“The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.” What’s the difference? One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’” How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
And yet many of us have lived in that in-between safe space, comfortable being ‘not racist.’ The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd added to a long list of victims of systemic racism and police brutality, and a global pandemic gave many a chance to tune in when they might have otherwise turned the channel.
Many are recognizing for the first time that neutrality on racism is no longer an option. Many are seeking exactly what Dr. Ibram X. Kendi offers in How To Be An Antiracist—a deep dive into racist systems and policies, and a call to action for actively pursuing anti-racism personally and in our own spheres of influence.
It is uncomfortable at times. And it is necessary. The commitment to being anti-racist includes digging in to your own learning, having honest conversations, and embracing the discomfort that leads to real change.
I encourage you to grab a book club set for How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi as you continue this journey into anti-racism. Grab 9 of your friends, relatives, or colleagues and begin the conversation using this guide that offers discussion questions and other resources to continue your journey of learning and leading change.
TED Talk | The Difference Between Being "Not Racist" and Antiracist | Ibram X. Kendi
Guidelines for Discussion
1. Try On. Be open-minded to others’ ideas and feelings, even when they are very different than your own.
2. It’s ok to disagree. While we have many similarities, it’s OK to acknowledge our different perspectives.
3. Learn to respond to others with honest, open answers instead of counsel, corrections or attack. Make your conversation goal to listen and share, not to change people's minds.
4. Speak your truth in ways that respect other people’s truths. Our views of reality may differ. Use “I” statements (I think, I feel, I believe), trusting others to do their own sifting.
5. Practice “both/and” thinking. This invites us to see that more than one reality or perspective can be true at the same time, rather than “either/or,” right or wrong, good or bad.
6. Observe deep confidentiality. Agree that nothing said in this conversation of trust will be repeated to others.
"In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi shares his own experience with racist thinking.How does his honesty help give us space to acknowledge and name our own racist behaviors and attitudes?"
"Kendi thinks that we should assess candidates as being racist or antiracist based on what ideas theyare expressing and what policies they are supporting—and not what they say is in their bones or their heart.Do you agree with him? Why or why not?"
"There’s a stronger and clearer correlation between levels of violent crime and unemployment levels than between violent crime and race, but that’s not the story policymakers have chosen to tell. Discuss why you think this is. How might our society and culture change if policymakers characterized dangerous Black neighborhoods as dangerous unemployed neighborhoods?"
"Anyone who values immigrants from European countries and devalues immigrants from Latin America is guilty of racism. Have you ever been guilty of this type of racism? Discuss the unique resilience and resourcefulness people possess if they leave everything in their native country behind and immigrate to another, as Kendi examines in the chapter on Ethnicity."
"Inequities between Light and Dark African Americans can be as wide as inequities between Black and White Americans. How have you seen colorism play out in real life and/or in the media?"
"Why do you think it is so hard for people to not assess other cultures from their own cultural standards? How does doing this trap people in racist ideas?"
"Kendi writes, 'White supremacist is code for anti-human, a nuclear ideology that poses an existential threat to human existence.' How are white supremacists and their ideology actually harmful to all of humanity—including white people?"
"What is the first step you, personally, will take in striving to be an antiracist? How will you check yourself and hold yourself accountable if you notice you, or someone else, is being racist?"