If you are American or have been living in America for an extended period of time you are racist. If you are living outside of America but are influenced by America then you are racist, by association. However, if you are awoke to that fact, then you are also likely antiracist, or on the path to being so. The description “not a racist” is no longer valid. You are either racist or antiracist, and many who are woke are both. In this section we will help you understand that, and help you become more antiracist through both knowledge and action. You can start by reading the book “How To Be An AntiRacist” by Ibram X. Kendi. We have included below an abridged version however we recommend reading and studying the entire book.
Abridged Version of “HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST” by Ibram X. Kendi
Although this ground-breaking book is an excellent and must read in which author Kendi describes his own personal journey from being a “racist” to “not a racist” to an “antiracist”, for those who don’t have the time or inclination at this moment to read the entire book (which I feel every American must do at some point), I am including in this abridged version a distillation of the lessons Kendi learns, shares with us, and which I learned from studying this great work both individually and in book study groups. And I want to state at the outset this is not about blaming anyone for racism, or calling anyone a racist—unless it is calling each one of ourselves and every American a racist, which is not a static or pejorative term or state, but one which is evolving; in fact, the title or essence of this work could more aptly be stated as “How to Be Anti-Racism”, as it is not meant to pit us against anyone or each other, but against racist ideas and policies only, and to look within and confront our own racist ideas and behaviors. As Kendi states: “Being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.”
(Notes: Everything below are Kendi’s words; Bold emphasis is mine; at the least, I suggest you read those passages; my few comments above are in italics.)
“It is hard for me to believe I finished high school in the year 2000 touting so many racist ideas. A racist culture had handed me the ammunition to shoot Black people, to shoot myself, and I took and used it. Internalized racism is the real Black on Black crime.”
“I was a dupe, a chump who saw the ongoing struggles of Black people on MLK Day 2000 and decided that Black people themselves were the problem. This is the consistent function of racist ideas and of any kind of bigotry more broadly: to manipulate us into seeing people as the problem, instead of the policies that ensnare them.”
“The language used by the forty-fifth president of the United States offers a clear example of how this sort of racist language and thinking works. Long before he became president, Donald Trump liked to say, ‘Laziness is a trait in Blacks’. When he decided to run for president, his plan for making America great again: defaming Latinx immigrants as mostly criminals and rapists and demanding billions for a border wall to block them. He promised total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. Once he became president, he routinely called his Black critics stupid. He claimed immigrants from Haiti all have AIDS, while praising White supremacists as fine people in the summer of 2017.”
“Through it all, whenever someone pointed out the obvious, Trump responded with variations on a familiar refrain: ‘No, no I’m not a racist. I’m the least racist person that you have ever interviewed, that you’ve ever met, that you’ve ever encountered.’ Trump’s behavior may be exceptional, but his denials are normal. When racist ideas resound, denials that those ideas are racist typically follow. When racist policies resound, denials that those policies are racist also follow.”
“Denial is the heartbeat of racism, beating across ideologies, races, and nations. It is beating within us. Many of us who strongly call out Trump’s racist ideas will strongly deny our own. How often do we become reflexively defensive when someone calls something we’ve done or said racist? How many of us would agree with this statement: Racist isn’t a descriptive word. It’s a pejorative word. It is the equivalent of saying, “I don’t like you.” These are actually the words of White supremacist Richard Spencer, who, like Trump, identifies as not racist. How many of us who despise the Trumps and White supremacists of the world share their self-definition of not racist?”
“What’s the problem with being not racist? It is a claim that signifies neutrality: I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism. But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of a racist isn’t a not racist. It is antiracist. What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an antiracist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an antiracist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. “may seem harsh, but it’s important at the outset that we apply one of the core principles of antiracism, There is no in-between safe space of not racist. The claim of not racist neutrality is a mask for racism. This which is to return the word racist itself back to its proper usage. Racist is not, as Richard Spencer argues, a pejorative. It is not the worst word in the English language; it is not the equivalent of a slur. It is descriptive, and the only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it and then dismantle it. The attempt to turn this usefully descriptive term into an almost unusable slur is, of course, designed to do the opposite: to freeze us into inaction.”
“THE COMMON IDEA of claiming color blindness is akin to the notion of being not racist as with the not racist, the color-blind individual, by ostensibly failing to see race, fails to see racism and falls into racist passivity. The language of color blindness like the language of not racist is a mask to hide racism. Our Constitution is color-blind, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Harlan proclaimed in his dissent to Plessy v. Ferguson, the case that legalized Jim Crow segregation in 1896. The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country, Justice Harlan went on… doubt not, it will continue to be for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage. A color-blind Constitution for a White-supremacist America.”
“THE GOOD NEWS is that racist and antiracist are not fixed identities. We can be a racist one minute and an antiracist the next. What we say about race, what we do about race, in each moment, determines what not who we are. “
“I used to be racist most of the time. I am changing. I am no longer identifying with racists by claiming to be not racist. I am no longer speaking through the mask of racial neutrality. I am no longer manipulated by racist ideas to see racial groups as problems. I no longer believe a Black person cannot be racist. I am no longer policing my every action around an imagined White or Black judge, trying to convince White people of my equal humanity, trying to convince Black people I am representing the race well. I no longer care about how the actions of other Black individuals reflect on me, since none of us are race representatives, nor is any individual responsible for someone else’s racist ideas. And I’ve come to see that the movement from racist to antiracist is always ongoing. It requires understanding and snubbing racism based on biology, ethnicity, body, culture, behavior, color, space, and class. And beyond that, it means standing ready to fight at racism’s intersections with other bigotries.”
Chapter 1: DEFINITIONS
RACIST: One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.
ANTIRACIST: One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea
We know how to be racist. We know how to pretend to be not racist. Now let’s know how to be antiracist.
So let’s set some definitions. What is racism? Racism is a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalizes racial inequities. Okay, so what are racist policies and ideas? We have to define them separately to understand why they are married and why they interact so well together. In fact, let’s take one step back and consider the definition of another important phrase: racial inequity.
Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing. Here’s an example of racial inequity: 71 percent of White families lived in owner-occupied homes in 2014, compared to 45 percent of Latinx families and 41 percent of Black families. Racial equity is when two or more racial groups are standing on a relatively equal footing. An example of racial equity would be if there were relatively equitable percentages of all three racial groups living in owner-occupied homes…”
“A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups. An antiracist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial equity between racial groups. By policy, I mean written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, and guidelines that govern people. There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups.”
“Racist policies have been described by other terms: institutional racism, structural racism, and systemic racism, for instance. But those are vaguer terms than racist policy. When I use them I find myself having to immediately explain what they mean. Racist policy is more tangible and exacting, and more likely to be immediately understood by people, including its victims, who may not have the benefit of extensive fluency in racial terms. Racist policy says exactly what the problem is and where the problem is. Institutional racism and structural racism and systemic racism are redundant. Racism itself is institutional, structural, and systemic.”
“Racist policy also cuts to the core of racism better than racial discrimination, another common phrase. Racial discrimination is an immediate and visible manifestation of an underlying racial policy. When someone discriminates against a person in a racial group, they are carrying out a policy or taking advantage of the lack of a protective policy. We all have the power to discriminate. Only an exclusive few have the power to make policy. Focusing on racial discrimination takes our eyes off the central agents of racism: racist policy and racist policymakers, or what I call racist power.”
Since the 1960s, racist power has commandeered the term racial discrimination transforming the act of discriminating on the basis of race into an inherently racist act. But if racial discrimination is defined as treating, considering, or making a distinction in favor or against an individual based on that person’s race, then racial discrimination is not inherently racist. The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist. Someone reproducing inequity through permanently assisting an overrepresented racial group into wealth and power is entirely different than someone challenging that inequity by temporarily assisting an underrepresented racial group into relative wealth and power until equity is reached.
“The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination. As President Lyndon B. Johnson said in 1965, ‘You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ˜You are free to compete with all the others, and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in 1978, In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way. And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently.’ “
“The racist champions of racist discrimination engineered to maintain racial inequities before the 1960s are now the racist opponents of antiracist discrimination engineered to dismantle those racial inequities. The most threatening racist movement is not the alt right’s unlikely drive for a White ethno-state but the regular American’s drive for a race-neutral one. The construct of race neutrality actually feeds White nationalist victimhood by positing the notion that any policy protecting or advancing non-White Americans toward equity is reverse discrimination.”
“That is how racist power can call affirmative action policies that succeed in reducing racial inequities race conscious and standardized tests that produce racial inequities race neutral. That is how they can blame the behavior of entire racial groups for the inequities between different racial groups and still say their ideas are not racist. But there is no such thing as a not-racist idea, only racist ideas and antiracist ideas.”
“So what is a racist idea? A racist idea is any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way. Racist ideas argue that the inferiorities and superiorities of racial groups explain racial inequities in society. As Thomas Jefferson suspected a decade after declaring White American independence: ‘The blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.’ “
“An antiracist idea is any idea that suggests the racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences; that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group. Antiracist ideas argue that racist policies are the cause of racial inequities.”
“Understanding the differences between racist policies and antiracist policies, between racist ideas and antiracist ideas, allows us to return to our fundamental definitions. Racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas. Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.”
“Racist voting policy has evolved from disenfranchising by Jim Crow voting laws to disenfranchising by mass incarceration and voter-ID laws. Sometimes these efforts are so blatant that they are struck down: North Carolina enacted one of these targeted voter-ID laws, but in July 2016 the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck it down, ruling that its various provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision. But others have remained and been successful. Wisconsin’s strict voter-ID law suppressed approximately two hundred thousand votes again primarily targeting voters of color in the 2016 election. Donald Trump won that critical swing state by 22,748 votes.”
“We are surrounded by racial inequity, as visible as the law, as hidden as our private thoughts. The question for each of us is: What side of history will we stand on? A racist is someone who is supporting a racist policy by their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea. An antiracist is someone who is supporting an antiracist policy by their actions or expressing an antiracist idea. Racist and antiracist are like peel-able name tags that are placed and replaced based on what someone is doing or not doing, supporting or expressing in each moment. These are not permanent tattoos. No one becomes a racist or antiracist. We can only strive to be one or the other. We can unknowingly strive to be a racist. We can knowingly strive to be an antiracist. Like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.”
“Racist ideas have defined our society since its beginning and can feel so natural and obvious as to be banal, but antiracist ideas remain difficult to comprehend, in part because they go against the flow of this country’s history.”
Chapter 2: DUELING CONSCIOUSNESS
ASSIMILATIONIST: One who is expressing the racist idea that a racial group is culturally or behaviorally inferior and is supporting cultural or behavioral enrichment programs to develop that racial group.
SEGREGATIONIST: One who is expressing the racist idea that a permanently inferior racial group can never be developed and is supporting policy that segregates away that racial group.
ANTIRACIST: One who is expressing the idea that racial groups are equals and none needs developing, and is supporting policy that reduces racial inequity.”
