Most every one of us would say, if asked, that we are not racist. We don’t think of Black people as intellectually inferior as our ancestors did, we don’t see them as someone to be feared or hated simply based on skin colour. We have spoken out for equal rights for Blacks and other minorities, defend equal voting rights, housing rights, and employment rights for all. But, is there a difference between being ‘not racist’ and being ‘antiracist’? Dr. Ibram X. Kendi thinks there is, and after listening to him explain last night, I’m inclined to agree.
Dr. Kendi is an author, historian, and scholar of race and discriminatory policy in the U.S. He currently serves as director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, and previously held the same position at the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at the American University. I have read one of his books, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, and am hoping to read his next to latest, How to be an Antiracist, for which he won the 2016 National Book Award for Non-Fiction. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2019, as well as numerous other awards and honours.
In the U.S. today, in light of the recent killings of innocent, unarmed black people by police, the Black Lives Matter movement is more widespread than at any other time. Unfortunately, it has taken a back seat to such matters as the upcoming election and the coronavirus pandemic, but still, many more people are, it seems, becoming aware of the systemic racism that never went away in this country. And now, we have a president who would re-write the history of our nation to eliminate such dark eras as slavery, making it more important than ever that we stand up, that we do not allow the darkest days of our history to be whitewashed, but that we own them and learn from them.
I’d like to direct you to the clip my friend Herb sent me last night that I found thought-provoking, and that made me take a closer look within my own self. This is a 12-minute clip from a June interview of Dr. Kendi with Stephen Colbert, where Colbert steps outside his jokester persona and asks serious, intelligent questions of Dr. Kendi. Please take the time to watch, listen, and think about Dr. Kendi’s words.
What did you think? Did it make you stop and ponder a bit? If you’re interested in Dr. Kendi and his work, please check out his website.