I honestly never planned on reading this book simply because I thought, “I’m Black, I’m antiracist by default! Why would I waste my time on this book?”
Well, I’m here today to let you know my time was not wasted, and I learned that racism transcends Blackness and Whiteness. It also forced me to take a long, deep look inside myself and everything I thought I was doing right and just how pervasive and deep-rooted this country’s racism really is.
Over the summer, this was one of the required texts for my Multicultural Psychology class. Needless to say, I was not hyped for all this reading. Still, I got the book and started reading on the second day of class. I found myself instantly drawn in with Dr. Kendi’s narratives and anecdotes throughout the book. With the rise of racial awareness and deep discussions on race becoming less taboo and avoided, no time is better than now to read this book. I’d say it’s one of the essential readings for those looking to get a better understanding on race and becoming antiracist.
How to be an Antiracist is chronicled in 18 chapters, each chapter with a different topic. It’s packed with powerful lessons that intersect race with historical and modern examples and how it infiltrates everything in America because racism is institutional, structural, and systemic. The book is also packed with powerful, standout quotes and ideals that are nothing less than thought-provoking.
The first chapter opens with definitions of the central themes, which are racist and antiracist. It’s worth noting he lists definitions at the beginning of each chapter, a helpful tool for the learning process. Also in this chapter, he discusses that though racist ideas and policies and antiracist ideas and policies go hand in hand with their corresponding match, they are more complex than we would think. He also brings attention to how a race neutral society is closer to White nationalism than than equality.
I learned several new things reading this book:
- Dueling consciousness is the feeling of “two-ness” in America. For example, you can’t just be American in America if you’re not White and there’s always the thought that you’re also Black or another race with that. In other words, you see yourself both in your perspective and the perspective of others, but it’s never unified.
- The term Ebonics was created to replace racist terms describing the vernacular.
- The contrasting depictions of Black women and White women throughout history pushed a stereotype that Black women were hyper-sexual and incapable of being raped but White women were shown as innocent, pure, and delicate. White men wanted to police the sexuality of everyone who wasn’t a White man and used it to justify violence against minorities and women.
- Antiracism means abandoning stereotypes, changing our mindset of how we judge people based on small parts of their identities, and not aspiring to Whiteness.
The anecdotes, from Kendi’s growing up with very pro-Black parents and living in middle class neighborhoods with White kids to his college days at FAMU and Temple University, he provided personal examples to really drive his points on the intersections of racism in American society. There were points in reading where I grew emotional because it unlocked some memories for me growing up as a Black girl and all the racist notions I was taught were OK back then.
This book changed my life. I have looked at the world differently ever since in my interactions with anyone, regardless of their race, and try to practice antiracist thinking and behaviors and share them with others. I would recommend this book to everybody, especially if they want to get more into the antiracist movement.
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