|“…as my pregnant mother celebrated her thirty-first birthday on June 24, 1982, President Reagan declared war on her unborn baby. ‘We must put drug abuse on the run through stronger law enforcement,’ Reagan said in the Rose Garden. It wasn’t drug abuse that was put on the run, of course, but people like me, born into this regime of “stronger law enforcement.” The stiffer sentencing policies for drug crimes—not a net increase in crime—caused the American prison population to quadruple between 1980 and 2000. While violent criminals typically account for about half of the prison population at any given time, more people were incarcerated for drug crimes than violent crimes every year from 1993 to 2009. White people are more likely than Black and Latinx people to sell drugs, and the races consume drugs at similar rates. Yet African Americans are far more likely than Whites to be jailed for drug offenses. Nonviolent Black drug offenders remain in prisons for about the same length of time (58.7 months) as violent White criminals (61.7 months). In 2016, Black and Latinx people were still grossly overrepresented in the prison population at 56 percent, double their percentage of the U.S. adult population. White people were still grossly underrepresented in the prison population at 30 percent, about half their percentage of the U.S. adult population. Reagan didn’t start this so-called war, as historian Elizabeth Hinton recounts. President Lyndon B. Johnson first put us on the run when he named 1965 ‘the year when this country began a thorough, intelligent, and effective war on crime.’ My parents were in high school when Johnson’s war on crime mocked his under supported war on poverty, like a heavily armed shooter mocking the under resourced trauma surgeon. President Richard Nixon announced his war on drugs in 1971 to devastate his harshest critics—Black and antiwar activists. ‘We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news,’ Nixon’s domestic-policy chief, John Ehrlichman, told a Harper’s reporter years later. ‘Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.’ Black people joined in the vilification, convinced that homicidal drug dealers, gun-toters, and thieving heroin addicts were flushing “down the drain” all “the hard won gains of the civil rights movement,” to quote an editorial in The Washington Afro-American in 1981. Some, if not most, Black leaders, in an effort to appear as saviors of the people against this menace, turned around and set the Black criminal alongside the White racist as the enemies of the people. Seemingly contradictory calls to lock up and to save Black people dueled in legislatures around the country but also in the minds of Americans. Black leaders joined with Republicans from Nixon to Reagan, and with Democrats from Johnson to Bill Clinton, in calling for and largely receiving more police officers, tougher and mandatory sentencing, and more jails. But they also called for the end of police brutality, more jobs, better schools, and drug-treatment programs. These calls were less enthusiastically received. By the time I came along in 1982, the shame about “Black on Black crime” was on the verge of overwhelming a generation’s pride about “Black is beautiful.” Many non-Black Americans looked down on Black addicts in revulsion—but too many Black folk looked down on the same addicts in shame.” “My parents—even from within their racial consciousness—were susceptible to the racist idea that it was laziness that kept Black people down, so they paid more attention to chastising Black people than to Reagan’s policies, which were chopping the ladder they climbed up and then punishing people for falling. The Reagan Revolution was just that: a radical revolution for the benefit of the already powerful. It further enriched high-income Americans by cutting their taxes and government regulations, installing a Christmas-tree military budget, and arresting the power of unions. Seventy percent of middle-income Blacks said they saw “a great deal of racial discrimination” in 1979, before Reagan revolutionaries rolled back enforcement of civil-rights laws and affirmative-action regulations, before they rolled back funding to state and local governments whose contracts and jobs had become safe avenues into the single-family urban home of the Black middle class. In the same month that Reagan announced his war on drugs on Ma’s birthday in 1982, he cut the safety net of federal welfare programs and Medicaid, sending more low-income Blacks into poverty. His “stronger law enforcement” sent more Black people into the clutches of violent cops, who killed twenty-two Black people for every White person in the early 1980s. Black youth were four times more likely to be unemployed in 1985 than in 1954. But few connected the increase in unemployment to the increase in violent crime. Americans have long been trained to see the deficiencies of people rather than policy. It’s a pretty easy mistake to make: People are in our faces. Policies are distant. We are particularly poor at seeing the policies lurking behind the struggles of people. And so my parents turned away from the problems of policy to look at the problems of people—and reverted to striving to save and civilize Black people rather than liberate them. Civilizer theology became more attractive to my parents, in the face of the rise of crack and the damage it did to Black people, as it did to so many children of civil rights and Black power.”|
“What Du Bois termed double consciousness may be more precisely termed dueling consciousness. ‘One ever feels his two-ness,’ Du Bois explained, ‘an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.’ Du Bois also explained how this war was being waged within his own dark body, wanting to be a Negro and wanting to ‘escape into the mass of Americans in the same way that the Irish and Scandinavians’ were doing. These dueling ideas were there in 1903, and the same duel overtook my parents—and it remains today. The duel within Black consciousness seems to usually be between antiracist and assimilationist ideas. Du Bois believed in both the antiracist concept of racial relativity, of every racial group looking at itself with its own eyes, and the assimilationist concept of racial standards, of looking at one’s self through the eyes of another racial group—in his case, White people. In other words, he wanted to liberate Black people from racism but he also wanted to change them, to save them from their ‘relic of barbarism.’ Du Bois argued in 1903 that racism and ‘the low social level of the mass of the race’ were both responsible for the ‘Negro’s degradation.’ Assimilation would be part of the solution to this problem. Assimilationist ideas are racist ideas. Assimilationists can position any racial group as the superior standard that another racial group should be measuring themselves against, the benchmark they should be trying to reach. Assimilationists typically position White people as the superior standard. ‘Do Americans ever stop to reflect that there are in this land a million men of Negro blood…who, judged by any standard, have reached the full measure of the best type of modern European culture? Is it fair, is it decent, is it Christian…to belittle such aspiration?’ Du Bois asked in 1903.”
“WHITE PEOPLE HAVE their own dueling consciousness, between the segregationist and the assimilationist: the slave trader and the missionary, the proslavery exploiter and the antislavery civilizer, the eugenicist and the melting potter, the mass incarcerator and the mass developer, the Blue Lives Matter and the All Lives Matter, the not-racist nationalist and the not-racist American. Assimilationist ideas and segregationist ideas are the two types of racist ideas, the duel within racist thought. White assimilationist ideas challenge segregationist ideas that claim people of color are incapable of development, incapable of reaching the superior standard, incapable of becoming White and therefore fully human. Assimilationists believe that people of color can, in fact, be developed, become fully human, just like White people. Assimilationist ideas reduce people of color to the level of children needing instruction on how to act. Segregationist ideas cast people of color as “animals,” to use Trump’s descriptor for Latinx immigrants—unteachable after a point. The history of the racialized world is a three-way fight between assimilationists, segregationists, and antiracists. Antiracist ideas are based in the truth that racial groups are equals in all the ways they are different, assimilationist ideas are rooted in the notion that certain racial groups are culturally or behaviorally inferior, and segregationist ideas spring from a belief in genetic racial distinction and fixed hierarchy.”
“The White body defines the American body. The White body segregates the Black body from the American body. The White body instructs the Black body to assimilate into the American body. The White body rejects the Black body assimilating into the American body—and history and consciousness duel anew. The Black body in turn experiences the same duel. The Black body is instructed to become an American body. The American body is the White body. The Black body strives to assimilate into the American body. The American body rejects the Black body. The Black body separates from the American body. The Black body is instructed to assimilate into the American body—and history and consciousness duel anew. But there is a way to get free. To be antiracist is to emancipate oneself from the dueling consciousness. To be antiracist is to conquer the assimilationist consciousness and the segregationist consciousness. The White body no longer presents itself as the American body; the Black body no longer strives to be the American body, knowing there is no such thing as the American body, only American bodies, racialized by power.”
Chapter 3: POWER
“RACE: A power construct of collected or merged difference that lives socially.”
“Latinx and Asian and African and European and Indigenous and Middle Eastern: These six races—at least in the American context—are fundamentally power identities, because race is fundamentally a power construct of blended difference that lives socially. Race creates new forms of power: the power to categorize and judge, elevate and downgrade, include and exclude. Race makers use that power to process distinct individuals, ethnicities, and nationalities into monolithic races.”
“THE FIRST GLOBAL power to construct race happened to be the first racist power and the first exclusive slave trader of the constructed race of African people. The individual who orchestrated this trading of an invented people was nicknamed the “Navigator,” though he did not leave Portugal in the fifteenth century. The only thing he navigated was Europe’s political-economic seas, in order to create the first transatlantic slave-trading policies. Hailed for something he was not (and ignored for what he was)—it is fitting that Prince Henry the Navigator, the brother and then uncle of Portuguese kings, is the first character in the history of racist power.”
“Until his death in 1460, Prince Henry sponsored Atlantic voyages to West Africa by the Portuguese, to circumvent Islamic slave traders, and in doing so created a different sort of slavery than had existed before. Premodern Islamic slave traders, like their Christian counterparts in premodern Italy, were not pursuing racist policies—they were enslaving what we now consider to be Africans, Arabs, and Europeans alike. At the dawn of the modern world, the Portuguese began to exclusively trade African bodies. Prince Henry’s sailors made history when they navigated past the feared “black” hole of Cape Bojador, off Western Sahara, and brought enslaved Africans back to Portugal. Prince Henry’s first biographer—and apologist—became the first race maker and crafter of racist ideas. King Afonso V commissioned Gomes de Zurara, a royal chronicler and a loyal commander in Prince Henry’s Military Order of Christ, to compose a glowing biography of the African adventures of his “beloved uncle.” Zurara finished The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea in 1453, the first European book on Africa. One of Zurara’s stories chronicled Prince Henry’s first major slave auction in Lagos, Portugal, in 1444. Some captives were “white enough, fair to look upon, and well proportioned,” while others were “like mulattoes” or “as black as Ethiops, and so ugly.” Despite their different skin colors and languages and ethnic groups, Zurara blended them into one single group of people, worthy of enslavement. Unlike babies, phenomena are typically born long before humans give them names. Zurara did not call Black people a race. French poet Jacques de Brézé first used the term “race” in a 1481 hunting poem. In 1606, the same diplomat who brought the addictive tobacco plant to France formally defined race for the first time in a major European dictionary. “Race…means descent,” Jean Nicot wrote in the Trésor de la langue française. “Therefore, it is said that a man, a horse, a dog, or another animal is from a good or bad race.” From the beginning, to make races was to make racial hierarchy. Gomes de Zurara grouped all those peoples from Africa into a single race for that very reason: to create hierarchy, the first racist idea. Race making is an essential ingredient in the making of racist ideas, the crust that holds the pie. Once a race has been created, it must be filled in—and Zurara filled it with negative “qualities that would justify Prince Henry’s evangelical mission to the world. This Black race of people was lost, living “like beasts, without any custom of reasonable beings,” Zurara wrote. “They had no understanding of good, but only knew how to live in a bestial sloth.” After Spanish and Portuguese colonizers arrived in the Americas in the fifteenth century, they took to race making all the different indigenous peoples, calling them one people, “Indians,” or negros da terra (Blacks from the land) in sixteenth-century Brazil. Spanish lawyer Alonso de Zuazo in 1510 contrasted the beastly race of Blacks as “strong for work, the opposite of the natives, so weak who can work only in undemanding tasks.” Both racist constructions normalized and rationalized the increased importing of the supposedly “strong” enslaved Africans and the ongoing genocide of the supposedly “weak” Indians in the Americas. The other races, save Latinx and Middle Easterners, had been completely made and distinguished by the Age of Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. Beginning in 1735, Carl Linnaeus locked in the racial hierarchy of humankind in Systema Naturae. He color-coded the races as White, Yellow, Red, and Black. He attached each race to one of the four regions of the world and described their characteristics. The Linnaeus taxonomy became the blueprint that nearly every enlightened race maker followed and that race makers still follow today. And, of course, these were not simply neutral categories, because races were never meant to be neutral categories. Racist power created them for a purpose. Linnaeus positioned Homo sapiens europaeus at the top of the racial hierarchy, making up the most superior character traits. “Vigorous, muscular. Flowing blond hair. Blue eyes. Very smart, inventive. Covered by tight clothing. Ruled by law.” He made up the middling racial character of Homo sapiens asiaticus: “Melancholy, stern. Black hair; dark eyes. Strict, haughty, greedy. Covered by loose garments. Ruled by opinion.” He granted the racial character of Homo sapiens americanus a mixed set of attributes: “Ill-tempered, impassive. Thick straight black hair; wide nostrils; harsh face; beardless. Stubborn, contented, free. Paints himself with red lines. Ruled by custom.” At the bottom of the racial hierarchy, Linnaeus positioned Homo sapiens afer: “Sluggish, lazy. Black kinky hair. Silky skin. Flat nose. Thick lips. Females with genital flap and elongated breasts. Crafty, slow, careless. Covered by grease.”
“Prince Henry’s racist policy of slave trading came first—a cunning invention for the practical purpose of bypassing Muslim traders. After nearly two decades of slave trading, King Afonso asked Gomes de Zurara to defend the lucrative commerce in human lives, which he did through the construction of a Black race, an invented group upon which he hung racist ideas. This cause and effect—a racist power creates racist policies out of raw self-interest; the racist policies necessitate racist ideas to justify them—lingers over the life of racism.”
Chapter 4: BIOLOGY
BIOLOGICAL RACIST: One who is expressing the idea that the races are meaningfully different in their biology and that these differences create a hierarchy of value.
