...another stunner of a book that is in some ways [Kendi's] previous work’s natural counterpart ... Instead of focusing on our racist ideas, Kendi offers up a wrenching examination of the evolution of his ... Kendi rejects the now-hackneyed notion that blacks cannot be racist because they do not have power ... He shifts our attention away from people’s ethnic identities to the racist nature of their ideas and policies, and argues that these are the things on which we should judge a person. While acknowledging the reality of racism in contemporary life, Kendi wants to free us from using tainted ideas to stigmatize people and support policies that define others as inferior ... What emerges from these insights is the most courageous book to date on the problem of race in the Western mind, a confessional of self-examination that may, in fact, be our best chance to free ourselves from our national nightmare.
...an essential instruction manual ... [Kendi's] transparency serves as an invitation to all of us to accept and grow from our racist behavior. It is one of many components that makes How to Be an Antiracist so accessible ... I found myself resisting Kendi's perspective on more than one occasion. Yet in every case, either his unassailable reasoning, helpful historical context, illuminating data, or some combination of the above won me over ... How to Be an Antiracist gives us a clear and compelling way to approach, as Kendi puts it in his introduction, 'the basic struggle we're all in, the struggle to be fully human and to see that others are fully human.'
The persona reflected in this memoir is compellingly attractive in important respects ... That [Kendi] was able to marshal the wherewithal to push his manuscript through to publication in the face of such grim circumstances warrants applause ... Kendi also displays an admirable independence and candor. Though he situates himself far to the left among black activist intellectuals, he is unafraid to say things likely to singe the sensibilities of many of his potential followers ... Kendi’s book suffers, alas, from major flaws. On one page he posits the interesting and potentially fruitful idea that 'racist' ought not to be used as a pejorative term connoting a moral failing but ought instead to be used clinically, as a strictly descriptive term of analysis. On an adjacent page, however, without qualification, he condemns racism as a 'crime' ... In the most obtuse pages, Kendi condemns standardized testing, disparages the significance of what should be alarming racial patterns in academic achievement gaps and excoriates efforts to redress those gaps by elevating the scores of those (typically disadvantaged students of color) lagging behind. His polemic is littered with misleading red herrings, as when he says that implicit in the idea of academic achievement gaps, as measured by statistical instruments like test scores and dropout rates, is a conviction that the qualities measured by such criteria constitute 'the only form of academic ‘achievement.’' There is no such necessary implication ... Despite misgivings about various features of How to Be an Antiracist, we should fervently hope to see more work from Kendi in the months and years to come. His subject, the vexing American race question, retains a towering and tragic salience. In grappling with it, we could use Kendi’s candor, independence and willingness to be self-critical.
It’s a mark of the transformative and unsettling power of Ibram X Kendi’s writing that I relaxed into How to Be an Antiracist with the comforting and self-righteous knowledge that the title was not addressing me. After all I am black; I couldn’t possibly be racist, could I? By the book’s end, I wasn’t so sure ... How to Be an Antiracist offers a way out from the tangled disingenuousness of mainstream narratives around racism ... At its simplest, the book argues that to be an antiracist is to take an active and persistent stance against racism ... In the course of How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi moves from his rigid framework and selective perception of the inequalities endured by black people as primarily explained through the prism of race; he’s increasingly inclined towards the view held by Martin Luther King Jr...of the intersection of racism with capitalism ...This vital book asks...age-old questions: When does silence become complicity? Why do we fear taking action more than the devastating consequences of inaction? Kendi’s writing is a search for a language to enable the antiracist that resides in all of us.
In an often engaging amble through three decades, he touches on themes that do need airing ... Less impressively, he shares the now obligatory 'woke' self-flagellation of discovering his own homophobia and color snobbery ... But it is in his attempt to apply [Critical Race Theory] to modern America where Kendi comes seriously unstuck ... Kendi can organize his data points, for sure; but he provides no way of deciding whether his ideas are consistent with fact ... Aside from depriving black Americans of any agency in their own lives, none of this explains today’s America ... His solutions—basically, greater self-awareness all round—position politics as a subsidiary branch of social psychology. And his assertion that capitalism cannot exist without racism and vice versa is absurd ... he seems like a prophet warning us of a future we’ve already passed through. Without more rigorous tools of analysis, the storytelling is likely to end up promoting the political outcome he would most hate: more racial division, and more Trump.
