Of the books on racism that I’ve read recently, I found Ibram Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist to be among the most useful on a number of levels.
By far the most important of them is his ability to blow apart the conception that many people have that being neutral on race is not the same things as being antiracist. In fact, claiming that we live in a postracial or race neutral period can actually make matters worse.
We can’t be neutral when it comes to race. It is a fixture of life in the United States and in so many other countries. We may hope to take race out of the equation if we shed affirmative action and related programs. In fact, we can’t, because the impact of a history of racism plays itself out in ways that mean that race can never be off of the table.
We discriminate whether we want to or not. The question is how we discriminate in a positive way that helps create a more equal society in the short run and a happier and more productive one for everyone in the long term.
As he puts it on p. 18:
The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist.
The rest of the book explores what the means in dozens of areas ranging from cultural norms to biology in ways that I could fully cover in a short review.
In short, it took me a long time to read this book. Not because Kendi is a bad writer. In fact, he’s a terrific writer.
Instead, the book made me think.