BIOLOGICAL ANTIRACIST: One who is expressing the idea that the races are meaningfully the same in their biology and there are no genetic racial differences.”
|“People of color sometimes cope with abuse from individual Whites by hiding those individuals behind the generalized banner of Whiteness. “She acted that way,” we say, “because she is White.” But generalizing the behavior of racist White individuals to all White people is as perilous as generalizing the individual faults of people of color to entire races. “He acted that way because he is Black. She acted that way because she is Asian.” We often see and remember the race and not the individual. This is racist categorizing, this stuffing of our experiences with individuals into color-marked racial closets. An antiracist treats and remembers individuals as individuals. “She acted that way,” we should say, “because she is racist.” “Scholars call…a “microaggression,” a term coined by eminent Harvard psychiatrist Chester Pierce in 1970. Pierce employed the term to describe the constant verbal and nonverbal abuse racist White people unleash on Black people wherever we go, day after day. A White woman grabs her purse when a Black person sits next to her. The seat next to a Black person stays empty on a crowded bus. A White woman calls the cops at the sight of Black people barbecuing in the park. White people telling us that our firmness is anger or that our practiced talents are natural. Mistaking us for the only other Black person around. Calling the cops on our children for selling lemonade on the street. Butchering Ebonics for sport. Assuming we are the help. Assuming the help isn’t brilliant. Asking us questions about the entire Black race. Not giving us the benefit of the doubt. Calling the cops on us for running down the street.” “I do not use “microaggression” anymore. I detest the post-racial platform that supported its sudden popularity. I detest its component parts—“micro” and “aggression.” A persistent daily low hum of racist abuse is not minor. I use the term “abuse” because aggression is not as exacting a term. Abuse accurately describes the action and its effects on people: distress, anger, worry, depression, anxiety, pain, fatigue, and suicide. What other people call racial microaggressions I call racist abuse. And I call the zero-tolerance policies preventing and punishing these abusers what they are: antiracist. Only racists shy away from the R-word—racism is steeped in denial.” “Biological racists are segregationists. Biological racism rests on two ideas: that the races are meaningfully different in their biology and that these differences create a hierarchy of value. “Biological racial difference is one of those widely held racist beliefs that few people realize they hold—nor do they realize that those beliefs are rooted in racist ideas. I grew up hearing about how Black people had “more natural physical ability,” as half of respondents replied in a 1991 survey. How “Black blood” differed from “White blood.” How “one drop of Negro blood makes a Negro” and “puts out the light of intellect,” as wrote Thomas Dixon in The Leopard’s Spots (1902). How Black people have natural gifts of improvisation. How “if blacks have certain inherited abilities, such as improvisational decision making, that could explain why they predominate in certain fields such as jazz, rap, and basketball, and not in other fields, such as classical music, chess, and astronomy,” suggested Dinesh D’Souza in his 1995 book with the laughably dishonest title The End of Racism. How Black women had naturally large buttocks and Black men had naturally large penises. How the “increase of rape of white women” stems from the “large size of the negro’s penis” and their “birthright” of “sexual madness and excess,” as a doctor wrote in a 1903 issue of Medicine.” “Singular-race makers push for the end of categorizing and identifying by race. They wag their fingers at people like me identifying as Black—but the unfortunate truth is that their well-meaning post-racial strategy makes no sense in our racist world. Race is a mirage but one that humanity has organized itself around in very real ways. Imagining away the existence of races in a racist world is as conserving and harmful as imagining away classes in a capitalistic world—it allows the ruling races and classes to keep on ruling. Assimilationists believe in the post-racial myth that talking about race constitutes racism, or that if we stop identifying by race, then racism will miraculously go away. They fail to realize that if we stop using racial categories, then we will not be able to identify racial inequity. If we cannot identify racial inequity, then we will not be able to identify racist policies. If we cannot identify racist policies, then we cannot challenge racist policies. If we cannot challenge racist policies, then racist power’s final solution will be achieved: a world of inequity none of us can see, let alone resist. Terminating racial categories is potentially the last, not the first, step in the antiracist struggle.” Chapter 5: Ethnicity ETHNIC RACISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequity between racialized ethnic groups and are substantiated by racist ideas about racialized ethnic groups. ETHNIC ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between racialized ethnic groups and are substantiated by antiracist ideas about racialized ethnic groups”|
“Planters had no problem devising explanations for their ethnic racism. “The Negroes from the Gold Coast, Popa, and Whydah,” wrote one Frenchman, “are born in a part of Africa which is very barren.” As a result, “they are obliged to go and cultivate the land for their subsistence” and “have become used to hard labor from their infancy,” he wrote. “On the other hand…Angola Negroes are brought from those parts of Africa…where everything grows almost spontaneously.” And so “the men never work but live an indolent life and are in general of a lazy disposition and tender constitution.” My friends and I may have been following an old script when it came to ethnic racism, but our motivations weren’t the same as those old planters’. “African chiefs were the ones waging war on each other and capturing their own people and selling them,” President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda told a 1998 crowd that included President Bill Clinton, taking a page out of African American memory of the slave trade. I still remember an argument I had with some friends in college years later—they told me to leave them alone with my “Africa shit.” Those “African motherfuckers sold us down the river,” they said. They sold their “own people.” The idea that “African chiefs” sold their “own people” is an anachronistic memory, overlaying our present ideas about race onto an ethnic past. When European intellectuals created race between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, lumping diverse ethnic groups into monolithic races, it didn’t necessarily change the way the people saw themselves. Africa’s residents in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries didn’t look at the various ethnic groups around them and suddenly see them all as one people, as the same race, as African or Black. Africans involved in the slave trade did not believe they were selling their own people—they were usually selling people as different to them as the Europeans waiting on the coast. Ordinary people in West Africa—like ordinary people in Western Europe—identified themselves in ethnic terms during the life of the slave trade. It took a long time, perhaps until the twentieth century, for race making to cast its pall over the entire globe.”
|“The loosening immigration laws of the 1960s through 1990s were designed to undo a previous generation of immigration laws that limited non-White immigration to the United States. The 1882 Chinese Restriction Act was extended to an even broader act, encompassing a larger “Asiatic Barred Zone,” in 1917. The 1921 Emergency Quota Act and the Immigration Act of 1924 severely restricted the immigration of people from Africa and Eastern and Southern Europe and practically banned the immigration of Asians until 1965. “America must be kept American,” President Calvin Coolidge said when he signed the 1924 law. Of course, by then “American” included millions of “Negro, Asian, Native, Middle Eastern, and Latinx peoples (who would, at least in the case of Mexican Americans, be forcibly repatriated to Mexico by the hundreds of thousands). But Coolidge and congressional supporters determined that only immigrants from northeastern Europe—Scandinavia, the British Isles, Germany—could keep America American, meaning White. The United States “was a mighty land settled by northern Europeans from the United Kingdom, the Norsemen, and the Saxon,” proclaimed Maine representative Ira Hersey, to applause, during debate over the Immigration Act of 1924. Nearly a century later, U.S. senator Jeff Sessions lamented the growth of the non-native-born population. “When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and Congress changed the policy. And it slowed down significantly,” he told Breitbart’s Steve Bannon in 2015. “We then assimilated through to 1965 and created really the solid middle class of America with assimilated immigrants. And it was good for America.” A year later, as attorney general, Sessions began carrying out the Trump administration’s anti-Latinx, anti-Arab, and anti-Black immigrant policies geared toward making America White again. “We should have more people from places like Norway,” Trump told lawmakers in 2018. There were already enough people of color like me, apparently…. (his) administration’s throwback to early-twentieth-century immigration policies—built on racist ideas of what constitutes an American—were meant to roll back the years of immigration that saw America dramatically diversify, including a new diversity within its Black population, which now included Africans and West Indians in addition to the descendants of American slaves. But regardless of where they came from, they were all racialized as Black. The fact is, all ethnic groups, once they fall under the gaze and power of race makers, become racialized. I am a descendant of American slaves. My ethnic group is African American. My race, as an African American, is Black. Kenyans are racialized as a Black ethnic group, while Italians are White, Japanese are Asian, Syrians are Middle Eastern, Puerto Ricans are Latinx, and Choctaws are Native American. The racializing serves the core mandate of race: to create hierarchies of value. Across history, racist power has produced racist ideas about the racialized ethnic groups in its colonial sphere and ranked them—across the globe and within their own nations. The history of the United States offers a parade of intra-racial ethnic power relationships: Anglo-Saxons discriminating against Irish Catholics and Jews; Cuban immigrants being privileged over Mexican immigrants; the model-minority construction that includes East Asians and excludes Muslims from South Asia. It’s a history that began with early European colonizers referring to the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole as the “Five Civilized Tribes” of Native Americans, as compared to other “wild” tribes. This ranking of racialized ethnic groups within the ranking of the races creates a racial-ethnic hierarchy, a ladder of ethnic racism within the larger schema of racism. We practice ethnic racism when we express a racist idea about an ethnic group or support a racist policy toward an ethnic group. Ethnic racism, like racism itself, points to group behavior, instead of policies, as the cause of disparities between groups. When Ghanaian immigrants to the United States join with White Americans and say African Americans are lazy, they are recycling the racist ideas of White Americans about African Americans. This is ethnic racism.” “To be antiracist is to view national and transnational ethnic groups as equal in all their differences. To be antiracist is to challenge the racist policies that plague racialized ethnic groups across the world. To be antiracist is to view the inequities between all racialized ethnic groups as a problem of policy.”|
|“That is the central double standard in ethnic racism: loving one’s position on the ladder above other ethnic groups and hating one’s position below that of other ethnic groups. It is angrily trashing the racist ideas about one’s own group but happily consuming the racist ideas about other ethnic groups. It is failing to recognize that racist ideas we consume about others came from the same restaurant and the same cook who used the same ingredients to make different degrading dishes for us all.”|
Chapter 6: Body
“BODILY RACIST: One who is perceiving certain racialized bodies as more animal-like and violent than others.
BODILY ANTIRACIST: One who is humanizing, deracializing, and individualizing nonviolent and violent behavior.”
“History tells the same story: Violence for White people really has too often had a Black face—and the consequences have landed on the Black body across the span of American history. In 1631, Captain John Smith warned the first English colonizers of New England that the Black body was as devilish as any people in the world. Boston pastor Cotton Mather preached compliance to slavery in 1696: Do not “make yourself infinitely Blacker than you are already.” Virginia lieutenant-governor Hugh Drysdale spoke of “the cruel disposition of those Creatures” who planned a freedom revolt in 1723. Seceding Texas legislators in 1861 complained of not receiving more federal “appropriations for protecting…against ruthless savages.” U.S. senator Benjamin Tillman told his colleagues in 1903, “The poor African has become a fiend, a wild beast, seeking whom he may devour.” Two leading criminologists posited in 1967 that the “large…criminal display of the violence among minority groups such as Negroes” stems from their “subculture-of-violence.” Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald wrote “The core criminal-justice population is the black underclass” in The War on Cops in 2016. This is the living legacy of racist power, constructing the Black race biologically and ethnically and presenting the Black body to the world first and foremost as a “beast,” to use Gomes de Zurara’s term, as violently dangerous, as the dark embodiment of evil. Americans today see the Black body as larger, more threatening, more potentially harmful, and more likely to require force to control than a similarly sized White body, according to researchers. No wonder the Black body had to be lynched by the thousands, deported by the tens of thousands, incarcerated by the millions, segregated by the tens of millions.”
“Black people comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population. And yet, in 2015, Black bodies accounted for at least 26 percent of those killed by police, declining slightly to 24 percent in 2016, 22 percent in 2017, and 21 percent in 2018, according to The Washington Post. Unarmed Black bodies—which apparently look armed to fearful officers—are about twice as likely to be killed as unarmed White bodies.”
“In 1993, a bipartisan group of White legislators introduced the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act…The Congressional Black Caucus…asked for $2 billion more in the act for drug treatment and $3 billion more for violence-prevention programs. When Republicans called those items “welfare for criminals” and demanded they be scaled back for their votes, Democratic leaders caved. Twenty-six of the thirty-eight voting members of the Congressional Black Caucus caved, too. After all, the bill reflected their fear for my Black body—and of it. The policy decision reflected their dueling consciousness—and their practical desire to not lose the prevention funding entirely in a rewrite of the bill. On top of its new prisons, capital offenses, minimum sentences, federal three-strike laws, police officers, and police weaponry, the law “made me eligible, when I turned thirteen in 1995, to be tried as an adult. “Never again should Washington put politics and party above law and order,” President Bill Clinton said upon signing the bipartisan, biracial bill on September 13, 1994.”
“We, the young Black super-predators, were apparently being raised with an unprecedented inclination toward violence—in a nation that presumably did not raise White slaveholders, lynchers, mass incarcerators, police officers, corporate officials, venture capitalists, financiers, drunk drivers, and war hawks to be violent. This swarm of super-predators never materialized in the late 1990s. Violent crime had already begun its dramatic decline…in 1996. Homicides had dropped to their lowest levels since the Reagan era, when intense crack-market competition and unregulated gun trafficking spiked the rate. But crime bills have never correlated to crime any more than fear has correlated to actual violence. We are not meant to fear suits with policies that kill. We are not meant to fear good White males with AR-15s. No, we are to fear the weary, unarmed Latinx body from Latin America. The Arab body kneeling to Allah is to be feared. The Black body from hell is to be feared. Adept politicians and crime entrepreneurs manufacture the fear and stand before voters to deliver them—messiahs who will liberate them from fear of these other bodies.”
“But the idea that directly experienced violence is endemic and everywhere, affecting everyone, or even most people—that Black neighborhoods, as a whole, are more dangerous than “war zones,” to use President Trump’s term—is not reality.”
