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More than 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement and more than 14 years after electing its first Black president, why is the United States still divided along racial lines? What is the new theory of racism?
That’s the central question of Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, which argues that contrary to common wisdom, racism doesn’t begin with prejudice and hatred. It begins with self-serving policies whose proponents justify their actions by inventing racist ideas.
Below is a brief overview of the key takeaways from Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi.
Part 1: A New Theory of Racism
Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi presents a new theory of racist ideas—which Kendi argues is necessary if we’re to effectively fight racism. Kendi makes two major conceptual claims in this book. First, he argues that racist ideas are invented to justify racist policies already in place. If we don’t realize this, he says, we’ll mistakenly try to address racism by fighting racist ideas when it would be more effective to fight racist policies. Second, he argues that debates about race encompass three possible stances—segregationism, assimilationism, and antiracism. He suggests that if we don’t learn to recognize all three stances, we might accidentally perpetuate racist ideas.
Claim #1: Racist Policies Lead to Racist Ideas
Kendi argues that while most people think that ignorance and hatred lead to racist policies, the reality is the exact opposite: People who are motivated by economic or political self-interest introduce racist policies, they justify these policies by inventing racist ideas, then those racist ideas take hold and produce ignorance and hatred.
In Kendi’s account of American anti-Black racism, the original racist policy was the African slave trade, which slave traders and enslavers justified by inventing ideas about Black inferiority.
As we’ll see in Part 2, much of Kendi’s book is dedicated to tracking the evolution of these policies and ideas over time. Kendi argues that it’s crucial to understand the policy-first nature of racism because otherwise, we’re likely to take the wrong approach to combating racism. In other words, if we believe that racism stems from hatred and ignorance, we’ll focus on educating racists to show them the illogic and factual inaccuracy of racist ideas—an approach that can’t possibly work because racist ideas don’t come from ignorance in the first place.
Claim #2: There Are Three Positions on Race
While we might assume that ideas are either racist or nonracist, Kendi’s other major theoretical argument is that there are three types of thoughts on race: segregationist, antiracist, and assimilationist. When we think about racist ideas, we tend to think about openly hateful, hostile, or discriminatory rhetoric. But as we’ll see, Kendi’s three positions show that racist thinking can take subtler forms and even disguise itself as nonracist:
1) Segregationist ideas blame racial disparities on Black people by proposing that they’re inferior or defective in some way. These are the kinds of ideas we’d typically identify as racist. For example, a segregationist explanation for the low number of Black Fortune 500 CEOs might be that Black people lack the intelligence and motivation to be business leaders.
2) Antiracist ideas blame racial disparities solely on racism and maintain that all races are equal. An antiracist explanation for the lack of Black Fortune 500 CEOs might be that hiring and promotion procedures discriminate against Black candidates and employees.
3) Assimilationist ideas blame racial disparities on Black people and on racism. Assimilationist ideas can take two forms—they can maintain that both Black people and racist Whites are at fault, or they can propose that Black people are defective as a result of racism.
For example, the first type of assimilationism might explain the low number of Black Fortune 500 CEOs by saying that hiring policies are discriminatory and that many Black people lack the skills to be business executives (such an explanation might even suggest that businesses should try harder to find the few qualified Black people out there).
The second type of assimilationism is especially pernicious because its racism is subtler—for example, it might argue that after centuries of racial discrimination, most Black people can’t imagine themselves in leadership roles. As Kendi points out, an idea like this seems to place the blame on racism, but in doing so, it also promotes the idea that Black people are inferior (even if the inferiority isn’t their fault, but was caused by racism).
Part 2: The History of Racist Thought in America
Now that we’ve discussed Kendi’s overarching theoretical principles—namely, the policy-first nature of racism and the segregationist/assimilationist/antiracist trichotomy—we’ll see how these principles play out in the context of American history. The bulk of Kendi’s book is an extensive study of the history of American racist thought through five time periods, each of which covers a major era in US history and assigns an important historical figure as a “guide” to that period. The five time periods are:
1) The early colonial period. The representative of this period is Cotton Mather, perhaps the most influential preacher in colonial New England. Mather owned slaves and argued that slavery benefited Black people.
2) The founding of the United States and the first few decades of the new country. The representative of this period is Thomas Jefferson, the third US President and the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson owned slaves and held ambivalent views about slavery.
