ibram x. kendi on racism, not racism, and antiracism08 Sep 2019
last week, i heard a friend of mine is reading ibram x. kendi’s book, how to be an antiracist. it’s on my list but in the meantime, i just wanted to share a few frames that he highlights in the book (explored in an npr interview recently) that i think are super important. he’s not the first to say these things but they’re still SUPER important points. they’re so important, particularly because of the ridiculous newsmedia conversation some weeks back about whether or not donald trump said a racist thing.
- historically, people who explicitly deny being racist are the prime movers of racist practices.
- it is not that helpful to oppose racism with not racism. the more helpful opposite to “racist” is “antiracist.” (note: it is likely that “antiracist” will also be coopted, but at least it’s harder to coopt. it’s also easier to test whether or not someone is antiracist. testing “not racism” is tricky.)
- being racist is not an identity; it is a description of behaviors. (sidenote from me: a person is capable of racist, neutral, and antiracist actions. it’s possible to do those actions in quick succession. this makes me a subscriber to the idea that antiracism is something we practice, a way of being that one gets better at over time. antiracist, just like racist, is a term that describes behaviors and actions, not a person.) therefore, i think it is more helpful to say “donald trump does racist things” rather than say “donald trump is a racist.”
- ok, so being racist is/can be an identity, but given the defensiveness around it right now, i feel like it is less strategically helpful to call individuals racist. people generally believe it’s harder to change identities than to change actions and behaviors. (caveat: i could be wrong.)
kendi’s work is definitely work i want to dig into… but probably next year, heh. omg it’s almost 2020. wtf.
i think these points also all carry to ‘white supremacist’ but i haven’t done a full exploration there…
words / writing / post-processing
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