“Researchers have found a much stronger and clearer correlation between violent-crime levels and unemployment levels than between violent crime and race. Black neighborhoods do not all have similar levels of violent crime. If the cause of the violent crime is the Black body, if Black people are violent demons, then the violent-crime levels would be relatively the same no matter where Black people live. But Black upper-income and middle-income neighborhoods tend to have less violent crime than Black low-income neighborhoods—as is the case in non-Black communities. But that does not mean low-income Black people are more violent than high-income Black people. That means low-income neighborhoods struggle with unemployment and poverty—and their typical byproduct, violent crime.”
“For decades, there have been three main strategies in reducing violent crime in Black neighborhoods. Segregationists who consider Black neighborhoods to be war zones have called for tough policing and the mass incarceration of super-predators. Assimilationists say these super-predators need tough laws and tough love from mentors and fathers to civilize them back to nonviolence. Antiracists say Black people, like all people, need more higher-paying jobs within their reach, especially Black youngsters, who have consistently had the highest rates of unemployment of any demographic group, topping 50 percent in the mid-1990s. There is no such thing as a dangerous racial group. But there are, of course, dangerous individuals… There is the violence of racism—manifest in policy and policing—that fears the Black body. And there is the nonviolence of antiracism that does not fear the Black body that fears, if anything, the violence of the racism that has been set on the Black body.”
Chapter 7: Culture
“CULTURAL RACIST: One who is creating a cultural standard and imposing a cultural hierarchy among racial groups.
CULTURAL ANTIRACIST: One who is rejecting cultural standards and equalizing cultural differences among racial groups.”
“When the reaction to the Nazi Holocaust marginalized biological racism, cultural racism stepped into its place. “In practically all its divergences,” African American culture “is a distorted development, or a pathological condition, of the general American culture,” Gunnar Myrdal wrote in An American Dilemma, his 1944 landmark treatise on race relations, which has been called the “bible” of the civil-rights movement. Myrdal’s scripture standardized the general (White) American culture, then judged African American culture as distorted or pathological from that standard. Whoever makes the cultural standard makes the cultural hierarchy. The act of making a cultural standard and hierarchy is what creates cultural racism.”
“To be antiracist is to reject cultural standards and level cultural difference. Segregationists say racial groups cannot reach their superior cultural standard. Assimilationists say racial groups can, with effort and intention, reach their superior cultural standards. “It is to the advantage of American Negroes as individuals and as a group to become assimilated into American culture” and “to acquire the traits held in esteem by the dominant white Americans,” Myrdal suggested. Or, as President Theodore Roosevelt said in 1905, the goal should be to assimilate “the backward race…so it may enter into the possession of true freedom, while the forward race is enabled to preserve unharmed the high civilization wrought out by its forefathers.””
“When we refer to a group as Black or White or another racial identity—Black Southerners as opposed to Southerners—we are racializing that group. When we racialize any group and then render that group’s culture inferior, we are articulating cultural racism.”
“All cultures must be judged in relation to their own history, and all individuals and groups in relation to their cultural history, and definitely not by the arbitrary standard of any single culture,” wrote Ashley Montagu in 1942, a clear expression of cultural relativity, the essence of cultural antiracism. To be antiracist is to see all cultures in all their differences as on the same level, as equals. When we see cultural difference, we are seeing cultural difference—nothing more, nothing less.”
Chapter 8: Behavior
“BEHAVIORAL RACIST: One who is making individuals responsible for the perceived behavior of racial groups and making racial groups responsible for the behavior of individuals.
BEHAVIORAL ANTIRACIST: One who is making racial group behavior fictional and individual behavior real.”
“I was definitely not living up to my academic potential—and as a Black teenager in the nineties, my shortcomings didn’t go unnoticed or unjudged. The first to notice were the adults around me of my parents’ and grandparents’ generation. As legal scholar James Forman Jr. documents, the civil-rights generation usually evoked Martin Luther King Jr. to shame us. “Did Martin Luther King successfully fight the likes of Bull Connor so that we could ultimately lose the struggle for civil rights to misguided or malicious members of our own race?” asked Washington, D.C., prosecutor Eric Holder at an MLK birthday celebration in 1995. “You are costing everybody’s freedom,” Jesse Jackson told a group of Alabama prisoners that year. “You can rise above this if you change your mind,” he added. “I appeal to you. Your mother appealed to you. Dr. King died for you.” The so-called “first Black president” followed suit. “It isn’t racist for Whites to say they don’t understand why people put up with gangs on the corner or in the projects or with drugs being sold in the schools or in the open,” said President Clinton in 1995. “It’s not racist for Whites to assert that the culture of welfare dependency, out of wedlock pregnancy, and absent fatherhood cannot be broken by social programs, unless there is first more personal responsibility.” Black people needed to stop playing “race cards,” the phrase Peter Collier and David Horowitz used to brand “talk of race and racism” in 1997. The issue was personal irresponsibility. Indeed, I was irresponsible in high school. It makes antiracist sense to talk about the personal irresponsibility of individuals like me of all races. I screwed up. I could have studied harder. But some of my White friends could have studied harder, too, and their failures and irresponsibility didn’t somehow tarnish their race. My problems with personal irresponsibility were exacerbated—or perhaps even caused—by the additional struggles that racism added to my school life, from a history of disinterested, racist teachers, to overcrowded schools, to the daily racist attacks that fell on young Black boys and girls. There’s no question that I could have hurdled that racism and kept on running. But asking every nonathletic Black person to become an Olympic hurdler, and blaming them when they can’t keep up, is racist. One of racism’s harms is the way it falls on the unexceptional Black person who is asked to be extraordinary just to survive—and, even worse, the Black screwup who faces the abyss after one error, while the White screw-up is handed second chances and empathy. This shouldn’t be surprising: One of the fundamental values of racism to White people is that it makes success attainable for even unexceptional Whites, while success, even moderate success, is usually reserved for extraordinary Black people. How do we think about my young self, the C or D student, in antiracist terms? The truth is that I should be critiqued as a student—I was under motivated and distracted and undisciplined. In other words, a bad student. But I shouldn’t be critiqued as a bad Black student. I did not represent my race any more than my irresponsible White classmates represented their race. It makes racist sense to talk about personal irresponsibility as it applies to an entire racial group. Racial-group behavior is a figment of the racist’s imagination. Individual behaviors can shape the success of individuals. But policies determine the success of groups. And it is racist power that creates the policies that cause racial inequities. Making individuals responsible for the perceived behavior of racial groups and making whole racial groups responsible for the behavior of individuals are the two ways that behavioral racism infects our perception of the world. In other words, when we believe that a racial group’s seeming success or failure redounds to each of its individual members, we’ve accepted a racist idea. Likewise, when we believe that an individual’s seeming success or failure redounds to an entire group, we’ve accepted a racist idea. These two racist ideas were common currency in the 1990s. Progressive Americans—the ones who self-identified as “not racist”—had abandoned biological racism by the mid-1990s. They had gone further: Mostly they’d abandoned ethnic racism, bodily racism, and cultural racism. But they were still sold on behavioral racism. And they carried its torch unwaveringly, right up to the present. “America’s Black community…has turned America’s major cities into slums because of laziness, drug use, and sexual promiscuity,” fancied Reverend Jamie Johnson, director of a faith-based center in Trump’s Department of Homeland Security, after the election. “Although black civil rights leaders like to point to a supposedly racist criminal justice system to explain why our prisons house so many black men, it’s been obvious for decades that the real culprit is black behavior,” argued Jason Riley in 2016. Every time someone racializes behavior—describes something as “Black behavior”—they are expressing a racist idea. To be an antiracist is to recognize there is no such thing as racial behavior. To be an antiracist is to recognize there is no such thing as Black behavior, let alone irresponsible Black behavior. Black behavior is as fictitious as Black genes. There is no “Black gene.” No one has ever scientifically established a single “Black behavioral trait.” No evidence has ever been produced, for instance, to prove that Black people are louder, angrier, nicer, funnier, lazier, less punctual, more immoral, religious, or dependent; that Asians are more subservient; that Whites are greedier. All we have are stories of individual behavior. But individual stories are only proof of the behavior of individuals. Just as race doesn’t exist biologically, race doesn’t exist behaviorally. But what about the argument that clusters of Black people in the South, or Asian Americans in New York’s Chinatown, or White people in the Texas suburbs seem to behave in ways that follow coherent, definable cultural practices? Antiracism means separating the idea of a culture from the idea of behavior. Culture defines a group tradition that a particular racial group might share but that is not shared among all individuals in that racial group or among all racial groups. Behavior defines the inherent human traits and potential that everyone shares. Humans are intelligent and lazy, even as that intelligence and laziness might appear differently across the racialized cultural groups.”
“Abolitionists—or, rather, progressive assimilationists—conjured what I call the oppression-inferiority thesis. In their well-meaning efforts to persuade Americans about the horrors of oppression, assimilationists argue that oppression has degraded the behaviors of oppressed people. This belief extended into the period after slavery. In his address to the founding meeting of Alexander Crummell’s American Negro Academy in 1897, W.E.B. Du Bois pictured “the first and greatest step toward the settlement of the present friction between the races…lies in the correction of the immorality, crime, and laziness among the Negroes themselves, which still remains as a heritage of slavery.” This framing of slavery as a demoralizing force was the mirror image of the Jim Crow historian’s framing of slavery as a civilizing force. Both positions led Americans toward behavioral racism: Black behavior demoralized by freedom—or freed Black behavior demoralized by slavery.”
“AS A STRUGGLING Black teenager in the nineties, I felt suffocated by a sense of being judged, primarily by the people I was closest to: other Black people, particularly older Black people who worried over my entire generation. The Black judge in my mind did not leave any room for the mistakes of Black individuals—I didn’t just have to deal with the consequences of my personal failings, I had the added burden of letting down the entire race. Our mistakes were generalized as the mistakes of the race. It seemed that White people were free to misbehave, make mistakes. But if we failed—or failed to be twice as good—then the Black judge handed down a hard sentence. No probation or parole. There was no middle ground—we were either King’s disciples or thugs killing King’s dream.”
“But there is a thin line between an antiracist saying individual Blacks have suffered trauma and a racist saying Blacks are a traumatized people. There is similarly a thin line between an antiracist saying slavery was debilitating and a racist saying Blacks are a debilitated people. The latter constructions erase whole swaths of history: for instance, the story of even the first generation of emancipated Black people, who moved straight from plantations into the Union army, into politics, labor organizing, Union leagues, artistry, entrepreneurship, club building, church building, school building, community building—buildings more commonly razed by the fiery hand of racist terrorism than by any self-destructive hand of behavioral deficiencies derived from the trauma of slavery.”
“The use of standardized tests to measure aptitude and intelligence is one of the most effective racist policies ever devised to degrade Black minds and legally exclude Black bodies. We degrade Black minds every time we speak of an “academic-achievement gap” based on these numbers. The acceptance of an academic-achievement gap is just the latest method of reinforcing the oldest racist idea: Black intellectual inferiority. The idea of an achievement gap means there is a disparity in academic performance between groups of students; implicit in this idea is that academic achievement as measured by statistical instruments like test scores and dropout rates is the only form of academic “achievement.” There is an even more sinister implication in achievement-gap talk—that disparities in academic achievement accurately reflect disparities in intelligence among racial groups. Intellect is the linchpin of behavior, and the racist idea of the achievement gap is the linchpin of behavioral racism. Remember, to believe in a racial hierarchy is to believe in a racist idea. The idea of an achievement gap between the races—with Whites and Asians at the top and Blacks and Latinx at the bottom—creates a racial hierarchy, with its implication that the racial gap in test scores means something is wrong with the Black and Latinx test takers and not the tests. From the beginning, the tests, not the people, have always been the racial problem. I know this is a hard idea to accept—so many well-meaning people have tried to “solve” this problem of the racial achievement gap—but once we understand the history and policies behind it, it becomes clear. The history of race and standardized testing begins in 1869, when English statistician Francis Galton—a half cousin of Charles Darwin—hypothesized in Hereditary Genius that the “average intellectual standard of the negro race is some two grades below our own.” Galton pioneered eugenics decades later but failed to develop a testing mechanism that verified his racist hypothesis. Where Galton failed, France’s Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon succeeded, when they developed an IQ test in 1905 that Stanford psychologist Lewis Terman revised and delivered to Americans in 1916. These “experimental” tests would show “enormously significant racial differences in general intelligence, differences which cannot be wiped out by any scheme of mental culture,” the eugenicist said in his 1916 book, The Measurement of Intelligence. Terman’s IQ test was first administered on a major scale to 1.7 million U.S. soldiers during World War I. Princeton psychologist Carl C. Brigham presented the soldiers’ racial scoring gap as evidence of genetic racial hierarchy in A Study of American Intelligence, published three years before he created the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, in 1926. Aptitude means natural ability. Brigham, like other eugenicists, believed the SAT would reveal the natural intellectual ability of White people. Physicist William Shockley and psychologist Arthur Jensen carried these eugenic ideas into the 1960s. By then, genetic explanations—if not the tests and the achievement gap itself—had largely been discredited. Segregationists pointing to inferior genes had been overwhelmed in the racist debate over the cause of the achievement gap by assimilationists pointing to inferior environments. Liberal assimilationists shifted the discourse to “closing the achievement gap,” powering the testing movement into the nineties, when The Bell Curve controversy erupted in 1994 over whether the gap could be closed. “It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences” in test scores, wrote Harvard psychologist Richard Herrnstein and political scientist Charles Murray in The Bell Curve. The racist idea of an achievement gap lived on into the new millennium through George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and Obama’s Race to the Top and Common Core—initiatives that further enlarged the role of standardized testing in determining the success and failure of students and the schools they attended. Through these initiatives and many, many others, education reformers banged the drum of the “achievement gap” to get attention and funding for their equalizing efforts. But what if, all along, these well-meaning efforts at closing the achievement gap have been opening the door to racist ideas? What if different environments lead to different kinds of achievement rather than different levels of achievement? What if the intellect of a low-testing Black child in a poor Black school is different from—and not inferior to—the intellect of a high-testing White child in a rich White school? What if we measured intelligence by how knowledgeable individuals are about their own environments? What if we measured intellect by an individual’s desire to know? What if we realized the best way to ensure an effective educational system is not by standardizing our curricula and tests but by standardizing the opportunities available to all students? In Pennsylvania, a recent statewide study found that at any given poverty level, districts with a higher proportion of White students receive significantly more funding than districts with more students of color. The chronic underfunding of Black schools in Mississippi is a gruesome sight to behold. Schools lack basic supplies, basic textbooks, healthy food and water. The lack of resources leads directly to diminished opportunities for learning. In other words, the racial problem is the opportunity gap, as antiracist reformers call it, not the achievement gap.”