3) The American Civil War and the periods just before and after it. The representative of this period is William Lloyd Garrison, a publisher and one of the loudest public advocates for the abolition of slavery. Kendi explains that Garrison opposed slavery while propagating racist assimilationist attitudes about Black people.
4) The post-Civil War Reconstruction and the ensuing Jim Crow era up through the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. The representative of this period is W.E.B. Du Bois, a prominent Black scholar and activist. According to Kendi, Du Bois initially advocated assimilationist ideas before eventually adopting antiracist ideas.
5) The Civil Rights movement through the present. The representative of this period is Angela Davis, a Black feminist scholar and activist. According to Kendi, Davis has consistently argued for antiracist as well as other antidiscriminatory policies (for example, feminist and pro-LGBTQ platforms).
As we explore each of these periods of history, we’ll focus on the prominent racist policies, ideas, and debates that characterize each era.
Colonial New England
Kendi begins his history in 17th century Colonial New England with Cotton Mather, a popular preacher from a prominent family. Mather is important to Kendi’s story because he advocated one of the early justifications for slavery—the idea that White enslavers could save Black souls by converting them to Christianity. Other important developments in this period include a foundational debate about the nature of race and some of the first political moves designed to pit White commoners against Black people.
Slavery as Salvation
According to Kendi, the first anti-Black racism comes with the start of the African slave trade and demonstrates the principle that racist practices come first and are then justified by racist ideas. Around 200 years before England established its first colonies in what became the US, Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal began trading in African slaves. Kendi explains that this was purely a business decision—Henry didn’t want to work with established Muslim slave traders, and he also saw an opportunity to enter an emerging market (African slaves) as the previously dominant market (Slavic slaves) waned.
Kendi says that after Henry’s death in 1460, his nephew and biographer obscured these financial motives by arguing that Henry was concerned with uplifting and spiritually saving the Africans by moving them to better conditions in Portugal and introducing them to Christianity. Over the next several hundred years, slavery became an important part of the European and Colonial economies. The first African slaves reached the future US in 1619, when an English captain raided a Spanish slave ship and then sold a group of “20 and odd” captives to the governor of Virginia. By this time, Kendi says, enslavers had firmly established the idea that Africans were beasts who were better off in European and American servitude.
According to Kendi, this rhetoric reached its peak with Mather (1663-1728), whose main contribution was to conflate White and Black as racial categories with white and black as descriptors of moral character. In doing so, he perpetuated the idea that slavery was benevolent. Around 1706, Mather argued that Black people were savage and immoral by nature, but that all people had (or were capable of having) white souls if they accepted Christianity and their God-given place in the social hierarchy. As we’ll see, Kendi suggests that the idea that Black people need White leadership has persisted ever since.
The Invention of Race
In order to describe Black people as an inferior race, enslavers had to explain what a race was in the first place. Kendi explains that ethnic and color discrimination began with the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who argued that lighter and darker skin was caused by colder or warmer climates. However, Kendi says that as early modern European explorers saw more of the world and encountered new peoples, they realized that this climate theory didn’t hold up.
Instead, they posited that dark-skinned peoples were descendants of the Biblical figure Ham, one of Noah’s sons who was cursed by his father and God. Kendi explains that at this time, “race” simply meant “descent”—so by saying Black people were descended from Ham, Europeans first conceived of the idea that Black people were a distinct (and cursed) “race.”
In contrast to this lineal explanation of race, Kendi says that some other thinkers posited an alternative theory—that different races came from different acts of creation, making them essentially different biological species. This idea was technically heretical (since it contradicted the Biblical creation story), but it persisted for centuries, eventually evolving into a variety of scientific hierarchies of different human “subspecies.” These two theories—that different races result from either one act of creation or several—are known as monogenesis and polygenesis.
Pitting White Against Black
Kendi finishes by saying that the Colonial period saw the first uses of policy to pit non-enslaving White people against Black people. Kendi points to Bacon’s Rebellion (1676-7), in which planter Nathaniel Bacon led a group of poor Whites as well as free and enslaved Black people against the Virginia governor. The rebellion failed, but it scared Colonial authorities by showing them the power of people uniting along socioeconomic—rather than racial—lines.
In response, the government pardoned the White rebels, harshly punished the Black rebels, and developed White militias to guard against future slave uprisings. Kendi explains that these policies were designed to prevent future cooperation between White and Black people by establishing and enforcing a racial hierarchy. By publicly elevating poor White people above Black people, the authorities created animosity between the two groups and kept poor Whites focused on policing Black people rather than worrying about their own exploitation by richer White people.
