This New Book Challenges Race and Racism

There is a new book that talks about the construct of race, titled Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. The novel, published March 10, was written by Ibram X. Kendi, a historian and professor at American University. His new book is actually a new take on another that he had written before. Stamped From The Beginning is a much longer, more  academic book that serves as the parent of his newly released title.


image via goodreads


Kendi’s new book discusses race in a way that makes it understandable and enjoyable for young readers today.  In a news podcast by NPR News, Elissa Nadworny speaks with Kendi on the challenges of writing this book.  Kendi says that his motivation for creating this book was that he spoke with young black students.

One student, Amanee James, a 10th grader in Washington, D.C., says that she has only learned about notable black figures in American history like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X., or Harriet Tubman, for example.  As Nadworny states in the podcast, most students “only learn broad strokes about slavery.”  Amanee then says that with history, people cut off the parts that they don’t want to tell, that people won’t tell young people the deeper and darker stuff about slavery, and for no good reason. History is entirely subjective, and not all of it is reported and taught in the textbooks that we read as children and emerging adults.  Parts certainly could be omitted to create a certain image about the United States.


image via amazon


Kendi discusses this in the podcast and states that we [society] think that we protect young people by not teaching them the deep stuff about race and slavery, but it is in fact more harmful by doing that. This is when Kendi got the idea to make Stamped From The Beginning more accessible to younger readers. He reached out to Jason Reynolds numerous times to try and convince him but Reynolds refused to help him. Finally, Kendi was able to convince Reynolds to help publish a new version of his book by saying the task was translation.


Reynolds then spoke in the podcast, saying that the challenge was to convert large amounts of complex information, which is okay in an academic book, into something that young people (including anyone else) can break apart and digest. To do this, Kendi used cultural touch points in his new book, like Queen Latifah or Public Enemy, or even modern day song lyrics, in order to make the book relatable and understandable.

Kendi says that there are three kinds of people: people who believe race isn’t an issue anymore, that it was left in the past, people who believe that race is like an animal that never went extinct, but in reality survived and evolved into something else, and then people who know that race is everywhere.


Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You goes further and proposes three categories that people can fall into: Segregationists, Assimilationists, and Antiracists. Kendi says that Segregationists are those that are haters, the racists that express hatred toward races they deem different. Assimilationists are those who are complacent, or “fake.” These people want to like other races on the basis that they are like them.  Then there are the antiracists, who stand against the first two groups and believe that everyone is equal.


image via npr


Nadworny then goes into climate theory, the idea that if African people lived in cooler climates, their skin would become white. This historically persistent theory originally came from Aristotle and even the people who wrote the U.S. constitution believed this theory. Kendi then informs that many leading figures in early America believed in this theory and they were considered smart for it. The ideas that Kendi presents in his book serve to challenge things like the climate theory, even if it was debunked. Kendi’s book simd to get people thinking about race, and to the extent in which it’s present in our society.


featured image via yahoo tv


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