Kendi wrote this book to assist people of all colors to evaluate their own thinking and to change their perspectives and attitudes accordingly to strive for antiracist thinking and behavior.
In the introduction to his book he points out:
- the opposite of racist isn’t “not racist”
- “not racist” neutrality is a mask for racism
- the claim to being “color blind” is akin to “not racist”
- a mask to hide racism
- Plessy v. Ferguson U.S. Supreme Court ruling 1896
- Justice John Harlan dissent proclaimed “Our Constitution is color blind.”
- this case legalized Jim Crow segregation in 1896
- a color-blind Constitution for a White-supremacist America
- we’re all in a basic struggle to be fully human and to see others as fully human.
- in an antiracist world the focus will be on changing policies instead of groups of people
- antiracism is possible if we overcome our cynicism about the permanence of racism.
Chapter 1 Definitions
Ibram Kendi wove key definitions throughout his Chapter One narrative about how his parents met, the impacts of 1970’s Black Liberation movement defining their Christian creed as those striving for liberation, and later influence on their children.
Racist: one who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.
Racism: marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalizes racial inequalities.
Racial Inequality: when tow or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing. (ex. owner occupied homes)
Racial Discrimination: treating, considering, or making a distinction in favor or against an individual based on that person’s race. Kendi points out that by this definition racial discrimination in not inherently racist. The key question is whether discrimination is creating equity or inequity.
Racist Policy: any measures that produces or sustains racial inequality between racial groups.
Policy: written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, regulations, guidelines and processes that govern people.
Racist Policies: have also been described as- institutional racism, structural racism, systemic racism. Kendi believes these are redundant and vaguer terms than “racist policy.” Racist policy says exactly what the problem is and where the problem is. Racist policy also cuts to the core of racism better than ” racial discrimination.” Racial discrimination takes focus off the central agents of racism… racist policy + racist policy makers = racist power
Remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination.
Antiracist: one who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.
Challenge: racist ideas have permeated our society since its beginning… to a point that they feel so natural as to be commonplace. That makes antiracist ideas difficult to comprehend because they go against the flow of this country’s history.
As I think about placing power focus on changing policies instead of changing people… I wonder how to assure that “power” is equitable and just. Reading about Kendi’s parents’ involvement in the Black Liberation Movement of the 1970’s, I am reminded of the atmosphere on campus at Temple University. At the time, I was a freshman living on campus- a white girl from the suburbs standing in crowds of people (black and white) listening to speakers. I know I did not fully comprehend the scope and foundations behind the reasons the meetings took place.