“As long as the mind thinks there is something behaviorally wrong with a racial group, the mind can never be antiracist. As long as the mind oppresses the oppressed by thinking their oppressive environment has retarded their behavior, the mind can never be antiracist. As long as the mind is racist, the mind can never be free. To be antiracist is to think nothing is behaviorally wrong or right—inferior or superior—with any of the racial groups. Whenever the antiracist sees individuals behaving positively or negatively, the antiracist sees exactly that: individuals behaving positively or negatively, not representatives of whole races. To be antiracist is to deracialize behavior, to remove the tattooed stereotype from every racialized body. Behavior is something humans do, not races do.”
Chapter 9: Color
“COLORISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequities between Light people and Dark people, supported by racist ideas about Light and Dark people.
COLOR ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between Light people and Dark people, supported by antiracist ideas about Light and Dark people.”
“I wanted to be Black but did not want to look Black. I looked up to the new post-racial beauty ideal, an outgrowth of the old White beauty ideal. Lightening eye color. Killing kinks. Lightening skin color. Thinning or thickening facial features. All to reach an ideal we did not label White. This post-racial beauty ideal is Lightness: the race of lighter skin and eyes, straighter hair, thinner noses, and semi-thick lips and buttocks, perceived as biracial or racially ambiguous. The dueling consciousness of antiracist pride in one’s own race and assimilationist desire to be another race stirs this paradoxical post-racial beauty ideal. “It is simultaneously inclusive, multicultural, and new, while remaining exclusive, Eurocentric, and…old-fashioned.” It is “white beauty repackaged with dark hair,” sociologist Margaret Hunter explains. I had no idea my light eyes embodied the latest form of “colorism,” a term coined by novelist Alice Walker in 1983. The post-racial beauty ideal hides colorism, veils it in euphemism. Colorism is a form of racism. To recognize colorism, we must first recognize that Light people and Dark people are two distinct racialized groups shaped by their own histories. Dark people—the unidentified racial group of darker skins, kinky hair, broader noses and lips—span many races, ethnicities, and nationalities. Light people sometimes pass for White and may yet be accepted into Whiteness so that White people can maintain majorities in countries like the United States, where demographic trends threaten to relegate them to minority status. Some reformers project Light people as the biracial key to racial harmony, an embodiment of a post-racial future. Colorism is a collection of racist policies that cause inequities between Light people and Dark people, and these inequities are substantiated by racist ideas about Light and Dark people. Colorism, like all forms of racism, rationalizes inequities with racist ideas, claiming the inequities between Dark people and Light people are not due to racist policy but are based in what is wrong or right with each group of people. Colorist ideas are also assimilationist ideas, encouraging assimilation into—or transformation into something close to—the White body. To be an antiracist is to focus on color lines as much as racial lines, knowing that color lines are especially harmful for Dark people. When the gains of a multicolored race disproportionately flow to Light people and the losses disproportionately flow to Dark people, inequities between the races mirror inequities within the races. But because inequities between the races overshadow inequities within the races, Dark people often fail to see colorism as they regularly experience it. Therefore, Dark people rarely protest policies that benefit Light people, a “skin color paradox,” as termed by political scientists Jennifer L. Hochschild and Vesla Weaver. Anti-Dark colorism follows the logic of behavioral racism, linking behavior to color, studies show. White children attribute positivity to lighter skin and negativity to Dark skin, a colorism that grows stronger as they get older. White people usually favor lighter-skinned politicians over darker-skinned ones. Dark African Americans are disproportionately at risk of hypertension. Dark African American students receive significantly lower GPAs than Light students. Maybe because racist Americans have higher expectations for Light students, people tend to remember educated Black men as Light-skinned even when their skin is Dark. Is that why employers prefer Light Black men over Dark Black men regardless of qualifications? Even Dark Filipino men have lower incomes than their lighter peers in the United States. Dark immigrants to the United States, no matter their place of origin, tend to have less wealth and income than Light immigrants. When they arrive, Light Latinx people receive higher wages, and Dark Latinx people are more likely to be employed at ethnically homogeneous jobsites.”
“Inequities between Light and Dark African Americans can be as wide as inequities between Black and White Americans.”
“To be an antiracist is to eliminate any beauty standard based on skin and eye color, hair texture, facial and bodily features shared by groups. To be an antiracist is to diversify our standards of beauty like our standards of culture or intelligence, to see beauty equally in all skin colors, broad and thin noses, kinky and straight hair, light and dark eyes. To be an antiracist is to build and live in a beauty culture that accentuates instead of erases our natural beauty.”
Chapter 10: White
“ANTI-WHITE RACIST: One who is classifying people of European descent as biologically, culturally, or behaviorally inferior or conflating the entire race of White people with racist power.”
“The only thing wrong with White people is when they embrace racist ideas and policies and then deny their ideas and policies are racist. This is not to ignore that White people have massacred and enslaved millions of indigenous and African peoples, colonized and impoverished millions of people of color around the globe as their nations grew rich, all the while producing racist ideas that blame the victims. This is to say their history of pillaging is not the result of the evil genes or cultures of White people. There’s no such thing as White genes. We must separate the warlike, greedy, bigoted, and individualist cultures of modern empire and racial capitalism (more on that later) from the cultures of White people. They are not one and the same, as the resistance within White nations shows, resistance admittedly often tempered by racist ideas.”
“In 1964, after leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X made the hajj to Mecca and changed his name again to el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, and converted to orthodox Islam. “Never have I witnessed such an overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this Ancient Holy Land,” he wrote home on April 20. Days later, he began to “toss aside some of my previous conclusions [about white people}…You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But…I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it.” On September 22, 1964, Malcolm made no mistake about his conversion. “I totally reject Elijah Muhammad’s racist philosophy, which he has labeled ‘Islam’ only to fool and misuse gullible people, as he fooled and misused me,” he wrote. “But I blame only myself, and no one else for the fool that I was, and the harm that my evangelic foolishness in his behalf has done to others.” Months before being assassinated, Malcolm X faced a fact many admirers of Malcolm X still refuse to face: Black people can be racist toward White people. The NOI’s White-devil idea is a classic example. Whenever someone classifies people of European descent as biologically, culturally, or behaviorally inferior, whenever someone says there is something wrong with White people as a group, someone is articulating a racist idea.”
“To be antiracist is to never mistake the global march of White racism for the global march of White people. To be antiracist is to never mistake the antiracist hate of White racism for the racist hate of White people. To be antiracist is to never conflate racist people with White people, knowing there are antiracist Whites and racist non-Whites. To be antiracist is to see ordinary White people as the frequent victimizers of people of color and the frequent victims of racist power. Donald Trump’s economic policies are geared toward enriching White male power—but at the expense of most of his White male followers, along with the rest of us. We must discern the difference between racist power (racist policymakers) and White people. For decades, racist power contributed to stagnating wages, destroying unions, deregulating banks and corporations, and steering funding for schools into prison and military budgets, policies that have often drawn a backlash from some White people. White economic inequality, for instance, soared to the point that the so-called “99 percenters” occupied Wall Street in 2011, and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders ran a popular presidential campaign against the “billionaire class” in 2016 .. . Of course, ordinary White people benefit from racist policies, though not nearly as much as racist power and not nearly as much as they could from an equitable society, one where the average White voter could have as much power as superrich White men to decide elections. Where their kids’ business-class schools could resemble the first-class prep schools of today’s superrich. Where high-quality universal healthcare could save millions of White lives. Where they could no longer face the cronies of racism that attack them: sexism, ethnocentrism, homophobia, and exploitation. Racist power, hoarding wealth and resources, has the most to lose in the building of an equitable society. As we’ve learned, racist power produces racist policies out of self-interest and then produces racist ideas to justify those policies. But racist ideas also suppress the resistance to policies that are detrimental to White people, by convincing average White people that inequity is rooted in “personal failure” and is unrelated to policies. Racist power manipulates ordinary White people into resisting equalizing policies by drilling them on what they are losing with equalizing policies and how those equalizing policies are anti-White. In 2017, most White people identified anti-White discrimination as a serious problem.
“Claims of anti-White racism in response to antiracism are as old as civil rights. When Congress passed the (first) Civil Rights Act of 1866, it made Black people citizens of the United States, stipulated their civil rights, and stated that state law could not “deprive a person of any of these rights on the basis of race.” President Andrew Johnson reframed this antiracist bill as a “bill made to operate in favor of the colored against the white race.” Racist Americans a century later framed supporters of affirmative action as “hard-core racists of reverse discrimination,” to quote former U.S. solicitor general Robert Bork in The Wall Street Journal in 1978. When Alicia Garza typed “Black Lives Matter” on Facebook in 2013 and when that love letter crested into a movement in 2015, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani called the movement “inherently racist.” White racists do not want to define racial hierarchy or policies that yield racial inequities as racist. To do so would be to define their ideas and policies as racist. Instead, they define policies not rigged for White people as racist. Ideas not centering White lives are racist. Beleaguered White racists who can’t imagine their lives not being the focus of any movement respond to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter.” Embattled police officers who can’t imagine losing their right to racially profile and brutalize respond with “Blue Lives Matter.” Ordinary White racists function as soldiers of racist power. Dealing each day with these ground troops shelling out racist abuse, it is hard for people of color not to hate ordinary White people. Anti-White racist ideas are usually a reflexive reaction to White racism. Anti-White racism is indeed the hate that hate produced, attractive to the victims of White racism. And yet racist power thrives on anti-White racist ideas—more hatred only makes their power greater. When Black people recoil from White racism and concentrate their hatred on everyday White people, as I did freshman year in college, they are not fighting racist power or racist policymakers. In losing focus on racist power, they fail to challenge anti-Black racist policies, which means those policies are more likely to flourish. Going after White people instead of racist power prolongs the policies harming Black life. In the end, anti-White racist ideas, in taking some or all of the focus off racist power, become anti-Black. In the end, hating White people becomes hating Black people. IN THE END, hating Black people becomes hating White people.”
“The same sign showed up on billboards overlooking major roadways from Alabama to Oregon. Passing drivers saw bold black letters against a yellow background: ANTI-RACIST IS A CODE WORD FOR ANTI-WHITE. History tells a different story. Contrary to “the mantra,” White supremacists are the ones supporting policies that benefit racist power against the interests of the majority of White people. White supremacists claim to be pro-White but refuse to acknowledge that climate change is having a disastrous impact on the earth White people inhabit. They oppose affirmative-action programs, despite White women being their primary beneficiaries. White supremacists rage against Obamacare even as 43 percent of the people who gained lifesaving health insurance from 2010 to 2015 were White. They heil Adolf Hitler’s Nazis, even though it was the Nazis who launched a world war that destroyed the lives of more than forty million White people and ruined Europe. They wave Confederate flags and defend Confederate monuments, even though the Confederacy started a civil war that ended with more than five hundred thousand White American lives lost—more than every other American war combined. White supremacists love what America used to be, even though America used to be—and still is—teeming with millions of struggling White people. White supremacists blame non-White people for the struggles of White people when any objective analysis of their plight primarily implicates the rich White Trumps they support. White supremacist is code for anti-White, and White supremacy is nothing short of an ongoing program of genocide against the White race. In fact, it’s more than that: White supremacist is code for anti-human, a nuclear ideology that poses an existential threat to human existence.”
