I just finished reading Ibram X. Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist.
I am a very slow reader. It took me (I’m not kidding) two years to finish the last book I read. And it was about elephants. That’s how you know I struggle to focus when it comes to reading. It took two years to get through a book about my favorite large creature – the pachyderm!
After finishing the course White People Challenging Racism a little over two years ago, a few from the group continued to get together occasionally to talk on the topic and motivate each other to continue to learn. A few months ago we decided to read this book and discuss.
When I began the book a while back I had it in hard copy but started by listening, bookmarking when I heard points I wanted to revisit.
I found quickly that Kendi’s book was too meaty to listen to and grasp at the same time. This is not a lighthearted story about a family spending their summer on Martha’s Vineyard in 1969 and the antics that ensued (though I did listen to that once I switched over to reading the hardbound copy of Kendi’s book).
This topic is heavy. I expected this of course. Reading about antiracism is not fun reading. It’s work. As it should be. And I needed to take it in slowly. After giving up listening to it, I picked up the hardbound copy and went through the bookmarks I’d made in the audio version to start highlighting points. I found, to my surprise, that I was comprehending the topic much better by reading it.
Before long everyone was talking about this book online. More so then they had been prior to the BLM uprising. A friend asked me to join an online book club to discuss it.
A few times when talking about systemic racism with friends – I love that we’re talking about this – they have told me that my knowledge on the topic is ahead of theirs. They feel behind. Meanwhile, I’m reading comments on the book club page that have me feeling like my contributions would sound like I’m reviewing a grammar school chapter book.
But that’s not really the point is it? We are all learning about this at different paces. Some are not learning at all. Those who choose to, I hope they continue.
If the only thing you’ve grasped so far is that Having privilege doesn’t mean you haven’t struggled in life or had hard times and challenges. It just means that being black wasn’t one of them, well that’s a start.
Next you need to wrap your brain around the fact that America was built by the forced labor of black people, and we have always had white supremacy over them, and until we change racist policies and racist systems that perpetuate the problem, we will be slow to eradicate internal racism.
In antiracism-adjacent news, Kendi is coming to Boston U! I cannot think of another pop-culture icon to exemplify my excitement about this news. Santa? The Beatles?
You guys. I might get to PHOTOGRAPH IBRAM X. KENDI AT SOME POINT! I am confident that I will make an ass out of myself, probably start rambling on about my dog or some crap like that. I have already embraced this likelihood in preparation.
Another related and interesting fact is that the replica of the Emancipation monument here in Boston will likely be taken down, seeing as it’s completely insulting to blacks. I wrote about the family connection to its original here and there are photos of the Boston version at the bottom.