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592 pages, Hardcover
First published March 8, 2016
Congratulations, Ibram X.Kendi, and Jason Reynolds, for winning the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Nonfiction book this year for the remixed version (condensed adaption for middle-grade readers) of Stamped.
"There was not a single article in the colonial era announcing the acquittal of the black male rapist. One-third of white men mentioned in rape articles were acknowledged as being acquitted of at least one charge. Moreover, newspaper reports of rape constructed white defendants as individual offenders and black defendants as representatives of the failure of their racial group, according to historian Sharon Block. Already the American mind was accomplishing that indispensable intellectual activity of someone consumed with racist ideas, individualizing white negativity and generalizing black negativity"
"Many will say he is of hate, a fanatic, a racist, and my response will be, did you ever listen to him? If you did, you will know him. If you knew him, you will know why we must honor him. Anti-racist Americans did honor him, especially after recordings and written scripts of his of speeches begin to circulate"
"Black men use drugs at the same rate as white men, but they are arrested twice as often for it. And then they pay more than a third more than their counterparts, on average, in bail. Black men are six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated. And when they are convicted, black men get sentences nearly 20 percent longer than those given to their white counterparts. Latino men don't fare much better. It is truly appalling .” -Kamala Harris
“The only thing wrong with Black people is that we think something is wrong with Black people.”
“Possibly no other American autobiography opened anti racist minds than the autobiography of Malcolm X. ”
“If Blacks did not violently resist, then they were cast as naturally servile. And yet, whenever they did fight, reactionary commentators, in both North and South, classified them as barbaric animals who needed to be caged in slavery."
"It has been true that racist policies have benefited White people in general at the expense of Black people (and others) in general. That is the story of racism, of unequal opportunity in a nutshell. But it is also true that a society of equal opportunity, without a top 1 percent hoarding the wealth and power, would actually benefit the vast majority of White people much more than racism does."An insightful, very smart and impressive book that I will likely consult over and over again. Another book that is well worth the time and effort to read!!
“I was taught the popular folktale of racism: that ignorant and hateful people had produced racist ideas, and that these racist people had instituted racist policies. But when I learned the motives behind the production of many of America’s most influentially racist ideas, it became quite obvious that this folktale, though sensible, was not based on a firm footing of historical evidence. Ignorance/hate --> racist ideas --> discrimination: this causal relationship is largely ahistorical. It has actually been an inverse relationship – racial discrimination led to racist ideas which led to ignorance and hate. Racial discrimination --> racist ideas --> ignorance/hate: this is the causal relationship driving America’s history of race relations.”
The popular and glorious version of history saying that abolitionists and civil rights activists have steadily educated and persuaded away American racist ideas and policies sounds great. But it has never been the complete story, or even the main story. Politicians passed the civil and voting rights measures in the 1860s and the 1960s primarily out of political and economic self-interest—not an educational or moral awakening. And these laws did not spell the doom of racist policies. The racist policies simply evolved. There has been a not-so-glorious progression of racism, and educational persuasion has failed to stop it, and Americans have failed to recognize itThis can be a hard book to read because it lays bare the harsh truth of racism in America. It deeply explores the American experience with anti-black racism and strips away some of the comforting illusions we maintain about it.
I was taught the popular folktale of racism: that ignorant and hateful people had produced racist ideas, and that these racist people had instituted racist policies. But when I learned the motives behind the production of many of America’s most influentially racist ideas, it became quite obvious that this folktale, though sensible, was not based on a firm footing of historical evidence. Ignorance/hate -> racist ideas -> discrimination: this causal relationship is largely ahistorical. It has actually been the inverse relationship—racial discrimination led to racist ideas which led to ignorance and hateInstead of racism crawling out of a fetid pool of ignorance it is instead the slick product of insidious greed.
Proslavery legislators repressed the very captives they said were docile, and restricted the education of the very people they argued could not be educated. Racist ideas, clearly, did not generate these slave codes. Enslaving interests generated these slave codes. Racist ideas were produced to preserve the enslaving interests.Kendi identified three main forces that contested with each other during the couse of human history:
The history of racist ideas that follows is the history of these three distinct voices—segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists—and how they each have rationalized racial disparities, arguing why Whites have remained on the living and winning end, while Blacks remained on the losing and dying end.Somewhat surprisingly, to me at least, was that Kendi had a pretty major beef with assimilationists (who sought to integrate black populations into the wider America, ie: white, culture), who would often be on the side anti-racists. But Kendi makes an excellent point that many of the goals the assimilationists sought were either counter productive towards the goals of equality or were aggressively ineffective. The base operating assumption of the assimilationists was that racism, and the subsequent racist policies, was a product of ignorance on the part of many people. If they just saw how smart and civilized and cultivated blacks could be their mind would change.