Chapter 11: Black
“POWERLESS DEFENSE: The illusory, concealing, disempowering, and racist idea that Black people can’t be racist because Black people don’t have power.”
“I THOUGHT ONLY White people could be racist and that Black people could not be racist, because Black people did not have power. I thought Latinx, Asians, Middle Easterners, and Natives could not be racist, because they did not have power. I had no sense of the reactionary history of this construction, of its racist bearing. This powerless defense, as I call it, emerged in the wake of racist Whites dismissing antiracist policies and ideas as racist in the late 1960s. In subsequent decades, Black voices critical of White racism defended themselves from these charges by saying, “Black people can’t be racist, because Black people don’t have power.””
“By 2013, in the middle of Obama’s presidency, only 37 percent of Black people were pointing to “mostly racism” as the cause of racial inequities. A whopping 60 percent of Black people had joined with the 83 percent of White people that year who found explanations other than racism to explain persisting racial inequities. The internalizing of racist ideas was likely the reason. Black minds were awakened to the ongoing reality of racism by the series of televised police killings and flimsy exonerations that followed the Obama election, the movement for Black Lives, and the eventual racist ascendancy of Donald Trump. By 2017, 59 percent of Black people expressed the antiracist position that racism is the main reason Blacks can’t get ahead (compared to 35 percent of Whites and 45 percent of Latinx). But even then, about a third of Black people still expressed the racist position that struggling Blacks are mostly responsible for their own condition, compared to 54 percent of Whites, 48 percent of Latinx, and 75 percent of Republicans. Clearly, a large percentage of Black people hold anti-Black racist ideas.”
“Quietly, though, this defense shields people of color in positions of power from doing the work of antiracism, since they are apparently powerless, since White people have all the power. This means that people of color are powerless to roll back racist policies and close racial inequities even in their own spheres of influence, the places where they actually do have some power to effect change. The powerless defense shields people of color from charges of racism even when they are reproducing racist policies and justifying them with the same racist ideas as the White people they call racist. The powerless defense shields its believers from the history of White people empowering people of color to oppress people of color and of people of color using their limited power to oppress people of color for their own personal gain. Like every other racist idea, the powerless defense underestimates Black people and overestimates White people. It erases the small amount of Black power and expands the already expansive reach of White power. The powerless defense does not consider people at all levels of power, from policymakers like politicians and executives who have the power to institute and eliminate racist and antiracist policies, to policy managers like officers and middle managers empowered to execute or withhold racist and antiracist policies. Every single person actually has the power to protest racist and antiracist policies, to advance them, or, in some small way, to stall them. Nation-states, sectors, communities, institutions are run by policymakers and policies and policy managers. “Institutional power” or “systemic power” or “structural power” is the policymaking and managing power of people, in groups or individually. When someone says Black people can’t be racist because Black people don’t have “institutional power,” they are flouting reality. The powerless defense strips Black policymakers and managers of all their power. The powerless defense says the more than 154 African Americans who have served in Congress from 1870 to 2018 had no legislative power. It says none of the thousands of state and local Black politicians have any lawmaking power. It says U.S. Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas never had the power to put his vote to antiracist purposes. The powerless defense says the more than seven hundred Black judges on state courts and more than two hundred Black judges on federal courts have had no power during the trials and sentencing processes that built our system of mass incarceration. It says the more than fifty-seven thousand Black police officers do not have the power to brutalize and kill the Black body. It says the three thousand Black police chiefs, assistant chiefs, and commanders have no power over the officers under their command. The powerless defense says the more than forty thousand full-time Black faculty at U.S. colleges and universities in 2016 did not have the power to pass and fail Black students, hire and tenure Black faculty, or shape the minds of Black people. It says the world’s eleven Black billionaires and the 380,000 Black millionaire families in the United States have no economic power, to use in racist or antiracist ways. It says the sixteen Black CEOs who’ve run Fortune 500 companies since 1999 had no power to diversify their workforces. When a Black man stepped into the most powerful office in the world in 2009, his policies were often excused by apologists who said he didn’t have executive power. As if none of his executive orders were carried out, neither of his Black attorneys general had any power to roll back mass incarceration, or his Black national security adviser had no power. The truth is: Black people can be racist because Black people do have power, even if limited. Note that I say limited Black power rather than no power. White power controls the United States. But not absolutely. Absolute power necessitates complete control over all levels of power. All policies. All policy managers. All minds. Ironically, the only way that White power can gain full control is by convincing us that White people already have all the power. If we accept the idea that we have no power, we are falling under the sort of mind control that will, in fact, rob us of any power to resist. As Black History Month father Carter G. Woodson once wrote: “When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it.” Racist ideas are constantly produced to cage the power of people to resist. Racist ideas make Black people believe White people have all the power, elevating them to gods. And so Black segregationists lash out at these all-powerful gods as fallen devils, as I did in college, while Black assimilationists worship their all-powerful White angels, strive to become them, to curry their favor, reproducing their racist ideas and defending their racist policies… With the popularity of the powerless defense, Black on Black criminals…get away with their racism. Black people call them Uncle Toms, sellouts, Oreos, puppets—everything but the right thing: racist. Black people need to do more than revoke their “Black card,” as we call it. We need to paste the racist card to their foreheads for all the world to see. The saying “Black people can’t be racist” reproduces the false duality of racist and not-racist promoted by White racists to deny their racism. It merges Black people with White Trump voters who are angry about being called racist but who want to express racist views and support their racist policies while being identified as not-racist, no matter what they say or do. By this theory, Black people can hate them niggers, value Light people over Dark people, support anti-Latinx immigration policies, defend the anti-Native team mascots, back bans against Middle Eastern Muslims, and still escape charges of racism. By this theory, Latinx, Asians, and Natives can fear unknown Black bodies, support mass-incarcerating policies, and still escape charges of racism. By this theory, I can look upon White people as devils and aliens and still escape charges of racism. When we stop denying the duality of racist and antiracist, we can take an accurate accounting of the racial ideas and policies we support. For the better part of my life I held both racist and antiracist ideas, supported both racist and antiracist policies; I’ve been antiracist one moment, racist in many more moments. To say Black people can’t be racist is to say all Black people are being antiracist at all times. My own story tells me that is not true. History agrees.”
“Black people would be betrayed by Black on Black criminals again and again in the twentieth century. In the 1960s, the diversifying of America’s police forces was supposed to alleviate the scourge of police brutality against Black victims. The fruit of decades of antiracist activism, a new crop of Black officers were expected to treat Black citizens better than their White counterparts did. But reports immediately surfaced in the 1960s that Black officers were as abusive as White officers. One report noted “in some places, low-income Negroes prefer white policemen because of the severe conduct of Negro officers.” A 1966 study found Black officers were not as likely to be racist as Whites, but a significant minority expressed anti-Black racist ideas like, “I’m telling you these people are savages. And they’re real dirty.” Or the Black officer who said, “There have always been jobs for Negroes, but the f—— people are too stupid to go out and get an education. They all want the easy way out. To color police racism as White on the pretext that only White people can be racist is to ignore the non-White officer’s history of profiling and killing “them niggers.” It is to ignore that the police killer in 2012 of Brooklyn’s Shantel Davis was Black, that three of the six officers involved in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray were Black, that the police killer in 2016 of Charlotte’s Keith Lamont Scott was Black, and that one of the police killers in 2018 of Sacramento’s Stephon Clark was Black. How can the White officers involved in the deaths of Terence Crutcher, Sandra Bland, Walter L. Scott, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, and Decynthia Clements be racist but their Black counterparts be antiracist?”
“The new crop of Black politicians, judges, police chiefs, and officers in the 1960s and subsequent decades helped to create a new problem. Rising levels of violent crime engulfed impoverished neighborhoods. Black residents bombardeed their politicians and crime fighters with their racist fears of Black criminals as opposed to criminals. Neither the residents nor the politicians nor the crime fighters wholly saw the heroin and crack problem as a public-health crisis or the violent-crime problem in poor neighborhoods where Black people lived as a poverty problem. Black people seemed to be more worried about other Black people killing them in drug wars or robberies by the thousands each year than about the cancers, heart diseases, and respiratory diseases killing them by the hundreds of thousands each year. Those illnesses were not mentioned, but “Black on Black crime has reached a critical level that threatens our existence as a people,” wrote Ebony publisher John H. Johnson, in a 1979 special issue on the topic. The Black on Black crime of internalized racism had indeed reached a critical level—this new Black-abetted focus on the crisis of “Black crime” helped feed the growth of the movement toward mass incarceration that would wreck a generation. The rise of mass incarceration was partially fueled by Black people who, even as they adopted racist ideas, did so ostensibly out of trying to save the Black community in the 1970s. But the 1980s brought a more premeditated form of racism, as channeled through the Black administrators Ronald Reagan appointed to his cabinet. Under Clarence Thomas’s directorship from 1980 to 1986, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission doubled the number of discrimination cases it dismissed as “no cause.” Samuel Pierce, Reagan’s secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), redirected billions of dollars in federal funds allotted for low-income housing to corporate interests and Republican donors. Under Pierce’s watch in the first half of the 1980s, the number of public-housing units in non-White neighborhoods dropped severely. Poor Black people faced a housing crisis in the 1980s that Pierce made worse, even though he had the power to alleviate it, setting the stage for future secretaries of HUD like Trump’s appointee, Ben Carson. These were men who used the power they’d been given—no matter how limited and conditional—in inarguably racist ways.”
Chapter 12: Class
“CLASS RACIST: One who is racializing the classes, supporting policies of racial capitalism against those race-classes, and justifying them by racist ideas about those race-classes.
ANTIRACIST ANTICAPITALIST: One who is opposing racial capitalism.”
“The ghetto had expanded in the twentieth century as it swallowed millions of Black people migrating from the South to Western and Northern cities like Philadelphia. White flight followed. The combination of government welfare—in the form of subsidies, highway construction, and loan guarantees—along with often racist developers opened new wealth-building urban and suburban homes to the fleeing Whites, while largely confining Black natives and new Black migrants to the so-called ghettos, now overcrowded and designed to extract wealth from their residents. But the word “ghetto,” as it migrated to the Main Street of American vocabulary, did not conjure a series of racist policies that enabled White flight and Black abandonment—instead, “ghetto” began to describe unrespectable Black behavior on the North Broad Streets of the country. The dark ghetto is institutionalized pathology; it is chronic, self-perpetuating pathology; and it is the futile attempt by those with power to confine that pathology so as to prevent the spread of its contagion to the ‘larger community,’ ” wrote psychologist Kenneth Clark in his 1965 book, Dark Ghetto. “Pathology,” meaning a deviation from the norm. Poor Blacks in the “ghetto” are pathological, abnormal? Abnormal from whom? What group is the norm? White elites? Black elites? Poor Whites? Poor Latinx? Asian elites? The Native poor? All of these groups—like the group “Black poor”—are distinct race-classes, racial groups at the intersection of race and class. Poor people are a class, Black people a race. Black poor people are a race-class. When we say poor people are lazy, we are expressing an elitist idea. When we say Black people are lazy, we are expressing a racist idea. When we say Black poor people are lazier than poor Whites, White elites, and Black elites, we are speaking at the intersection of elitist and racist ideas—an ideological intersection that forms class racism.”
“When a policy exploits poor people, it is an elitist policy. When a policy exploits Black people, it is a racist policy. When a policy exploits Black poor people, the policy exploits at the intersection of elitist and racist policies—a policy intersection of class racism. When we racialize classes, support racist policies against those race-classes, and justify them by racist ideas, we are engaging in class racism. To be antiracist is to equalize the race-classes. To be antiracist is to root the economic disparities between the equal race-classes in policies, not people. Class racism is as ripe among White Americans—who castigate poor Whites as “White trash”—as it is in Black America, where racist Blacks degrade poor Blacks as “them niggers” who live in the ghetto. Constructs of “ghetto Blacks” (and “White trash”) are the most obvious ideological forms of class racism. Pathological people made the pathological ghetto, segregationists say. The pathological ghetto made pathological people, assimilationists say. To be antiracist is to say the political and economic conditions, not the people, in poor Black neighborhoods are pathological. Pathological conditions are making the residents sicker and poorer while they strive to survive and thrive, while they invent and reinvent cultures and behaviors that may be different but never inferior to those of residents in richer neighborhoods. But if the elite race-classes are judging the poor race-classes by their own cultural and behavioral norms, then the poor race-classes appear inferior. Whoever creates the norm creates the hierarchy and positions their own race-class at the top of the hierarchy.”