The Founding of America
By the time the Colonies began to fight for their independence (starting in the 1760s with discontent about British policies and culminating with 1776’s Declaration of Independence), slavery and the racist ideas it engendered were entrenched in American society. But at the same time, racist ideas were transformed by the Enlightenment—an intellectual movement that ran throughout 18th-century Europe, sparked by advances in philosophy and science.
Enlightenment thinkers promoted political ideals of democracy and universal equality, which challenged the institution of racism. But meanwhile, Enlightenment science—with its emphasis on rationality and order—created a biological hierarchy of races (with Europeans, who deemed themselves to be the most rational race, on top). Kendi suggests that no one embodied these tensions more than Thomas Jefferson, whose conflicted attitudes about race helped shape the country in its early years. Meanwhile, Kendi says, this period contains the first examples of antislavery sentiment and its assimilationist logic.
Some Men Are Created Equal
According to Kendi, the Declaration of Independence reveals a contradiction in its author’s thinking. In the Declaration, the slave-holding Jefferson asserts that “all men are created equal”—resulting in an ambiguity that Kendi says reflects Jefferson’s larger ambivalence about race, as expressed in his often contradictory writings and actions. Kendi gives the following examples:
- Jefferson blamed the British for preventing Americans from abolishing slavery but also blamed them for inciting slave revolts. In either case, Kendi points out, the critical issue isn’t slavery or racism—it’s unwanted British influence.
- Jefferson opposed letting former slaves be part of free White society, arguing that it would lead to violence because Black people rightly had grievances against their White enslavers (an arguably antiracist and certainly empathetic statement) and because Black people are morally inferior (an openly racist statement).
- Jefferson insisted that only White people were beautiful and denigrated Black people’s appearance, but he also fathered numerous children with an enslaved mistress. Kendi points out that this contradiction was common under slavery, and in fact led to accusations that Black women were aggressively promiscuous—a myth that persists to this day.
In short, Kendi suggests that like many people in this period, Jefferson found himself caught between his intellectual ideals (which opposed slavery and racism) and his economic and political self-interest (which supported his continued enslavement of Black people).
The Science of Race
During the Colonial era, pro-slavery forces found support in new scientific attitudes about race. Kendi explains that from around 1730 to 1760, Enlightenment scientists like taxonomist Carl Linnaeus established pseudoscientific racial hierarchies that placed Europeans at the top (attributing to them qualities like intelligence, ingenuity, and lawfulness) and Africans at the bottom (citing traits like laziness, neglectfulness, and capriciousness). These hierarchies inspired similar hierarchies within the slave trade, as enslavers ranked slaves according to their national and ethnic origins, which were thought to determine a slave’s utility for various kinds of work.
Kendi points out that these kinds of hierarchies served two social purposes. First, they justified slavery by perpetuating the idea that Black people were inferior and benefited from slavery’s civilizing influence. Second, they helped prevent slave uprisings by widening the rift between poor White people and poor and enslaved Black people while also introducing racist divides within enslaved populations by ranking some slaves as “better” than others.
“Uplift Suasion” and the “Extraordinary Negro”
In the face of ongoing slavery and racism, some Black people and White reformers began to publicly argue for the abolition of slavery. While abolitionist arguments in America date back to the late 1600s, opposition to slavery gathered momentum through the 18th century, culminating in the gradual passage (from 1780-1804) of antislavery laws in Northern states. Kendi says that one of the main approaches in this early abolitionist movement was to demonstrate that Black people were (or could be) equal to their White counterparts. Kendi calls this approach uplift suasion—the idea that if Black people prove their intellectual, moral, or other capabilities, White people will realize that their racist ideas are wrong.
Unfortunately, Kendi says, this tactic was doomed from the beginning. For one thing, as we’ve seen, slavery existed not because enslavers believed in racist ideas, but because they benefited from slavery. Therefore, even if you discredited the ideas, the benefit remained and so would the institution.
Additionally, it was easy for racists to ignore evidence that contradicted their ideas. Kendi points out that when confronted with well-educated, articulate, and literate Black people, such as Cambridge-educated Francis Williams and published poet Phillis Wheatley, White racists dismissed them as “extraordinary negroes” who were exceptions to the general rule of Black inferiority.
