Interrogation of Everything

D18_185_015Sheldon C. Good, executive director of The Mennonite, Inc., interviewed Ibram X. Kendi about antiracism and the church by email Sept. 3. The interview, edited for clarity, appears below. The editorial in the October issue of The Mennoniteavailable here, includes part of the interview.

Kendi is author of How to Be an Antiracist. He won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction for his book Stamped from the Beginning. He is the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University in Washington, D.C.

1. You make the case in How to Be an Antiracist that the word “racist” has been removed from its proper usage. How did that happen?

The most virulent racists define racist as anyone who uses the r-words, race or racism. They say, racist is a pejorative term, it is the equivalent of saying I don’t like you, as Richard Spencer once said. Anyone who categorizes people by race, who calls someone racist, is the real racist, they say. Obviously, they are deeply defensive, and deeply in denial. As such, they don’t want to be called racist. They shut down and close up when they do. Some racial reformers have agreed and view “racist” as an attack. So they don’t use the term either. But racist is a descriptive term, not an attack. It describes when a person is saying there is something wrong or right with a racial group. It describes when a person is supporting racist policy with their action or inaction. Continue reading

Conjoined Twins

ibram-kendi--credit-jeff-watts-american-universityFrom author and professor Ibram X. Kendi’s recent interview on DemocracyNow (August 13, 2019). Kendi’s new book is called How To Be An Antiracist.

I classify racism and capitalism as these conjoined twins — right? — from the same body but different personalities, different faces. And the reason why I do that is because I’m an historian. And so I track, particularly in my last book — the origins of racism cannot be separated from the origins of capitalism. The origins of capitalism cannot be separated from the origins of racism. The life of racism cannot be separated from the life of capitalism, and vice versa. Continue reading

Book Recs from Professor Kendi

KendiFrom a Bill Moyers interview with Ibram X. Kendi, the author of Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2017). Kendi was asked what five books should be mandatory reading (once readers were done with his book). 

I think that it really depends on what they’re interested in. But I think books that are critical in understanding the popular sort of discussions that we’re having now that have to do with race injustice. Of course, there is Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, which I think really takes the reader through understanding how much of a problem the death penalty is, how much of a black problem it is, and how virulently racist the policies and operators are within that — in Alabama and other places. Continue reading