“Something was making poor people poor, according to this idea. And it was welfare. Welfare “transforms the individual from a dignified, industrious, self-reliant spiritual being into a dependent animal creature without his knowing it,” U.S. senator Barry Goldwater wrote in The Conscience of the Conservative in 1960. Goldwater and his ideological descendants said little to nothing about rich White people who depended on the welfare of inheritances, tax cuts, government contracts, hookups, and bailouts. They said little to nothing about the White middle class depending on the welfare of the New Deal, the GI Bill, subsidized suburbs, and exclusive White networks. Welfare for middle- and upper-income people remained out of the discourse on “handouts,” as welfare for the Black poor became the true oppressor in the conservative version of the oppression-inferiority thesis. “The evidence of this failure is all around us,” wrote Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James in 2018. “Being black and the daughter of a former welfare recipient, I know firsthand the unintended harm welfare has caused.””
“I saw poor Blacks as the product of racism and not capitalism, largely because I thought I knew racism but knew I did not know capitalism. But it is impossible to know racism without understanding its intersection with capitalism. As Martin Luther King said in his critique of capitalism in 1967, “It means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.””
“This stereotype of the hopeless, defeated, unmotivated poor Black is without evidence. Recent research shows, in fact, that poor Blacks are more optimistic about their prospects than poor Whites are. For ages, racist poor Whites have enriched their sense of self on the stepladder of racist ideas, what W.E.B. Du Bois famously called the “wage” of Whiteness. I may not be rich, but at least I am not a nigger. Racist Black elites, meanwhile, heightened their sense of self on the stepladder of racist ideas, on what we can call the wage of Black elitism. I may not be White, but at least I am not them niggers. Racist Black elites thought about low-income Blacks the way racist non-Black people thought about Black people. We thought we had more than higher incomes. We thought we were higher people. We saw ourselves as the “Talented Tenth,” as Du Bois named Black elites from the penthouse of his class racism in 1903. “The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men,” Du Bois projected. “Was there ever a nation on God’s fair earth civilized from the bottom upward? Never; it is, ever was, and ever will be from the top downward that culture filters.””
“In the twenty-first century, persisting racial inequities in poverty, unemployment, and wealth show the lifework of the conjoined twins. The Black poverty rate in 2017 stood at 20 percent, nearly triple the White poverty rate. The Black unemployment rate has been at least twice as high as the White unemployment rate for the last fifty years. The wage gap between Blacks and Whites is the largest in forty years. The median net worth of White families is about ten times that of Black families. According to one forecast, White households are expected to own eighty-six times more wealth than Black households by 2020 and sixty-eight times more than Latinx households. The disparity stands to only get worse if racist housing policies, tax policies benefiting the rich, and mass incarceration continue unabated, according to forecasters. By 2053, the median wealth of Black households is expected to redline at $0, and Latinx households will redline two decades later.”
“Capitalism emerged during what world-systems theorists term the “long sixteenth century,” a cradling period that begins around 1450 with Portugal (and Spain) sailing into the unknown Atlantic. Prince Henry’s Portugal birthed conjoined twins—capitalism and racism—when it initiated the transatlantic slave trade of African people. These newborns looked up with tender eyes to their ancient siblings of sexism, imperialism, ethnocentrism, and homophobia. The conjoined twins developed different personalities through the new class and racial formations of the modern world. As the principal customers of Portuguese slave traders, first in their home country and then in their American colonies, Spain adopted and raised the toddlers among the genocides of Native Americans that laid the foundational seminaries and cemeteries on which Western Europe’s Atlantic empire grew in the sixteenth century. Holland and France and England overtook each other as hegemons of the slave trade, raising the conjoined twins into their vigorous adolescence in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The conjoined twins entered adulthood through Native and Black and Asian and White slavery and forced labor in the Americas, which powered industrial revolutions from Boston to London that financed still-greater empires in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The hot and cold wars in the twentieth century over resources and markets, rights and powers, weakened the conjoined twins—but eventually they would grow stronger under the guidance of the United States, the European Union, China, and the satellite nations beholden to them, colonies in everything but name. The conjoined twins are again struggling to stay alive and thrive as their own offspring—inequality, war, and climate change—threaten to kill them, and all of us, off.”
“Antiracist policies cannot eliminate class racism without anti-capitalist policies. Anti-capitalism cannot eliminate class racism without antiracism. Case in point is the persistent racism Afro-Cubans faced in socialist Cuba after revolutionaries eliminated capitalism there in 1959, as chronicled by historian Devyn Spence Benson. Revolutionaries demanded Afro-Cubans assimilate into an imagined post-racial Cuba—-‘Not Blacks, But Citizens’—-built on White Cuban social norms and racist ideas after a three-year campaign against racism abruptly ended in 1961.”
“Socialist and communist spaces are not automatically antiracist. Some socialists and communists have pushed a segregationist or post-racial program in order not to alienate racist White workers.”
“The inequities wrought by racism and capitalism are not restricted to the United States. Africa’s unprecedented capitalist growth over the past two decades has enriched foreign investors and a handful of Africans, while the number of people living in extreme poverty is growing in Sub-Saharan Africa. With extreme poverty falling rapidly elsewhere, forecasters project that nearly nine in ten extremely poor people will live in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. In Latin America, people of African descent remain disproportionately poor. The global gap between the richest (and Whitest) regions of the world and the poorest (and Blackest) regions of the world has tripled in size since the 1960s—at the same time as the global non-White middle class has grown. Upward mobility is greater for White people, and downward mobility is greater for Black people. And equity is nonexistent on the race-class ladder in the United States. In the highest-income quintile, White median wealth is about $444,500, around $300,000 more than for upper-income Latinx and Blacks. Black middle-income households have less wealth than White middle-income households, whose homes are valued higher. White poverty is not as distressing as Black poverty. Poor Blacks are much more likely to live in neighborhoods where other families are poor, creating a poverty of resources and opportunities. Sociologists refer to this as the “double burden.” Poor Blacks in metropolitan Chicago are ten times more likely than poor Whites to live in high-poverty areas. With Black poverty dense and White poverty scattered, Black poverty is visible and surrounds its victims; White poverty blends in.”
“The discovery of gold and silver in America,” Karl Marx once wrote, “the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalized the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production.” Marx recognized the birth of the conjoined twins.”
“I keep using the term “anticapitalist” as opposed to socialist or communist to include the people who publicly or privately question or loathe capitalism but do not identify as socialist or communist. I use “anticapitalist” because conservative defenders of capitalism regularly say their liberal and socialist opponents are against capitalism. They say efforts to provide a safety net for all people are “anticapitalist.” They say attempts to prevent monopolies are “anticapitalist.” They say efforts that strengthen weak unions and weaken exploitative owners are “anticapitalist.” They say plans to normalize worker ownership and regulations protecting consumers, workers, and environments from big business are “anticapitalist.” They say laws taxing the richest more than the middle class, redistributing pilfered wealth, and guaranteeing basic incomes are “anticapitalist.” They say wars to end poverty are “anticapitalist.” They say campaigns to remove the profit motive from essential life sectors like education, healthcare, utilities, mass media, and incarceration are “anticapitalist.” In doing so, these conservative defenders are defining capitalism. They define capitalism as the freedom to exploit people into economic ruin; the freedom to assassinate unions; the freedom to prey on unprotected consumers, workers, and environments; the freedom to value quarterly profits over climate change; the freedom to undermine small businesses and cushion corporations; the freedom from competition; the freedom not to pay taxes; the freedom to heave the tax burden onto the middle and lower classes; the freedom to commodify everything and everyone; the freedom to keep poor people poor and middle-income people struggling to stay middle income, and make rich people richer. The history of capitalism—of world warring, classing, slave trading, enslaving, colonizing, depressing wages, and dispossessing land and labor and resources and rights—bears out the conservative definition of capitalism.”
“Du Bois helped breed a new crop of antiracist anticapitalists before they were driven underground or into prison by the red scares of the 1950s, before resurfacing in the 1960s. They are resurfacing again in the twenty-first century in the wake of the Great Recession, the Occupy movement, the movement for Black Lives, and the campaigns of democratic socialists, recognizing “there is an inextricable link between racism and capitalism,” to quote Princeton scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. They are winning elections, rushing into anticapitalist organizations, and exposing the myths of capitalism.”
“Liberals who are “capitalist to the bone,” as U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren identifies herself, present a different definition of capitalism. “I believe in markets and the benefits they can produce when they work,” Warren said when asked what that identity meant to her. “I love the competition that comes with a market that has decent rules….The problem is when the rules are not enforced, when the markets are not level playing fields, all that wealth is scraped in one direction,” leading to deception and theft. “Theft is not capitalism,” Warren said. She has proposed a series of regulations and reforms that her conservative opponents class as “anticapitalist.” They say other countries that have these rules are not capitalist. Warren should be applauded for her efforts to establish and enforce rules that end the theft and level the playing field for, hopefully, all race-classes, not just the White middle class. But if Warren succeeds, then the new economic system will operate in a fundamentally different way than it has ever operated before in American history. Either the new economic system will not be capitalist or the old system it replaces was not capitalist. They cannot both be capitalist. When Senator Warren and others define capitalism in this way—as markets and market rules and competition and benefits from winning—they are disentangling capitalism from theft and racism and sexism and imperialism. If that’s their capitalism, I can see how they can remain capitalist to the bone. However, history does not affirm this definition of capitalism. Markets and market rules and competition and benefits from winning existed long before the rise of capitalism in the modern world. What capitalism introduced to this mix was global theft, racially uneven playing fields, unidirectional wealth that rushes upward in unprecedented amounts. Since the dawn of racial capitalism, when were markets level playing fields? When could working people compete equally with capitalists? When could Black people compete equally with White people? When could African nations compete equally with European nations? When did the rules not generally benefit the wealthy and White nations? Humanity needs honest definitions of capitalism and racism based in the actual living history of the conjoined twins.”
“The top 1 percent now own around half of the world’s wealth, up from 42.5 percent at the height of the Great Recession in 2008. The world’s 3.5 billion poorest adults, comprising 70 percent of the world’s working-age population, own 2.7 percent of global wealth. Most of these poor adults live in non-White countries that were subjected to centuries of slave trading and colonizing and resource dispossessing, which created the modern wealth of the West. The wealth extraction continues today via foreign companies that own or control key natural resources in the global south, taken through force with the threat of “economic sanctions” or granted by “elected” politicians. Racial capitalism makes countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo one of the richest countries in the world below ground and one of the poorest countries in the world above ground. To love capitalism is to end up loving racism. To love racism is to end up loving capitalism. The conjoined twins are two sides of the same destructive body. The idea that capitalism is merely free markets, competition, free trade, supplying and demanding, and private ownership of the means of production operating for a profit is as whimsical and ahistorical as the White-supremacist idea that calling something racist is the primary form of racism. Popular definitions of capitalism, like popular racist ideas, do not live in historical or material reality. Capitalism is essentially racist; racism is essentially capitalist. They were birthed together from the same unnatural causes, and they shall one day die together from unnatural causes. Or racial capitalism will live into another epoch of theft and rapacious inequity, especially if activists naïvely fight the conjoined twins independently, as if they are not the same.”
Chapter 13: Space
“SPACE RACISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to resource inequity between racialized spaces or the elimination of certain racialized spaces, which are substantiated by racist ideas about racialized spaces.
SPACE ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity between integrated and protected racialized spaces, which are substantiated by antiracist ideas about racialized spaces.”