Moreover, Kendi says, the basic logic of uplift is inherently racist. By suggesting that Black people can prove their worth by achieving White standards of intelligence, learning, culture, and so on, uplift implies that White standards are the superior standards to which all races should aspire (in the process dismissing any culture other than that of post-Enlightenment Western Europe).
Plus, Kendi points out, uplift shifts the blame for racial disparities onto Black people. If some Black people can “better” themselves by adopting White ideals, the implication is that “lesser” Black people have only themselves to blame for their situations and for racism itself. If only Black people as a whole behaved better, the logic goes, people would view and treat them better.
The Civil War and the Emancipation Movement
By the 19th century, the abolition movement had gathered momentum that would ultimately culminate in the American Civil War (1861-65). But as Kendi points out, anti-slavery thought wasn’t always antiracist thought—in fact, abolitionists frequently reproduced racist assimilationist ideas that cast Black people as having been reduced to helpless brutes by slavery. Kendi argues that this dichotomy is exemplified by William Lloyd Garrison, one of the country’s most vocal and influential abolitionists. Kendi also points out that during this period, there was an increasing interest in deporting Black people to Africa, as well as an increase in racial tensions among Black people and between Black and White people.
One of the counterintuitive insights of Kendi’s book is that it’s possible to oppose one form of racism while perpetuating another—as was the case with Garrison’s abolitionist movement, which was popular from the 1830s until slavery ended in 1865. Kendi argues that, like many of his time, Garrison believed that Black people needed White people to rescue them from slavery and uplift their minds and spirits. Though an advocate of immediate and total emancipation, Garrison argued that enslaved Black people should wait for White and free Black abolitionists to effect a political solution to slavery. (Yet, as Kendi notes, during the Civil War, thousands of Black people required no help to free themselves by running from their plantations, volunteering for the Union army, and so on.)
Garrison wasn’t the only abolitionist to take a paternalistic stance toward the Black people he meant to help. Kendi points to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which had immense influence on the abolitionist movement. Kendi argues that the novel introduced the new racist stereotype of the extraordinarily spiritual Black person in Uncle Tom, a man weak of body but strong of soul. He explains that Uncle Tom played into preexisting stereotypes of weak Black men unfit to lead themselves—let alone a family, political movement, or nation. Portrayals like this reinforced the idea that Black people needed White people to come to their rescue.
Imbruted By Slavery
Part of the justification for this paternalistic approach was the idea that slavery had turned Black people into the savages it claimed them to be. Kendi argues that this is classic assimilationist logic: Whereas enslavers argued that Black people were inherently inferior, many emancipationists argued that Black people had been made inferior by slavery’s abuses. Kendi points out that both of these stances are racist because both proclaim that Black people are inferior (they differ only in their assessment of who’s at fault for that inferiority). Yet, against Black protests to the contrary, many emancipationists clung to the idea that slavery had left Black people incapable of caring for themselves or joining in society.
Kendi says that as abolitionists fought to end slavery, others debated what to do with Black people if they were freed. Since the Colonial era, there had been arguments that slavery was wrong, but that Black people could never live among White people (Kendi cites one such opinion from as early as 1700). As this notion proliferated over the years, it gradually inspired the idea of recolonization—the mass deportation of Black people to Africa. Kendi explains that this idea held both segregationist and assimilationist appeals, as it would keep Black people from tainting White society while also allowing those Black people who had been “uplifted” by White influence to improve the lots of the more “primitive” native Africans they encountered.
Although recolonization was an extreme idea, it had a lot of political traction. Kendi says that Jefferson endorsed it for much of his life, and in 1821, his friend and fifth US President James Monroe allowed the American Colonization Society to acquire land in Africa (in what’s now Liberia) to use as a colony for freed American slaves. Kendi notes that even Abraham Lincoln—now remembered as the “Great Emancipator”—preferred the idea of sending Black Americans to Liberia rather than setting them free in their own country.
As Kendi points out, recolonization is racist because it implies that Black people aren’t American—even though by the time of the Civil War, some Black families had been in the country for almost 250 years. Kendi also notes that Black opponents of recolonization in the 1810s protested against being sent to the “savage wilds of Africa”—an attitude that reflects the extent to which Black Americans had absorbed racist White perceptions of the continent.
