The Bottom Line
An idea, policy or person is either racist — by contributing to a history that considers and treats different races as inherently unequal — or antiracist because it is trying to dismantle that history and build a more equitable society. There is nothing in between.
More than a century after the Civil War and 50 years since the passage of Civil Rights legislation, racial inequities and discrimination persist. In recent years, media attention to racist police brutality and to microaggressions in its many forms serves to remind us that we are not, as some suggest, living in a postracial society. At a time when too little has changed and awareness and urgency is rising, historian Ibram X. Kendi, who won the 2016 National Book Award for Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, issues a provocative and profound challenge: How To Be An Antiracist.
To be an antiracist, know thy enemy. In this No. 1 New York Times best-selling book, Kendi discusses racism in its myriad forms and traces it to its beginnings. In doing so, he illustrates how racism is not just about immoral people discriminating against others who seem different but, rather, about people using invented racial categories to justify seizing power.
As Kendi, an African American, holds out each strand of racism — including racism toward (other) people of color, racism based on culture or behavior, racism tied to class or gender, and even racism against white people — he describes how he himself has been racist and how he has converted his own racism to antiracism. These anecdotes, which follow a chronological path through Kendi’s life, work to both inform and to disarm the reader: If Kendi points a finger at all, it’s at himself. As he considers each form of racism, Kendi describes its antidotes: antiracist actions, which support policies that create equity between racial groups; and antiracist ideas, which hold that all racial groups are equal.
II. Racist Policies Cause Racial Inequity
III. Segregation and Assimilation Are Both Racist
IV. Racist Policies Came First, Then Racist Ideas
V. People of Color Can Be Racist Too
VI. Racism Interacts with Other Forms of Oppression
VII. Changing Policies Is What Counts
Download the Athena app to access our expertly crafted How To Be An Antiracist summary - available in text and audiobook formats.