First Thoughts…How To Be An Antiracist

Posted on February 13, 2020


Monday night I “hosted” a slow chat on Twitter that focused on Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be An Antiracist.” 
Zero people engaged; it turns out that I had a conversation with myself on Twitter—reminiscent of the one-sided Antiracism conversation I had for years with my coworkers at a public high school.
I felt sad that nobody engaged, but this work isn’t about me, so I carried on. I put my thoughts alongside Ibram X. Kendi’s, and the thread exists on Twitter now, under the #AntiracistReaders hashtag, if anyone ever cares to interact on there.
I’m going to “host” 2 in-person book discussions locally in the near future. Perhaps they will be similarly well-attended, but again, people can’t join an Antiracist conversation if none exists, so I’ll keep doing the work and invite others to join me.

While I read, I marked quotes that I wanted to come back to, and I collected them in a public Google document. I was unable to type all the quotes I marked in the book before the chat, but I will finish the task over the next day or two.

I prepared 5 questions for the book discussions; the questions and my responses below:

Q1: Since the book is a how-to manual, one question that I’d like to center the discussion around is, “What have we learned from Ibram Kendi’s book?”
A1: From the book’s Intro: “We know how to be racist. We know how to pretend to be not racist. Now let’s know how to be antiracist.”  Antiracism can be learned, racism unlearned.
One thing I learned is that anyone can hold/express racist ideas & racist policies take different forms b/c of the way they affect different groups.
Q2: What events/incidents/experiences from your own life came to mind as Kendi examines his own life story? How has Kendi’s thinking helped you to understand these experiences in new ways?
A2 p. 200 “…queer Black feminists…were my first role models of Black feminism, queer antiracism, antiracist feminism..a desire [grew] to be a gender antiracist, queer antiracist, not fail Black people–all Black people.”
A2 My colleagues in NCTE and EMWP are IRL role models; on here #DisruptTexts and @triciaebarvia provide ongoing modeling and mentorship of antiracist education.
A2 Reflecting on confusing racist incidents in the past, I now understand how they fall into categories like Space racism and Class racism & how intersectionality can complicate & confuse us in the moment.
Q3: How does Kendi’s narrative and discussion illuminate ways for individuals to process the negative emotions associated with the knowledge that we have all done racist things?
A3 By focusing on policies, Kendi shows ppl how to move past shame to antiracist behaviors. I use mindfulness practices, music, & exercise to process negative emotions like guilt & shame. I practice Lovingkindness often.
Q4: What racist policies are in view within our own towns, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, government, health care, etc. What actions will we take to try to change them?
Policies founded in cultural, space, & class racism are in clear view in my community. I’m working w/ NAACP, Adrian Dominican Sisters, All About Adrian coalition, & other orgs to foster antiracist policies on several fronts.
Q5: How can readers use the knowledge we’ve gained from the book?
A5: I’m going to keep inviting people to read, learn from, & share their thoughts about the book–& to USE their knowledge to help others learn antiracism.
I hope to find others, especially White-identifying people to commit to this work, IRL & on here, for peace & love.
The 2 photos below are Kendi’s vision for the work to be done at the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University in Washington, DC, which he founded in 2017.

When the two hours designated for the online chat ended, and I was still completely alone, I told myself, “Thank you, lisa, for talking about this important subject with me.”

“You’re welcome, lisa.”

To All:

May you be happy. May you be well. May you be free from suffering. May you be at peace.