How to Be an Antiracist

Title: How to Be an Antiracist

Author: Ibram X. Kendi

Overview: An important introduction to the concept of antiracist. He makes it clear why the “colorblind” approach promoted in the ’90s and post-racism thinking that rose after Obama’s election aren’t what the country needs. They are far too passive to overcome the current and entrenched racism America has had for 400+ years.


  • Denial is the heartbeat of racism, beating across ideologies, races, and nations. It is beating within us. Many of us who strongly call out Trump’s racist ideas will strongly deny our own. How often do we become reflexively defensive when someone calls something we’ve done or said racist?
  • President Richard Nixon announced his war on drugs in 1971 to devastate his harshest critics—Black and antiwar activists. “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news,” Nixon’s domestic-policy chief, John Ehrlichman, told a Harper’s reporter years later. “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
  • What a powerful construction race is—powerful enough to consume us. And it comes for us early. But for all of that life-shaping power, race is a mirage, which doesn’t lessen its force. We are what we see ourselves as, whether what we see exists or not. We are what people see us as, whether what they see exists or not.
  • A study that used National Longitudinal Survey of Youth data from 1976 to 1989 found that young Black males engaged in more violent crime than young White males. But when the researchers compared only employed young males of both races, the differences in violent behavior vanished. Or, as the Urban Institute stated in a more recent report on long-term unemployment, “Communities with a higher share of long-term unemployed workers also tend to have higher rates of crime and violence.”
  • University of Chicago Crime Lab worked with the One Summer Chicago Plus jobs program and found a 43 percent reduction in violent-crime arrests for Black youths who worked eight-week-long part-time summer jobs, compared with a control group of teens who did not.
  • But what about the argument that clusters of Black people in the South, or Asian Americans in New York’s Chinatown, or White people in the Texas suburbs seem to behave in ways that follow coherent, definable cultural practices? Antiracism means separating the idea of a culture from the idea of behavior. Culture defines a group tradition that a particular racial group might share but that is not shared among all individuals in that racial group or among all racial groups. Behavior defines the inherent human traits and potential that everyone shares. Humans are intelligent and lazy, even as that intelligence and laziness might appear differently across the racialized cultural groups.
  • The racist idea of an achievement gap lived on into the new millennium through George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and Obama’s Race to the Top and Common Core—initiatives that further enlarged the role of standardized testing in determining the success and failure of students and the schools they attended. Through these initiatives and many, many others, education reformers banged the drum of the “achievement gap” to get attention and funding for their equalizing efforts.
  • Dark African American students receive significantly lower GPAs than Light students. Maybe because racist Americans have higher expectations for Light students, people tend to remember educated Black men as Light-skinned even when their skin is Dark. Is that why employers prefer Light Black men over Dark Black men regardless of qualifications?
  • White poverty is not as distressing as Black poverty. Poor Blacks are much more likely to live in neighborhoods where other families are poor, creating a poverty of resources and opportunities. Sociologists refer to this as the “double burden.” Poor Blacks in metropolitan Chicago are ten times more likely than poor Whites to live in high-poverty areas.