Topic questions for the discussion of: How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

1. Can we agree on the definition of racist?

Location: 307 A racist idea is any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way
Page 9: A racist endorses the racial hierarchy.
page 13: Racist is one who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea
Location: 274 A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups.
Page 10: A racist is manipulated by racist ideas to see racial groups as problems…. This is the consistent function of racist ideas—and of any kind of bigotry more broadly: to manipulate us into seeing people as the problem, instead of the policies that ensnare them.
Location: 284 When someone discriminates against a person in a racial group, they are carrying out a policy or taking advantage of the lack of a protective policy.

2. If racial discrimination is defined as considering race when making a decision, then racial discrimination is not inherently racist. Do you agree?

Location: 290 (page 18-19) The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.

3. If people feel the word “racist” is an insult, is it better to say “that idea is racist” rather than calling someone a racist?

Kindle location 148 (page 9) : The White Supremacist Richard Spencer said “‘Racist’ isn’t a descriptive word. It’s a pejorative word. It is the equivalent of saying, ‘I don’t like you.’ ”
Kindle Location: 159 The attempt to turn this usefully descriptive term into an almost unusable slur is, of course, designed to freeze us into inaction.
Page 10 We can be a racist one minute and an antiracist the next.

4. Can we agree on the definition of an antiracist

Page 9: An antiracist endorses racial equality. An antiracist locates the roots of problems in power and policies. An antiracist confronts racial inequities.
Location: 175 (page 10) The movement from racist to antiracist requires understanding and snubbing racism based on biology, ethnicity, body, culture, behavior, color, space, and class.
Page 13 An antiracist is one who is supporting an antiracist policy through actions or expressing an antiracist idea.
Location: 842 To be antiracist is to focus on ending the racism that shapes the mirages, not to ignore the mirages that shape peoples’ lives.

5. Was his big message that we need to focus on changing racist policy?

Location: 285 (page 18) Only an exclusive few have the power to make policy. Focusing on “racial discrimination” takes our eyes off the central agents of racism: racist policy and racist policymakers, or what I call racist power.

6. Is it important to have clearly defined words? Is the conversation harmed when people use the words socialism and capitalism but mean different things?

Regulated capitalism
Democratic Socialism
Socialism (all means of production owned by government, sometimes called Communism)

Location: 2,529 In doing so, these conservative defenders are defining capitalism. They define capitalism as the freedom to exploit people into economic ruin; the freedom to assassinate unions; the freedom to prey on unprotected consumers,
Location: 2,535 Liberals who are “capitalist to the bone,” as U.S. senator Elizabeth Warren identifies herself, present a different definition of capitalism. … When Senator Warren and others define capitalism in this way—as markets and market rules and competition and benefits from winning—they are disentangling capitalism from theft and racism and sexism and imperialism. If that’s their capitalism, I can see how they can remain capitalist to the bone.
Location: 2,551 Humanity needs honest definitions of capitalism and racism based in the actual living history

7. What is your understanding of intersectionality based on this book or other readings?

Location: 176 And beyond that, it means standing ready to fight at racism’s intersections with other bigotries.
Location: 3,016 My journey to being an antiracist first recognized the intersectionality of my ethnic racism, and then my bodily racism, and then my cultural racism, and then my color racism, and then my class racism, and, when I entered graduate school, my gender racism and queer racism.

8. Do you agree that it’s important that we define the kind of people we want to be?

Location: 261 (page 17) Definitions anchor us in principles. This is not a light point: If we don’t do the basic work of defining the kind of people we want to be in language that is stable and consistent, we can’t work toward stable, consistent goals.

9. What should be the punishment for running from the police?

Location: 882 they knew the criminal-justice system was guilty, too. Guilty for freeing the White cops who beat Rodney King in 1991

10. What if he phrased it “we could have prevented the assault if we had _____ but why should we?”

Location: 1,191 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. If we don’t, then we are blamed for our own assaults, our own deaths

11. Slavery is wrong whether you’re enslaving your own people or not. What was his point in this quote?

Location: 922 Africans involved in the slave trade did not believe they were selling their own people—they were usually selling people as different to them as the Europeans waiting on the coast.

12. Does it bother you when someone asks you “Where are you from?’

Location: 978 The face of ethnic racism bares itself in the form of a persistent question: “Where are you from?”

13. Is it because of the lack of money or the abundance of time and energy that unemployed people commit more crimes than employed people?

Location: 1,231 “Communities with a higher share of long-term unemployed workers also tend to have higher rates of crime and violence.”

14. He makes a distinction between segregation and voluntarily separating based on common goals or gender or race or religion. He made a point that all groups need to be adequately funded. But isn’t there a value in diversity?

Freedom of association.
Power dynamics

Location: 1,358 I just loved being surrounded by all those Black people—or was it all that culture?—
Location: 2,752 When integrationists use segregation and separation interchangeably, they are using the vocabulary of Jim Crow.

15. There are advantages to assimilating or at least being able to appear more like the dominate group at least on occasion, yes?