Reconstruction and Jim Crow
From the end of the Civil War in 1865 until 1877, the US underwent a period of Reconstruction in which Congress passed a set of constitutional amendments intended to guarantee civil rights to newly freed Black people, and government officials and Northern citizens alike attempted to protect and enforce these new rights in the South. Kendi notes that White racists responded to these efforts first with violence, then with new laws (known as Jim Crow laws) designed to reestablish segregation and discrimination while spreading false notions of Black criminality.
Amid these political and social struggles, Kendi says, uplift suasion found renewed voice in the person of W.E.B. Du Bois, a black scholar and activist who spent much of his life promoting both antiracist and assimilationist ideas before adopting an uncompromising antiracist stance in his later years.
Double Consciousness Perpetuates Uplift Suasion
According to Kendi, Du Bois’s most influential early work (The Souls of Black Folk, published in 1903) reveals a tension between racist and antiracist thought. Kendi cites Du Bois’s concept of double-consciousness—the idea that Black Americans simultaneously see themselves through their own eyes and through the eyes of a racist White world. Kendi argues that this idea is both antiracist (because it validates Black peoples’ experiences and points of view) and assimilationist (because it reinforces the idea that Black people should always be on their best behavior in order to impress White onlookers).
This assimilationist tendency led Du Bois to promote the idea of the Talented Tenth—the highest-achieving 10% of the Black population. Du Bois argued that highly educated Black people should seek public office and business leadership so as to lead their less accomplished racial brethren to a better life. By stepping into the public spotlight, Kendi says, Du Bois believed that elite Black people would set an example for their own race and prove Black worth to White racists.
The Birth of Jim Crow
At the same time that Du Bois was promoting Black education and achievement, racist laws emerged that found new ways to marginalize Black people. These laws began after the Compromise of 1877, when, in order to settle the contested 1876 Presidential election in their favor, Northern Republicans removed the federal troops who had been enforcing civil rights in the South. Between 1890 and 1910, Southern states passed laws called Jim Crow laws that allowed segregation and severely limited Black civil liberties. These laws stayed in effect until 1965.
Kendi points out that Jim Crow laws were possible because early antiracist laws only targeted racist policy language (rather than guarding against racist outcomes). This oversight allowed laws that were technically legal (because they avoided racist language) but that discriminated against Black people (for example, by requiring subjective civics tests before allowing people to vote). This tactic was strengthened by Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), a Supreme Court ruling establishing that racial differences were real and that states could discriminate on racial grounds so long as they provided “equal” accommodations.
The Myth of Black Criminality
Kendi says that part of the justification for this widespread discrimination was the notion that Black people were dangerous and needed to be controlled. He argues that the post-Civil War era spurred the disproportionate arrest and prosecution of Black people—whose widespread incarceration was then used as evidence of Black criminality. Kendi argues that even as White racists began regularly lynching Black people for even the slightest of perceived misdeeds, this mob violence became evidence of Black moral turpitude. For example, in an address to Congress, President Theodore Roosevelt declared that Black rapists were the number one cause of lynchings.
Civil Rights Through Today
By the mid-20th century, civil rights activists were finally making some headway toward political and social change. Yet Kendi argues that many social changes only succeeded because of White self-interest, and as a result, they had the side effect of reinforcing old racist ideas and inspiring new ones. For Kendi, this period is exemplified by Angela Davis, a Black academic and political activist whose work highlights feminist as well as racial concerns—and whose imprisonment in the 1970s illustrates both the racial biases of the prison system and the way racist leaders have sometimes used the criminal justice system to shut down their political opponents.
Civil Rights as Self-Interest
Kendi says that following World War II, the US wished to be seen as the leader of the “free world” and win influence in global politics and economic markets—including those that were emerging as various countries won their independence from their former European colonizers. In this context, Kendi argues, President Dwight Eisenhower realized that the US’s obvious racism and prejudice would hurt the country’s global image—especially as the rest of the world began to see the violent oppression and abuse of Black activists at the hands of White law enforcement officials in the South.
Kendi suggests that this political self-concern helped open the door for integration in the 1950s and new civil rights laws in the 1960s. But when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he says, they inadvertently created a new racist myth. Kendi argues that by proclaiming equality without addressing the historical and ongoing inequities that put Black people at a disadvantage, the act suggested that Black people were now on an equal playing field and that if they didn’t excel in equal measure to White people, their failure to do so proved their fundamental (racial) inadequacy.