Kendi’s argument is brilliantly simple ... One of the easiest things to relate to in Kendi’s hypothesis, which puts it in line with other contemporary books about racism and inequality, is his withering attack on the idea of being 'not racist' ... [Kendi's] honesty in linking his personal struggles to the work he has now undertaken is one of the most powerful elements in this compelling book ... In other ways Kendi raises more questions than he answers. Stories about his parents, who met in the black liberation theology movement, before his mother went off to work as a missionary in Liberia, feel unfinished. He hints that he ultimately rejected the Christian beliefs with which he was raised, but steps away from narrating when and why. His stories of being an uninterested and not particularly compassionate child seem half-told ... is more like a textbook than I would like, but then there is much schooling to be done ... This is a dogmatic book, but that should be no surprise given that the title takes the form of a 'How To'. Kendi gets away with the instructional tone, both because of the work he has put in, and because of his ability to face up to his own flaws.
When Ibram X. Kendi speaks or writes about race, his words are measured, clinical, precise. He does not shout to the rafters or bellow through a bullhorn. He is not so much a provocateur but more like a physician diagnosing a particularly invasive disease. This is not to say that his gaze is not penetrating or his critique is not biting ... Mr. Kendi is fond of clear-eyed and rigid definitions regarding racism ... People entrenched in the day-in-and-day-out struggle for civil rights may quibble with the dispassionate limits of Mr. Kendi’s definitions, or the fact that they even need to be preached to about what racism is and isn’t. Those who suffer the daily aggressions and indignities because of the color of their skin may roll their eyes when Mr. Kendi suggests that people are not inherently racist, they simply have racist ideas or act in racist ways ... Where I question Mr. Kendi is with his assertion that antiracist policy drives antiracist opinion. It seems to me that the rapid policy changes in this country surrounding gay marriage were driven by a lot of hard conversations in families and workplaces around the country. In other words, I believe it was those slow changes in mind-set that eventually led to rapid changes in policy, not the other way around. It’s a moot point anyway. The fight against racism in this country needs to happen in both legislatures and living rooms. It’s just that most of us have more access to one than the other. To that end, I find How to Be Antiracist helpful in having those hard conversations, in not writing off the racism skeptics in my life as lost causes, and in defining certain things that I don’t have to experience for myself every day.
... [a] sharp blend of social commentary and memoir ... With Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi proved himself a first-rate historian. Here, his willingness to turn the lens on himself marks him as a courageous activist, leading the way to a more equitable society.
Deftly weaving [Kendi's] personal experiences with the history of racism in America and current racial inequalities, he offers assessments of the ways that racism in America is shaped and perpetuated by power structures, ethnicity, culture, behavior, class, color, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity, and the steps he thinks we need to take to address them. It is a wide-ranging and often insightful discussion ... It is also a remarkably candid and deeply self-critical portrait ... Kendi, like any good academic, is clear about his terms and definitions ... Sometimes Kendi generalizes to the extent that complex policy issues are overly simplified ... Individual readers are likely to find much in How to Be an Antiracist that they agree with. Most will also find points or ideas that they disagree with. Regardless, this is a thought-provoking and insightful book even if it makes some readers uncomfortable. As such, it represents an important and necessary contribution to our understanding of racism in America.
While admirably fit for agitating discussion, some terms are confusing and feel labored, like Kendi’s hyphenated identifiers ... And his descriptions of his life in Queens, New York, Manassas, Virginia, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, seem structured to set himself up as proof of his sociological declaratives ... Kendi does successfully model self-examination and inspires readers to consider whether ignorance or self-interest drives racist policies into reality.
Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed) ... If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself ... This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory ... Not an easy read but an essential one.