This strategy of what can be termed uplift suasion was based on the idea that white people could be persuaded away from their racists ideas if they saw Black people improving their behavior, uplifting themselves from their low station in American society . the burden of race relations was placed squarely on the shoulders of Black Americans. Positive Black behavior, abolitionist strategists held, undermined racist ideas, and negative Black behavior confirmed them.But racist ideas are not so simply undermined. Where there is money and social advantage to be made by oppressing a group of people new justifications will be generated to preserve the status quo. The case of uplift suasion was no different.
These extraordinary Negros supposedly defied the laws of nature or nurture that standardized Black decadence. They were not ordinarily inferior like the “majority.” This mind game allowed racists to maintain their racist ideas in the midst of individual Africans defying its precepts. It doomed from the start the strategy of exhibiting excelling Blacks to change racist minds. But this strategy of persuasion endured.And persist it did, arguably even to contemporary times. How often has it been said of a member of another racial group "Oh, I like [insert name here], he's one of the good ones." implying a member of that group that is worthy of respect and friendship is the outlier, the extraordinary member of an otherwise "bad" group.
The strategy remained deeply racist. Black people, apparently, were responsible for changing racist White minds. White people, apparently, were not responsible for their own racist mentalities. If White people were racist and discriminated against Blacks, then Black people were to blame, because they had not commanded Whites’ respect. Uplift suasion had been deployed for more than a century, and its effect in 1903? American racism may have never been worse. But neither its undergirding racist ideas, nor its historical failure, nor the extraordinary Negro construction ensuring its continued failure had lessened the faith of reformers.So yeah, I very much see where Kendi would have a beef with assimilationist efforts in this vein.
But in the weeks after the conflict, he joined with abolitionists in transforming John Brown in the eyes of antislavery northerners from a madman to a “martyr.” Countless Americans came to admire his David-like courage to strike at the mighty and hated Goliath-like slave power. The disdain for violent Black revolutionaries lurked in the shadow of the praises for John Brown, however. Black slave rebels never became martyrs and remained madmen and madwomen. Never before had the leader of a major slave uprising been so praised.This is a pretty clear double standard that when blacks rise up they are violent and savage (even though they were fighting to be free) but when a white man leads them the resistance is noble and worthy of martyrdom.
From their arrival around 1619, African people had illegally resisted legal slavery. They had thus been stamped from the beginning as criminals. In all of the fifty suspected or actual slave revolts reported in newspapers during the American colonial era, resisting Africans were nearly always cast as violent criminals, not people reacting to enslavers’ regular brutality, or pressing for the most basic human desire: freedom.In a more modern example of white hypocrisy Kendi identifies that many of the arguments against government welfare that would benefit blacks was often couched in terms that infantilized the people (i.e.: black citizens) who would receive it and that just wasn't morally or spiritually acceptable.
Welfare "transforms the individual from a dignified, industrious, self-reliant spiritual being into a dependent animal creature without his knowing it," Goldwater wrote without a shred of evidence. Many proud, dignified, industrious, self-reliant members of the White middle class, who had derived their wealth from the welfare of inheritance, the New Deal, or the GI Bill, accepted Goldwater's dictum as truth, despite the fact that parental or governmental assistance has transformed them or their parents into dependent animal creatures. After looking at White mothers on welfare as "deserving" for decades, there Goldwater conservatives saw the growing number of Black mothers on welfare as "undeserving" - as dependent animal creatures.At its core anti-black racism was never and is never about any sort of rational, codified ideas. It is about power and it is more than willing and able to alter its justifications to adjust to the needs of the time. Be that by acknowledging that SOME Black Americans could be extraordinary while consigning the balance of them to the realm of savage animals to declaring A war on (some classes of people who use some) drugs or claiming "economic anxiety" when voting for out-and-out racist politicians and policies. Systemic, institutionalized racism cannot be negotiated with, it can only be confronted and smashed. And even then we must remain vigilant should this insidious weed take root again and spread under a new banner or slogan. It will likely always be with us and it is our duty as civilized peoples to stand in solidarity with our fellow citizens against this pernicious weed.