How to Be an Antiracist | Ibram X. Kendi

Summary of: How to Be an Antiracist
By: Ibram X. Kendi

Introduction

In a world plagued with racism and inequality, it is essential to understand the nuances of racist ideas and policies, as well as learn how to stand up and combat them. The book ‘How to Be an Antiracist’ by Ibram X. Kendi dives deep into these concepts, defining the terms racist, antiracist, racist idea, and racist policy, and discusses their implications on our society. This summary will take you on a journey through the historical origins of racism, the subtle and overt expressions of racism, the dangers of internalized racism, and the comparisons between racism and cancer. By the end of this summary, you should have a clear understanding of what it means to be an antiracist and how to work towards a more equitable world for all.

Racism and Antiracism

The impact of racist policies, ideas, and antiracist initiatives in promoting equity among racial groups are discussed in this summary.

In today’s society, racism seems to be prevalent, with racist policies, ideas, and statements being made at different levels. The author asks readers whether they are racist or antiracist, challenging them to identify what the terms mean. A racist person is defined as someone who communicates or supports racist ideas and policies that propagate racial differences and inequity among racial groups.

The author defines racist policy as any law or rule that propagates racial differences, leading to racial inequity between racial groups. An example given is the ownership of homes, where only 41 percent of African American families own homes compared to 70 percent of white families. These policies benefit the policymakers and set up the racist ideas that follow, justifying the racial inequity.

The origin of the concept of race is traced back to the fifteenth century when Portugal traded enslaved Africans, propagating the idea of a “Black race.” People of this race were thought to be lazy and savage, making them prone to enslavement. The racist policy of enslavement for economic gain came first, then the racist idea of inherent laziness.

On the other hand, antiracist policies promote equity between different racial groups, which may mean positively discriminating to promote greater racial equality. Affirmative action programs that favor African American job applicants have been labeled racist despite promoting greater racial equality. The author posits that antiracist ideas seek to establish that racial groups are equal and do not have good or bad qualities based on any differences.

The author encourages readers to identify whether they support racist policies and ideas or antiracist ones. He challenges them to stand firm against racism, which permeates every level of our society, by promoting equity among all racial groups.

The Problem with Assimilationist and Segregationist Views

Racism comes in many forms, and sometimes it can be subtle. In 1985, Eleanor Holmes Norton made remarks that suggested a “ghetto culture” among Black people needed to be addressed. Her remarks represented a deeply racist assimilationist perspective that persists today. Assimilationists believe that certain racial groups are culturally inferior or deficient in their behavior but can be helped to develop. Segregationists believe that people of color are incapable of developing and must be kept away from the more civilized race. The antiracist, however, supports policies grounded in the truth that all races are equal and no race is in any need of development. The focus of antiracists is to reduce racial inequity instead of changing cultural or behavioral values.

The Illusion of Race

The concept of race is a social construct that has been used to justify biological racism, the belief that certain races are genetically superior or inferior. The truth is that there are no genetic differences between human races – we are all 99.9% genetically identical. Ethnicity is a genetic concept, but even then, it does not necessarily correspond to race. Ultimately, race is an illusion that has no basis in genetics.

Colorism: The Unspoken Prejudice

As an antiracist, Kendi reflects on the influence of colorism, a collection of racist ideas that promotes lighter skin over darker skin. Studies reveal that colorism favors lighter-skinned people of color and discriminates against darker-skinned people of color. The justice system also reflects the same bias with African Americans having darker skin receiving longer jail terms than those with lighter skin. Media promotes beauty standards that revolve around light skin and features attributed to white people, making darker-skinned women correlated with lower self-esteem. To be an antiracist, one must fight against color discrimination as much as racial discrimination.

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