How to be an Antiracist
It’s hard to understand antiracism without understanding what it means to be racist.
How to be an Antiracist
“The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it — and then dismantle it,” writes professor Ibram X. Kendi. That is the essence of antiracism: the action that must follow both emotional and intellectual awareness of racism. Kendi sits down with journalist Jemele Hill to explore what an antiracist society might look like, how we can play an active role in building it, and what being an antiracist in your own context might mean.
You’re either racist or antiracist; there’s no such thing as ‘not racist’
Author and historian Ibram X. Kendi claims there’s no such thing as being 'not racist.' He explains that even inaction (simply being ‘not racist’) in the face of racism is, in fact, a form of racism. The idea of an innocent bystander is wishful thinking for Kendi; instead, there’s only racism and antiracism:
If racism means both racist action and inaction in the face of racism, then antiracism means active participation in combating racism in all forms.
We need to flip the script on the roots of racism
Most people think “the roots of racism are ignorance and hate,” says journalist Jemele Hill. But after extensive research on structural and attitudinal racism, Kendi has a very different way of understanding what — or more accurately who — produces racism. Groundswells of racism don’t produce racism policies; in fact, it’s the other way around. Those in power use racism to justify their policies, wielding the emotive power of ignorance and hate as tools at their disposal.
Big IdeaInstead of racist ideas leading to racist policies, I found racist policies leading to racist ideas.Ibram X. Kendi
And why would someone rally the masses around racism? It all comes back to good old self-interest, according to Kendi’s research. It’s a craven calculation, but if someone wants to get elected, add to their profit margins, or just raise their profile, racism has consistently proven helpful.
Why are conversations about race so unproductive?
How a strategy to undermine racism backfired
One of the most popular strategies used by black communities to fight back against racism has backfired, says Ibram X. Kendi. Respectability politics have long been the go-to tactic for black communities, having been implanted by white abolitionists and passed down for generations.
Know the Terms
The subtext of respectability politics, argues Kendi, is that black people are partially responsible for the racist ideas directed at them because of how they act. This popular tool used for centuries to combat racism, therefore, is itself racist. And Kendi says this is an example of how convoluted discussions of race, even within black communities, have become.
Confronting internalized racism
An audience question about internalized racism in black communities prompts Ibram X. Kendi to call for people of color in positions of power to step up in the fight for antiracism:
Meet Patience Lee, a 2023 Aspen Ideas: Health Fellow who’s building cultural awareness into mental health support services for unaccompanied refugee children in the United Sta...
Meet Nathan Chomilo, a 2023 Aspen Ideas: Health Fellow who’s incorporating community collaboration and racial equity into Minnesota’s Medicaid policy development.
You may have heard of "Dry January" and mocktails, but what is being "sober curious" really about? Ahead of Aspen Ideas: Health, Sans Bar's Chris Marshall explains the growin...
Are you truly tuned in to the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and textures that surround you every day? Ahead of her book talk at Aspen Ideas: Health, best-selling author Gret...
The pandemic put into stark relief deeply-ingrained gender roles in society, as the burden of unpaid care fell to millions of women who left the workforce. Yet the past years...
Friends, partners, children, families, coworkers — these connections profoundly shape our lives and happiness. For many of us, the upheaval of the past few years became an une...
Of course, Black history shouldn’t just be a month-long nod on our yearly calendar — it is inextricable from American history and fundamental to the very soul of our nation an...