Book Review: How To be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Posted October 21, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 4 Comments

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How To Be An Antiracist

How To Be An Antiracist

by Ibram X. Kendi

Publisher: One World on August 13, 2019
Genre: Non-Fiction, Politics, Race, Social Justice
Target Age Group: Adult
Rating: ★★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

Ibram X. Kendi's concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America--but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.

In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

 

This book is dense and filled with history, sociology, psychology, and politics.  It’s a personal narrative as well as a social narrative. It’s good, really good, and I completely understand why it’s on so many must-read lists, especially this year.

At the same time, though, I personally struggled with How To Be An Antiracist.  This book is a very slow read because of how packed full of information and formal studies and explanations it is.  Kendi’s choice to include relatable stories and a personal narrative alongside this mountain of information was a good one – it picked up the flow enough to urge me forward when I felt like I was drowning.

The weight and quantity of information isn’t bad, mind you.  It’s necessary.  But it is heavy and reading this book was a very slow process for me as I tried to catalogue everything and reflect on it.  How To Be An Antiracist challenges its readers to look at the information and reflect on their own beliefs and reactions.  This is best read by someone who really does want to be an antiracist, not someone who is picking up the book because they think they should.

Depending on where you are in your personal journey, some of the chapters may feel redundant or unhelpful.  Everyone starts from a different place, and we all have different daily struggles.  If you’ve been working on antiracism for a while, maybe chapters like “Definitions”, “Biology”, and “Ethnicity” don’t offer much to you (other than reiterating practices you have already put in place).  I personally resonated more with the latter half of the book.  Every once in a while, I would come across a statement or sentiment that would stick with me – like the idea that we aren’t one-or-the-other, but constantly striving to make antiracist choices in every decision.  Like the comparison of racism to cancer.

If the early chapters don’t hook you in, I encourage folks to keep reading.  Each chapter is an individual essay to be mulled on and processed.  And we are, none of us, perfect.  There is no person who had finished the journey and achieved excellence – sometimes, we all falter.  We will inevitably fail, and when we do, it’s important to get back up and brush ourself off, make amends, and be better next time.

Ratings Breakdown

Sources: ★★★★★
Detail: ★★★★★
Delivery: ★★★★★
Subject: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★

5 Star Rating

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How To Be An Antiracist Will Be Donated

Wait, what?

You may be thinking, “But you just gave this book 5 stars!  Don’t you keep five star books?”

The answer, usually, is yes.  But How To Be An Antiracist is the type of book that screams to be passed on.  Not a drop-it-in-the-bin sort of donation, but the type of book you share with a friend and say “I just finished this and it was really good, you have to read it.”  I have a thought to whom I’d like to gift this one.

Should I have a desire to go back in and read it again, I would certainly purchase another copy.  I don’t see myself rereading this particular work in the near future, not because it was lacking in excellence, but because I feel I took from it everything I needed for now.

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What books have you read in your journey to being a better human?  Did this one come up on your reading list in June?  Have you read Ibram X. Kendi’s other book?  Let me know in the comments!

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4 responses to “How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

  1. I added this to my TBR last year, but I read a few other books on the topic since June – the YA edition of Kendi’s book Stamped, So You Want to Talk About Race (which was a very helpful read for me) and The Skin We’re In (focuses on the policing of Black Canadians). It sounds like this book really stands up to its reputation. I’ll make sure to get to it next year.

    • Amber

      I haven’t seen The Skin We’re In come up on reading lists… I’m going to add it to mine! I think we Americans tend to be a bit egocentric (even on the issues!) and forget to dig into similar problems in other countries (thus a lot of the hypocrisy coming from Americans who screamed about BLM but are silent about End SARS). Thanks for helping me add to my list! 😀

      • You’re welcome! I have the same problem but from a different perspective when looking for books like this, haha. So many books focus on the American experience when I really want to learn about the issues and challenges that people face here in my own country.

        • Amber

          It’s true, there’s a lot of stuff that is American-centrist. We tend to see the world through our own lens, but also, we have most of the biggest publication houses, so audiences and perspectives end up American-centrist as well. It’s a problem….