Ibram X. Kendi: 'Racism Isn't An Identity, It's What You're Doing In The Moment'

Ibram X. Kendi: 'Racism Isn't An Identity, It's What You're Doing In The Moment'Ibram X. Kendi: 'Racism Isn't An Identity, It's What You're Doing In The Moment'

Ibram X. Kendi: 'Racism Isn't An Identity, It's What You're Doing In The Moment' Note: Audio for Part Two of this interview will be available tomorrow. The writer Ibram X. Kendi has made a name for himself tackling one of the most important, and one of the most sensitive topics in America today. His 2017 book Stamped from the Beginning is a history of racist ideas in America, and his new book is called How To Be an Antiracist. It starts with a moment in Kendi's own life: He was a high school senior taking part in an oratorical contest honoring Martin Luther King Jr., delivering a speech that ultimately won him first place. "And in this speech, in which I thought I was being so progressive and so radical, in fact I was expressing a litany of anti-black ideas particularly, about black youth," he says. "I talked about 'black youth don't value education' and I talked about 'black youth keep climbing the high tree of pregnancy,' that 'black youth are not trained well by their parents,' and this majority-black crowd of 3000 largely clapped. And really, that was the moment in which I recognized just how many racist ideas, anti-black racist ideas I had consumed over the course of the '90s — a time that many of these ideas were mainstream." On the definition of antiracist I define an antiracist — and I should say that the book, as you know, is sort of anchored on all of these definitions, because I think it's critical for us to define terms in order to have productive conversations about race. But I define an antiracist as someone who is expressing an antiracist idea, or supporting or an antiracist policy, policies that yield racial equity, while antiracist ideas talk about the equality of racial groups, and I'm very deliberate in arguing that we should be striving to be antiracist as opposed to self identifying as not racist. On the difference between antiracist and not racist What we should remember — and I don't think many Americans realize this — is that eugenicists ,when they were called racist in the 1930s and 1940s, their response was "I'm not racist." When Jim Crow segregationists in the '50s and the '60s were called racist, their response was "I'm not racist." Today, when white nationalists and white supremacists are charged with being racist, their response is "I'm not racist." It has long been this sort of term of denial in which people refuse to recognize the way in which they're actually being racist. And so I don't think people realize when they say that, they are connecting, very deliberately, with white nationalists and and Jim Crow segregationists and eugenicists. On the idea that the term racist isn't a pejorative So two years ago Richard Spencer, a white supremacist, helped organize the Unite the Right rally, which ultimately led to all these violent clashes between white supremacists like him and antiracist protesters — one of whom was killed. Richard Spencer once said "Racist is not a descriptive term, racist is a pejorative term," and in fact, many Americans, not realizing it, agree with Richard Spencer — when it is in fact a descriptive term. It describes when a person is saying something like, "this is what's wrong with a racial group." It describes when a person is supporting a policy that is creating racial inequity. And what's interesting is people change. You know, racist is not a fixed term. It's not an identity, it's not ...
More on: www.npr.org