What is antiracism? Kendi explores this question in the book How to be an Antiracist, using many historical examples of racism going back to the origins of transatlantic slave trading policy created by Prince Henry of Portugal in the 1400s.
Kendi discusses his personal experiences of being raised in a Black family in the United States, being discriminated against due to his skin colour, and discriminating against other people for the same reason. He shows how all of us support racist policies in one way or another and highlights the need for greater understanding of the effect these policies have on people.
Discrimination on the basis of gender, sexuality, class and ethnicity coexist with racism and Kendi explains how someone cannot be an antiracist if they are complicit in these other forms of discrimination.
The conclusion that Kendi reaches in the book is best summed up by this quote:
“The history of racist ideas is the history of powerful policy-makers erecting racist policies out of self-interest, then producing racist ideas to defend and rationalize the inequitable effects of their policies, while everyday people consume those racist ideas, which in turn sparks ignorance and hate. Treating ignorance and hate and expecting racism to shrink suddenly seemed like treating a cancer patient’s symptoms and expecting the tumors to shrink….as long as the underlying cause remains, the tumors grow, the symptoms return, and inequities spread like cancer cells”
I found this book very revealing and informative although quite difficult to read.
Reviewed by Taryn Kelly – Library Technician