Page 81 Cultural Racist: One who is creating a cultural standard and imposing a cultural hierarchy among racial groups
Location: 1,315 We did not care if older or richer or Whiter Americans despised our nonstandard dress like our nonstandard Ebonics.
Location: 1,877 Paradoxically, some tanning White people look down on bleaching Black people,
Location: 1,873 In India, “fairness” creams topped $200 million in 2014.
Page 83: Myrdal standardized the general (White) culture, then judged African American culture as distorted or pathological from that standard. Whoever makes the culture standard makes the cultural hierarchy. The act of making a cultural standard and hierarchy is what creates cultural racism.

16. He inserts this quote by John McWhorter and then also quotes the chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women as saying “You can’t listen to all that language and filth without it affecting you.” BUT he seems to be saying that they are dishonoring a certain type of culture. And he doesn’t like it. Is that how you read it?

Location: 1,374 “By reinforcing the stereotypes that long hindered blacks, and by teaching young blacks that a thuggish adversarial stance is the properly ‘authentic’ response to a presumptively racist society, rap retards black success,” linguist John McWhorter once claimed.
Location: 1,398 AT FIFTEEN, I was an intuitive believer in multiculturalism…I opposed racist ideas that belittled the cultures of urban Black people, of hip-hop…
Location: 1,423 To be antiracist is to see all cultures in all their differences as on the same level, as equals

17. Has the book made you more aware of policies that might be considered racist?

Location: 1,464 But policies determine the success of groups. And it is racist power that creates the policies that cause racial inequities.

18. How else can we test student’s success without tests?

Location: 1,567 She wasn’t making us smarter so we’d ace the test—she was teaching us how to take the test.

19. This book has me thinking a lot about racial diversity and if we should require charter, magnet, and voucher funded private schools to have a certain level of diversity.

Location: 1,613 Through these initiatives and many, many others, education reformers banged the drum of the “achievement gap” to get attention and funding for their equalizing efforts.
Location: 1,615 What if different environments lead to different kinds of achievement rather than different levels of achievement?
Location: 1,669 The truth is, I wanted to flee misbehaving Black folk.
Location: 2,690 The reality: A large percentage of—perhaps most—Black Americans live in majority-Black neighborhoods,
Location: 2,745 They desired to separate, not from Whites but from White racism.
Location: 2,752 When integrationists use segregation and separation interchangeably, they are using the vocabulary of Jim Crow.
Location: 2,755 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. Separate but equal covered up the segregationist policies that diverted resources toward exclusively White spaces.
Location: 2,772 What really made the schools unequal were the dramatically unequal resources provided to them, not the mere fact of racial separation.
Location: 2,807 what if the scoring gap closed because, as Black students integrated White schools, more students received the same education and test prep?

20. How much do you think voter suppression is based on racism?

Location: 1,938 Palm Beach County used confusing ballots that caused about nineteen thousand spoiled ballots and perhaps three thousand Gore voters to mistakenly vote for Pat Buchanan.

21. Were you impressed by Malcolm X’s transformation?

Location: 2,003 On September 22, 1964, Malcolm made no mistake about his conversion. “I totally reject Elijah Muhammad’s racist philosophy, which he has labeled ‘Islam’ only to fool and misuse gullible people,
Location: 2,007 Black people can be racist toward White people. The NOI’s White-devil idea is a classic example. Whenever someone classifies people of European descent as biologically, culturally, or behaviorally inferior, whenever someone says there is something wrong with White people as a group, someone is articulating a racist idea.
Location: 2,017 To be antiracist is to never mistake the antiracist hate of White racism for the racist hate of White people.

22. Do you think anyone that wants to glorify Confederate soldiers is a racist?

Location: 2,069 They wave Confederate flags and defend Confederate monuments, even though the Confederacy started a civil war that ended with more than five hundred thousand White American lives lost—more than every other American war combined.

23. Do you agree that saying Black people don’t have power encourages Black people with power to not work to eliminate racist policies? Or is that not how you understood him?

Page 130- When Black people…concentrate their hatred on everyday White people, they are not fighting racist power or racist policymakers. In losing focus on racist power, they fail to challenge racist policies.
Location: 2,194 Black voices critical of White racism defended themselves from these charges by saying, “Black people can’t be racist, because Black people don’t have power.”

24. How do you feel about inheritance tax? Is it a fair way to level the playing field for the new generation?

Location: 2,418 Goldwater and his ideological descendants said little to nothing about rich White people who depended on the welfare of inheritances, tax cuts, government contracts,

25. We’ve talked about people protesting Murray’s talks when we’ve discussed other books.

Location: 2,909 In 1994 political scientist Charles Murray made sure Americans knew the percentage of Black children born into single-parent households “has now reached 68 percent.” Murray blamed the “welfare system.”
This article from the Southern Poverty Law Center discusses this even further:

26. I was curious about Gunnar Myrdal, who was mentioned on page 83, so I googled him. Here is a quote from an article I found:

Seventy years later, the public conversation on race continues to rely on an approach grounded more in wishful thinking than in hard fact. Myrdal’s assertion that black Americans’ inferior status was principally caused by whites’ discrimination; and that if Americans wanted to correct this problem, they simply needed to cease discriminating… Americans were a morally conscious people who sought to correct their discrimination against black Americans to meet their egalitarian ideals. Americans, the couple explained, welcomed criticism of their race problem because they aspired to be a better people.

Link to article:

27. Are these things good to do sometimes?

Location: 68 He rarely if ever put on a happy mask, faked a calmer voice, hid his opinion, or avoided making a scene.


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