Ibram X. Kendi's powerful work How To Be An Antiracist is many things: it's a guide book for those looking for a history lesson into the origins and perpetual cycle of racism. It's an examination of Kendi's own struggles with racism, and his development into an anti-racist. It's also an incredibly practical and insightful tool in understanding how to be an anti-racist. Because, as Kendi states, "the opposite of 'racist' isn't 'not racist.'"
This week, Literally PDX met (virtually) to discuss Kendi's newest book. Building on our June pick, Hood Feminism, How To Be An Antiracist lays out in no uncertain terms that we, in fact, are all racist until we are actively working against the racism ingrained in ourselves, our societies, and our political/educational/religious communities. We discussed everything from Kendi's openness about his experience as a racist, to confronting our apprehensions around dismantling racism, to sharing different techniques for calling it out when we see it.
One message we kept coming back to was "you are responsible for your second thought and your first action." What a powerful statement. We have the power to disrupt racist thoughts with a combination of understanding and action. We can interrupt the cycle by stopping our thought patterns in their tracks and readjusting, by being active in speaking out, and by voting for politicians who commit to making change.
We spent a lot of time discussing our responsibility as a group of largely privileged, educated and able bodied women, to call out racism when we see and hear it. We cannot pat ourselves on the back for thinking about being anti-racist. Doing the work involves getting uncomfortable, making mistakes, and accepting that failure is a part of the process. Picking ourselves back up to try again is where we begin to build that muscle of resilience, so by the 10th, the 50th, the 100th time we call out racism, we feel stronger and more self-assured.
If you're going to read one book about how to help yourself, your friends and family, and your communities become more anti-racist, make it this one. Kendi does a phenomenal job at weaving his personal experiences, history, and understandable anti-racism practices through a storytelling arc. Not only is this man an accomplished author and activist, but he founded the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, which is doing incredible work at putting anti-racist policy into action. I am so looking forward to seeing what Kendi does next, and am feeling more courageous about becoming an active anti-racist.
Next week I'll announce our August book club pick!
P.S. Cover image from Time.com