How to Be an Antiracist Summary – July 2022

Author: Ibram X. Kendi

Short Summary
How to Be an Antiracist (2019) is a personal and revelatory account of racial injustice, its foundations, and challenges. This book will shed light on the definition of antiracist, the history of racism, ways to become an antiracist, and the personal journey of Ibram X. Kendi; all in just a few hundred pages.
how to be an antiracist summary

Detailed Summary

In How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi bursts the myths that are associated with post-racial America. So few among us believe themselves to be racially biased. However, incidents like the shooting in Charleston and recurrent attacks on people of color by the police make it clear that racism is still present in our mindsets. In this book, the author calls for all people to become an agent of positive change. Instead of working on not seeing people as black or white, we need to work on seeing people as people only.  If a person does something good, we don’t attach the reward to his whole race. Similarly, if a person does something bad we should not relate that act to the whole race. Ibram X. Kendi recalls his experiences from childhood to adulthood and scrutinizes himself. The reader gets to look at the issue of racism from both a historical and a personal perspective.

How to Be an Antiracist Summary Key Point

Is Black Culture Inferior?

Many aspects of racism are not highlighted because they are very intricately embedded in the everyday behavior of society. For example, looking at a black man and thinking that he will require extra training for the job you are offering just because he seems backward and needs to develop a work ethic. So, how did your mind label this person as backward and in need of professional help without checking his work? The answer is simple. You saw his skin color and attached all the stereotypical adjectives for a person of color.

 Over time in history, the lands of black people have been captured. Their curriculum, festivals, and dialects have been criticized. All of this presents a singular front that Black people need to change in order to be treated equally. The highest set standard that shows progression, independence, and grace is the white. To achieve greatness, the people of color must do everything like them. This makes people of color feel inferior.

What is worse, is that the African undergo linguistic, religious, and cultural loss. Even after that, they are not recognized as equals. Through both: segregation and assimilation the black would lose their rich culture and identity. So, where does an antiracist stand then? An antiracist believes only in theories grounded in truth. He rips off these labels and endorses the idea that no race is in need of any improvement.

So We Can Combat Cultural Racism but what About Biological Racism?

Ibram X. Kendi explains that many of us believe that there are biological differences between black and white and this perception also propagates racism even though it may not be that evident. This includes assuming that thin, fair, lean bodies are better. The author shares his anecdote of using light-colored lenses that made his eyes look honey-colored because at some time in his life he also believed that the lighter skin and the lighter colored eyes; the better.

This includes naturally assuming that black people would be good at sports like running because of their athletic bodies or they excelled in rap, jazz, and hip hop. It also came with an implication that overly sexualized black men and women resulted in higher incidents of rape with people of color.

Although several pieces of research support the idea that certain people are more apt for certain jobs and activities but these abilities are mostly influenced by where one lives and not by their color. Therefore, science shows that geographical factors are behind these influences and race should not be used to promote any biological difference between humans.

Sometimes We Become Our Own Problem

Black people tend to influence and promote racism against themselves too. This includes believing that they are inferior inherently and thinking that some black are bad while others are superior. This internalized racism is depicted in many works of literature including Toni Morrison’s Bluest Eye, where the characters themselves believe that they are inferior. This mentality takes away the chances for good education, upbringing, and social mobility for people of color because they think that they do not deserve it. 

According to Robin Nicole Johnson internalized racism involves both “conscious and unconscious acceptance of a racial hierarchy in which whites are consistently ranked above people of color.” Ibram X. Kendi believes that an antiracist would not succumb to this idea that his race is inferior and would work and fight for equal social, cultural, and civil rights for all the people.

How to Be an Antiracist Quotes

“Whenever the antiracist sees individuals behaving positively or negatively, the antiracist sees exactly that: individuals behaving positively or, not representatives of whole races.” –Ibram X. Kendi

“Black people are apparently responsible for calming the fears of violent cops in the way women are supposedly responsible for calming the sexual desires of male rapists.” –Ibram X. Kendi

How to Be an Antiracist Review

How to Be an Antiracist would debunk your old ideas about racism. It provides a new and clear direction with which we can beat racism. This book is not a simple guide to being an antiracist, it works on changing the problematic ideas that are deeply embedded in our brains for centuries. An excellent piece of literature that brings so much awareness would totally recommend reading it!

To Whom I Would Recommend How to Be an Antiracist Summary?

  • To the people who think that there is no internal racism among the black.
  • To the politician who wants to understand and stand up for the people of color.
  • To anyone who wants to understand why racism is a phenomenon, we need to talk about it more.