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New Book 'How To Be An Antiracist' Explores How To Actively Stop Racism
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / September 9, 2019
A new book explores racism and inequality in our society challenging the way many think about it. How to be an anti racist by Ibram Kendi makes a case for people to actively stop racism with critical self-reflection and acknowledging racism’s impact.
Speaker 1: 00:00 A new book explores racism and inequality in our society. Challenging the way many think about it, how to be an antiracist by Ebrum candy makes a case for people to actively stop racism with critical self reflection and acknowledging racism. Impact. Dr Ebrum Kandi is the founding director of the anti-racist research and Policy Center at American University and the author of how to be an anti-racist. Dr Kendi. Welcome. So first I'm going to start by asking what is an antiracist?
Speaker 2: 00:34 Well, by definition in anti-racist is someone who is expressing in anti-racist idea or supporting anti-racist in anti-racist policy with their action. And when I say anti-racist idea, I mean notions that the racial groups as our equals that nothing is wrong with a particular racial group. And when I say anti-racist policies, I'm talking about policies that are leading to racial equity.
Speaker 1: 01:04 Hmm. And with that then can you define what a racist is?
Speaker 2: 01:09 So a racist is the very opposite. And so it's someone who is expressing a racist idea or supporting a racist policy with their action or even inaction. And, and so if an anti-racist idea connotes racial equality, then racist ideas could no racial hierarchy that certain racial groups are better or worse, superior or inferior to another. If anti-racist policies lead to racial equity, racist policies lead to racial inequity. And if someone is doing nothing in the face of racial inequity in the face of racist policy, then by default they're supporting that status quo.
Speaker 1: 01:57 And so in that, there, there really is no gray area. Either you're anti-racist or racist. Uh, there is no, I'm not racist. You say, um, why is that?
Speaker 2: 02:09 Well, I say it for a number of different reasons. You know, obviously by definition there is no gray area between equity and inequity between hierarchy, racial hierarchy and racial equality. But then also historically when, when people have been charged with saying or doing something that's racist, the typical response has not been, well, you know, maybe what I said is racist, you know, limby, you know, investigate, let me inquire, let me self reflect. Let me self critique the typical response and almost almost a flippant response of Americans even well meaning Americans has been, I'm not racist. And so breaking that down, it's been, I'm a not racist and, and I've never really been able to find any meaning in the term, not racist other than as a defensive sort of term of, of denial.
Speaker 1: 03:05 Is it important for people to be able to define racism and be specific in identifying it
Speaker 2: 03:13 without question. I mean, when we look at, for instance, the political winds of, of the summer where, to give an example, when the president of the United States was having this big public debate with Congress, Congressman Elijah Cummings from, from Baltimore, and both were calling the other racist. Um, even though both have very distinct ideas about race, both are pushing different types of racial policies. And so they can't both be racist. And so in a way they were debating like Americans have been for quite some time the definition of a racist. And they were both. And I think many Americans define racist in a way that exonerates them. And we should not be doing that with any word. Um, let alone the term racist
Speaker 1: 04:01 in many newsrooms, for example, many journalists have a difficult time describing people or their actions as racist because there's this thought that you have to know intent in order to do that. How important is intent to defining racism?
Speaker 2: 04:16 So I think what would many journalists don't realize, and, and you know, this is again even well, meaning journalists is the frame of intent to define racist person or even a racist policy was actually created by racist themselves to exonerate their racism. Because it's very, very hard to figure out what is in someone's bones or what's in someone's heart or what is someone's intent. But it's not hard to figure out the outcome. It's not hard to ascertain what they say, what policies they support. And so that's why intent for me is an irrelevant descriptor when it comes to describing someone as racist because that concept was created by racist themselves to basically exonerate themselves.
Speaker 1: 05:06 And the first few pages of your book, you highlight a point in time where looking back now you've realized some of your ideas, uh, that you held were racist. Can you tell me about that?
Speaker 2: 05:17 Yeah, so I came of age in the 1990s, meaning when I was sort of during my teenage years and if there was ever and a decade in American history where black youth in particular were denigrated in which black youth were told there was something wrong with them, that they were ruining black America, that they were ruining America. It was the 1990s. And, and so in many ways I consumed some of those ideas that black youth didn't value education, that black youth were too often getting pregnant. That black youth were the most feared in society, that they were super and it was their fault.
Speaker 1: 05:59 And how important is, is critical self reflection, uh, for everyone in their process of identifying racism.
Speaker 2: 06:06 If the heartbeat of racism is denial, then the heartbeat of anti-racism is confession. And so being self reflective and self-critical is absolutely essential to being anti-racist. It is what separates the anti-racist from the racist who fundamentally and always will deny, um, what they've said in what they've done.
Speaker 1: 06:32 I've been speaking with doctor Ebrum, Candi, director of the anti-racist research and Policy Center at American University and author of the book how to be an anti racist. Dr Candy, thanks so much for joining us.
Speaker 2: 06:44 You're welcome and pink. You Ave on the show.
Speaker 3: 06:54 [inaudible].