversial comment that was nevertheless frequently repeated by Clinton supporters who interpreted it as a straightforward compliment. Morrison was referring to the president's background growing up in poverty as the child of a single mother and the way he was vilified for engaging in sexual misconduct while in office, but many embraced the notion that he was a friend and ally to Black Americans.

Yet, as Kendi points out, Clinton often failed the Black community and did so in a manner ...

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