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Summary ofHow to be an Antiracist

Have you been stigmatized based on your race before? What is the difference between being antiracist and being “not racist”? Do you seek a world where equity rules? Then you will find this a fascinating read. Ibram X. Kendi is a New York Times bestselling author and the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center, a professor of History and International Relations and a public speaker. Kendi takes readers through the complex nuances of antiracism and explains why racial inequities should be thought of as action and reveals ways to eliminate them. He employs science, history, and moral ethics to explain racism and also teaches us that we must choose to be antiracist. “We’ve been led to believe that racist is a fixed category, that it’s a tattoo, it’s a label.” ~ Ibram X. Kendi

Key points


To fight racism and what it represents, we must abandon stereotypes and redefine what racism and antiracism means

We cannot find an enemy we do not know. Racism is an enemy against humanity, black people in particular. To stand a chance against it, we must understand what it entails.
Definitions anchor us in our principles. ~ Ibram X. Kendi
The concept of race was introduced by a Portuguese prince, Henry the navigator, who used it to justify the slave trade. Between then and now, that concept has blossomed into government policies, societal beliefs, and individual behavior that affect everyone regardless of their skin color.

For Kendi, it is more than just a concept. While participating in a high school oratorical contest, he berated black youths on their inability to measure up to the standard of excellence set up by Martin Luther King Jr. He won the contest, but in retrospect he is embarrassed for using stereotypes to define and shame his peers.

To fight racism and what it represents, we must abandon stereotypes, redefine what racism means to us and adjust our viewpoint on the world.
Racist ideas make people of color think less of themselves which make them more vulnerable to racist ideas. Racist ideas make white people think more of themselves which further attracts them to racist ideas. ~ Ibram X. Kendi
What does it mean to be racist?
A racist is a person that supports a racist policy or behavior through their actions, inactions and interactions with others.
People of color are not exempt. When you support a racist policy or choose to do nothing about it, you are endorsing racism.

Very few people will openly admit that they are racist. In fact, many good people are “not racist”. The problem with the “not racist” stance is that it implies neutrality. No one can be neutral when it comes to racism. The opposite of racism is not “not racist”; it is “antiracist”. We must move on to being “antiracist”.
Like an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination. ~ Ibram X. Kendi
What is the difference between “not racist” and “antiracist”? To be “not racist” is to accept the status quo. It is saying you do not see any need to attack the racial hierarchy we see in our society. That implies a tacit endorsement of racism.

On other hand, being “antiracist” entails a clear stance against racism. To be antiracist is to fight for racial equity in society and government policies. It demands a conscious effort to reexamine one’s belief and one’s own tendencies to promote racism regardless of skin color.

Did you know? The concept of race was invented to justify the slave trade.

The fight against racism demands an understanding of its concepts

All racist people have one common trait — they are always changing what it means to be a racist. This makes it hard to call them out on their racist speech, actions and behavior. The changing definitions make it easy for racists to exonerate themselves when they act on their racist tendencies. It is like asking a criminal to explain the law — he will always win.
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To be antiracist, we must take a stance against racism and accept antiracist discrimination as the solution.


Understanding our basic assumptions of why racism exists is key to developing and maintaining an antiracist stance


Biological racism is founded on wrong premises and must be tackled with biological antiracism


To be an antiracist is to reject ethnic, cultural and behavioral racism


Colorism is a subtle racism propagated by Blacks against Blacks


The fight against racism can be won but it demands consistent self-awareness, self-education, and self-examination



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