SOMEWHERE IN AMERICA, surely there lies a graveyard filled with racist bones. It’s abandoned and dry as Ezekiel’s valley. No one is asking if these bones can live, least of all the many people who proclaim they don’t have a racist bone in their body. Better they turn to dust, lest they be DNA-tested and matched.
But Ibram X. Kendi is laying claim to his. Founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University in D.C. and award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Kendi identifies his own racist beliefs and actions in his latest book, How to Be an Antiracist, a deeply researched blend of history, sociology, law, and memoir.
“One of the central messages in How to Be an Antiracist is that we’re all on a personal journey to move away from our upbringing in a racist nation. And that journey must be deeply self-reflective and self-critical,” Kendi told me. “This is hard work. It’s easy to be racist. It’s extremely hard to be antiracist. But it’s possible, and I wanted to model how we could do that.” Kendi defines a racist as anyone (including a person of color like himself) “who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.” Likewise, an antiracist is anyone “who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.”