Ibram X. Kendi Profiled in Washington PostHistorians in the News
tags: books, historians, Ibram X. Kendi
In the current debate over race, people are quick to defend themselves by declaring that they are “not racist.”
That’s not good enough for historian Ibram X. Kendi, who argues that the phrase has little meaning. After all, even white nationalists such as Richard Spencer and David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, insist that they are not racist.
The goal for those who believe in equal opportunity and justice should be to be “antiracist,” says Kendi, who has written a new book to help guide the way.
“How to Be an Antiracist,” which came out last week, is a follow-up to Kendi’s 2016 bestseller, “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.” Kendi, 37, is a professor and the director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University.
In “Stamped from the Beginning,” which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, Kendi challenges the widely held belief that racism is the product of ignorance or hatred. Instead, he argues, people in power enact policies to further their financial or political goals, then create racist ideas to justify them. For example, whites in need of free labor to build their empires declared that Africans were inferior and fed the idea to the masses to defend slavery.
In his new book, Kendi argues that it’s not enough to say you’re not a racist. “What’s the problem with being ‘not racist?’ ” Kendi writes in the introduction. “It is a claim that signifies neutrality: ‘I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism.’ ”
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