The Evolution of Racist Rhetoric
Moreover, Kendi says, the legal successes of the Civil Rights movement inspired politicians to adopt newer, less blatant ways of signaling their racist intent. Kendi points to Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” as an early example of racist code language. Nixon capitalized on the racist myth of Black criminality in 1968 by campaigning on “law and order” and criticizing laws that had strengthened the “criminal” elements.
Kendi argues that Nixon knew many of his listeners would hear “criminals” as “Black people,” which allowed him to run a racist campaign without ever openly mentioning race. Kendi suggests that this tactic has continued ever since, with terms like “welfare queen” (popularized by Ronald Reagan in 1976) and “thug” (which began taking on racial overtones in the 2010s) allowing public officials to disparage Black people with pseudo-neutral language.
According to Kendi, racist leaders didn’t always limit themselves to encoding racist language in discussions of crime—they actually used the criminal justice system as a means of oppression. Kendi points to the 1970 imprisonment of Angela Davis—who had already twice been fired from her assistant professorship for her Communist Party ties and her political speeches—as an example of the unwarranted legal scrutiny he suggests was sometimes aimed at Black leaders. Likewise, Kendi points to Ronald Reagan’s “war on drugs” in the 1980s—a war that Kendi says disproportionately targeted Black people for arrest and imprisonment and perpetuated the idea that Black communities are inherently crime-ridden.
One result of these racist political strategies was a new strand of assimilationist logic that blamed racial disparities on supposedly “pathological” Black families, communities, and culture. Kendi traces this idea to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Assistant Secretary of Labor who in 1965 authored a report describing the Black family as a “tangle of pathology.” Kendi explains that the Moynihan Report suggested that Black men, emasculated first by slavery and then by discrimination, were too weak to lead their households or communities. Meanwhile, Kendi says, the report stereotyped Black women as promiscuous and irresponsible.
Combining these two ideas, the theory of pathological Black families suggested that Black people were incapable of healthy and functional family lives (which in turn explained the poverty and supposedly rampant crime in Black communities). Kendi points out that even as this theory ostensibly points to racism as the underlying cause of Black pathologies, it nonetheless claims that Black people are, in fact, defective.
And yet, Kendi says, like other assimilationist ideas before it, this theory was adopted by racist White people and Black people alike. He argues that throughout the 1980s and 1990s, some conservative politicians blamed Black people for a lack of “personal responsibility,” suggesting that if they just stopped behaving badly, their problems would go away. Meanwhile, Kendi says, many Black leaders began to fret about cultural trends like “Gangsta rap,” which they feared would hurt White opinions of Black people while setting dangerous examples for Black youths.
The Myth of Postracial America
Kendi argues that as the post-Civil Rights era settled in, one final myth emerged—the idea that racism is over. Kendi explains that as Black people gained legal protections and society moved away from open racism and discrimination, leaders started talking about a “color-blind” or “postracial” society. The idea of color-blindness seems appealing—it implies that nobody notices or cares about racial differences, which in turn suggests that racism is no longer an issue. But Kendi points out that not seeing race means not seeing the racial disparities that exist because of racism. He concludes that color-blindness and postracialism are inherently racist concepts because they obscure racist policies and their effects.
Moreover, he points out that postracialism undermines antiracist positions by delegitimizing any accusations of racism. As Kendi explains, postracial logic says that people who criticize racist policies or behaviors are themselves racist because they’re insisting on racial differences even though race isn’t an issue anymore. Kendi suggests that this is a new way of accusing someone of “playing the race card”—that is, exploiting their status as a racial minority as a political tool.
Part 3: How to Fight Racism
After laying out his history of American racism, Kendi ends with some thoughts on how to eliminate (or at least minimize) racial disparities in society. He argues that we can never truly eliminate racism because there will always be people willing to advance themselves with racist policies and to invent racist ideas to justify these policies. And as we’ve seen, strategies like education and uplift do nothing to stop those policies or the ideas that spring from them.Instead, Kendi argues, the solution is to defeat racist policies themselves—and keep them from coming back. To do so will require antiracists to achieve political power, enact antiracist policies, and hold on to their power (and policies) long enough for antiracist thought to become the new public common sense. At that point, Kendi says, the general populace will need to hold the government responsible for maintaining the newly antiracist society.
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- How enslavers convinced themselves that slavery benefited slaves
- Why most antiracist reformers harbored racist thoughts
- How to achieve an antiracist society