Dr. Ibram X. Kendi rejects the popular idea that racism is simply a product of hate and ignorance. He explains as much in his National Book Award-winning 2016 publication, “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.” It’s an idea he discusses at length in an interview published by The Undefeated today (September 20).
“We have been taught that ignorance and hate lead to racist ideas, lead to racist policies,” Kendi says. “If the fundamental problem is ignorance and hate, then your solutions are going to be focused on education and love and persuasion. But of course, [my book] shows that the actual foundation of racism is not ignorance and hate, but self-interest, particularly economic and political and cultural.”
He will employ this frame in his work with the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, which will soft launch via a livestreamed event next Tuesday (September 26) and formally open in 2018.
Per the article, the center will offer policy solutions to address racial inequity in six key areas: criminal justice, economics, education, environment, health and politics. Kendi also told The Undefeated that he plans to create a digital library of anti-racist scholarship.
“Anti-racist” is an important term in Kendi’s work, one that he positions against “segregationist” and “assimilationist” ideologies. The Undefeated describes his views of those terms as follows:
Segregationist ideas contend racial groups are created unequal. Assimilationist ideas, as Kendi defines them, argue that both discrimination and problematic Black people are to blame for inequalities.
Americans who don’t carry Tiki torches react viscerally to segregationist ideas like those on display at the White nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one young counter-protester dead. Assimilationist ideas are more subtle, seductive and coded.
“You can be someone who has no intention to be racist,” who believes in and fights for equality, “but because you’re conditioned in a world that is racist and a country that is structured in anti-Black racism, you yourself can perpetuate those ideas,” says Kendi. No matter what color you are.
Anti-racist ideas hold that racial groups are equal. That the only thing inferior about Black people is their opportunities. “The only thing wrong with Black people is that we think there is something wrong with Black people,” a line that Kendi uses like a mantra.
Read the full interview at TheUndefeated.com.