“The idea of the dangerous Black neighborhood is the most dangerous racist idea. And it is powerfully misleading. For instance, people steer away from and stigmatize Black neighborhoods as crime-ridden streets where you might have your wallet stolen. But they aspire to move into upscale White neighborhoods, home to white-collar criminals and “banksters,” as Thom Hartmann calls them, who might steal your life savings. Americans lost trillions during the Great Recession, which was largely triggered by financial crimes of staggering enormity. Estimated losses from white-collar crimes are believed to be between $300 and $600 billion “per year, according to the FBI. By comparison, near the height of violent crime in 1995, the FBI reported the combined costs of burglary and robbery to be $4 billion. Racist Americans stigmatize entire Black neighborhoods as places of homicide and mortal violence but don’t similarly connect White neighborhoods to the disproportionate number of White males who engage in mass shootings. And they don’t even see the daily violence that unfolds on the highways that deliver mostly White suburbanites to their homes. In 1986, during the violent crack epidemic, 3,380 more Americans died from alcohol-related traffic deaths than from homicides. None of this is to say that White spaces or Black spaces are more or less violent—this isn’t about creating a hierarchy. The point is that when we unchain ourselves from the space racism that deracializes and normalizes and elevates elite White spaces, while doing the opposite to Black spaces, we will find good and bad, violence and nonviolence, in all spaces, no matter how poor or rich, Black or non-Black. No matter the effect of the conjoined twins. Just as racist power racializes people, racist power racializes space. The ghetto. The inner city. The third world. A space is racialized when a racial group is known to either govern the space or make up the clear majority in the space. A Black space, for instance, is either a space publicly run by Black people or a space where Black people stand in the majority. Policies of space racism over resource White spaces and under resource non-White spaces. Ideas of space racism justify resource inequity through creating a racial hierarchy of space, lifting up White spaces as heaven, downgrading non-White spaces as hell. “We have a situation where we have our inner cities, African Americans, Hispanics, are living in hell, because it’s so dangerous,” candidate Donald Trump said during a presidential debate in 2016. In an Oval Office meeting in 2018 about Black and Latinx immigrants, President Trump asked: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”
“Americans have seen the logical conclusion of segregationist strategy, from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration and border walls. The logical conclusion of antiracist strategy is open and equal access to all public accommodations, open access to all integrated White spaces, integrated Middle Eastern spaces, integrated Black spaces, integrated Latinx spaces, integrated Native spaces, and integrated Asian spaces that are as equally resourced as they are culturally different. All these spaces adjoin civic spaces of political and economic and cultural power, from a House of Representatives to a school board to a newspaper editorial board where no race predominates, where shared antiracist power predominates. This is diversity, something integrationists value only in name. Antiracist strategy fuses desegregation with a form of integration and racial solidarity. Desegregation: eliminating all barriers to all racialized spaces. To be antiracist is to support the voluntary integration of bodies attracted by cultural difference, a shared humanity. Integration: resources rather than bodies. To be an antiracist is to champion resource equity by challenging the racist policies that produce resource inequity. Racial solidarity: openly identifying, supporting, and protecting integrated racial spaces. To be antiracist is to equate and nurture difference among racial groups.”
Chapter 14: Gender
“GENDER RACISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequity between race-genders and are substantiated by racist ideas about race-genders.
GENDER ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between race-genders and are substantiated by antiracist ideas about race-genders.”
“Racist (and sexist) power distinguishes race-genders, racial (or gender) groups at the intersection of race and gender. Women are a gender. Black people are a race. When we identify Black women, we are identifying a race-gender. A sexist policy produces inequities between women and men. A racist policy produces inequities between racial groups. When a policy produces inequities between race-genders, it is gendered racism, or gender racism for short. To be antiracist is to reject not only the hierarchy of races but of race-genders. To be feminist is to reject not only the hierarchy of genders but of race-genders. To truly be antiracist is to be feminist. To truly be feminist is to be antiracist. To be antiracist (and feminist) is to level the different race-genders, is to root the inequities between the equal race-genders in the policies of gender racism. Gender racism was behind the growing number of involuntary sterilizations of Black women by eugenicist physicians—two hundred thousand cases in 1970, rising to seven hundred thousand in 1980. Gender racism produced the current situation of Black women with some collegiate education making less than White women with only high school degrees; Black women having to earn advanced degrees before they earn more than White women with bachelor’s degrees; and the median wealth of single White women being $42,000 compared to $100 for single Black women. Native women and Black women experience poverty at a higher rate than any other race-gender group. Black and Latinx women still earn the least, while White and Asian men earn the most. Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than are White women. A Black woman with an advanced degree is more likely to lose her baby than a White woman with less than an eighth-grade education. Black women remain twice as likely to be incarcerated as White women. Gender racism impacts White women and male groups of color, whether they see it or not. White women’s resistance to Black feminism and intersectional theory has been self-destructive, preventing resisters from understanding their own oppression. The intersection of racism and sexism, in some cases, oppresses White women. For example, sexist notions of “real women” as weak and racist notions of White women as the idealized woman intersect to produce the gender-racist idea that the pinnacle of womanhood is the weak White woman. This is the gender racism that caused millions of men and women to hate the strong White woman running for president in 2016, Hillary Clinton. Or to give another example, the opposite of the gender racism of the unvirtuous hypersexual Black woman is the virtuous asexual White woman, a racial construct that has constrained and controlled the White woman’s sexuality (as it nakedly tainted the Black woman’s sexuality as un-rape-able). White-male interest in lynching Black-male rapists of White women was as much about controlling the sexuality of White women as it was about controlling the sexuality of Black men. Racist White patriarchs were re-creating the slave era all over again, making it illicit for White women to cohabitate with Black men at the same time as racist White (and Black) men were raping Black women. And the slave era remains, amid the hollow cries of race pride drowning out the cries of the sexually assaulted.”
“Male resistance to Black feminism and intersectional theory has been similarly self-destructive, preventing resisters from understanding our specific oppression. The intersection of racism and sexism, in some cases, oppresses men of color. Black men reinforce oppressive tropes by reinforcing certain sexist ideas. For example, sexist notions of “real men” as strong and racist notions of Black men as not really men intersect to produce the gender racism of the weak Black man, inferior to the pinnacle of manhood, the strong White man. Sexist notions of men as more naturally dangerous than women (since women are considered naturally fragile, in need of protection) and racist notions of Black people as more dangerous than White people intersect to produce the gender racism of the hyper-dangerous Black man, more dangerous than the White man, the Black woman, and (the pinnacle of innocent frailty) the White woman. No defense is stronger than the frail tears of innocent White womanhood. No prosecution is stronger than the case for inherently guilty Black manhood. These ideas of gender racism transform every innocent Black male into a criminal and every White female criminal into Casey Anthony, the White woman a Florida jury exonerated in 2011, against all evidence, for killing her three-year-old child. White women get away with murder and Black men spend years in prisons for wrongful convictions. After the imprisonment of Black men dropped 24 percent between 2000 and 2015, Black men were still nearly six times more likely than White men, twenty-five times more likely than Black women, and fifty times more likely than White women to be incarcerated. Black men raised in the top 1 percent by millionaires are as likely to be incarcerated as White men raised in households earning $36,000.”
“Intersectional Black identities are subjected to what Crenshaw described as the intersection of racism and other forms of bigotry, such as ethnocentrism, colorism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. My journey to being an antiracist first recognized the intersectionality of my ethnic racism, and then my bodily racism, and then my cultural racism, and then my color racism, and then my class racism, and, when I entered graduate school, my gender racism and queer racism.”
Chapter 15: Sexuality
“QUEER RACISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequity between race-sexualities and are substantiated by racist ideas about race-sexualities.
QUEER ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between race-sexualities and are substantiated by antiracist ideas about race-sexualities.”
“RACIST (AND HOMOPHOBIC) power distinguishes race-sexualities, racial (or sexuality) groups at the intersection of race and sexuality. Homosexuals are a sexuality. Latinx people are a race. Latinx homosexuals are a race-sexuality. A homophobic policy produces inequities between heterosexuals and homosexuals. A racist policy produces inequities between racial groups. Queer racism produces inequities between race-sexualities. Queer racism produces a situation where 32 percent of children being raised by Black male same-sex couples live in poverty, compared to 14 percent of children being raised by White male same-sex couples, 13 percent of children raised by Black heterosexuals, and 7 percent of children raised by White heterosexuals. For children being raised by female same-sex couples who live in poverty, the racial disparity is nearly as wide. These children of Black queer couples are more likely to live in poverty because their parents are more likely than Black heterosexual and White queer couples to be poor.”
“Intersectional Black identities are subjected to what Crenshaw described as the intersection of racism and other forms of bigotry, such as ethnocentrism, colorism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. My journey to being an antiracist first recognized the intersectionality of my ethnic racism, and then my bodily racism, and then my cultural racism, and then my color racism, and then my class racism, and, when I entered graduate school, my gender racism and queer racism.”
“Queer antiracism is equating all the race-sexualities, striving to eliminate the inequities between the race-sexualities. We cannot be antiracist if we are homophobic or transphobic. We must continue to “affirm that all Black lives matter,” as the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Opal Tometi, once said. All Black lives include those of poor transgender Black women, perhaps the most violated and oppressed of all the Black intersectional groups.”
Chapter 16: FAILURE: “Activist: ONE WHO HAS A RECORD OF POWER OR POLICY CHANGE.” (Key words here are “record”, “power”, “policy change.”)
“What if antiracists constantly self-critiqued our own ideas? What if we blamed our ideologies and methods, studied our ideologies and methods, refined our ideologies and methods again and again until they worked? When will we finally stop the insanity of doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result? ”
“Self-critique allows change. Changing shows flexibility. Antiracist power must be flexible to match the flexibility of racist power, propelled only by the craving for power to shape policy in their inequitable interests. Racist power believes in by any means necessary. We, their challengers, typically do not, not even some of those inspired by Malcolm X.”
“What if we assessed the methods and leaders and organizations by their results of policy change and equity? What if strategies and policy solutions stemmed not from ideologies but from problems? What if antiracists were propelled only by the craving for power to shape policy in their equitable interests?”
“We use the terms demonstration and protests interchangeably, at our own peril, like we interchangeably use the terms mobilizing and organizing. A protest is organizing people for a prolonged campaign that forces racist power to change a policy. A demonstration is mobilizing people momentarily to publicize a problem. Speakers and placards and posts at marches, rallies, petitions, and viral hashtags demonstrate the problem. Demonstrations are, not surprisingly, a favorite of suasionists. Demonstrations annoy power in the way children crying about something they will never get annoy parents. Unless power cannot economically or politically or professionally afford bad press as power could not during the Cold War, as power cannot during election season, as power cannot close to bankruptcy, power typically ignores demonstrations.”
Chapter 17: Success
“Asking antiracists to change their perspective on racism can be as destabilizing as asking racists to change their perspective on the races. Antiracists can be as doctrinaire in their view of racism as racists can be in their view of not-racism. How can antiracists ask racists to open their minds and change when we are closed-minded and unwilling to change?”
“They distinguished, for example, the individual racism of white terrorists who bomb a Black church and kill Black children from the institutional racism of when in that same city of Birmingham, Alabama five hundred black babies die each year because of the lack of proper food, shelter and medical facilities.”
“It is, as I thought upon first read, the gloomy system keeping us down and dead. The system acts are covert, just as the racist ideas of the people are implicit. I could not wrap my head around the system or precisely define it, but I knew the system was there, like the polluted air in our atmosphere, poisoning Black people to the benefit of White people.”
“But what if the atmosphere of racism has been polluting most White people, too? And what if racism has been working in the opposite way for a handful of Black individuals, who find the fresh air of wealth and power in racist atmospheres? Framing institutional racism as acts by the total White community against the total Black community accounts for the ways White people benefit from racist policies when compared to their racial peers. (White poor benefit more than Black poor. White women benefit more than Black women. White gays benefit more than Black gays.) But this framing of White people versus Black people does not take into account that all White people do not benefit equally from racism. For instance, it doesn’t take into account how rich Whites benefit more from racist policies than White poor and middle-income people. It does not take into account that Black people are not harmed equally by racism or that some Black individuals exploit racism to boost their own wealth and power.”
“But I did not care. I thought I had it all figured out. I thought of racism as an inanimate, invisible, immortal system, not as a living, recognizable, mortal disease of cancer cells that we could identify and treat and kill. I considered the system as essential to the United States as the Constitution. At times, I thought White people covertly operated the system, fixed it to benefit the total White community at the expense of the total Black community.”
“The construct of covert institutional racism opens American eyes to racism and, ironically, closes them, too. Separating the overt individual from the covert institutional veils the specific policy choices that cause racial inequities, policies made by specific people. Covering up the specific policies and policymakers prevents us from identifying and replacing the specific policies and policymakers. We become unconscious to racist policymakers and policies as we lash out angrily at the abstract bogeyman of the system…the perpetrators behind the five hundred Black babies dying…each year in Birmingham because of the lack of proper food, shelter and medical facilities were no less overt than the white terrorists who killed four Black girls in a Birmingham church in 1963. In the way investigators can figure out exactly who those church bombers were, investigators can figure out exactly what policies caused five hundred Black babies to die each year and exactly who put those policies in place. In the way people have learned to see racist abuse coming out of the mouths of individual racists, people can learn to see racial inequities emerging from racist policies. All forms of racism are overt if our antiracist eyes are open to seeing racist policy in racial inequity.”
But we do not see. Our eyes have been closed by racist ideas and the unacknowledged bond between the institutional antiracist and the post-racialist. They bond on the idea that institutional racism is often unseen and un-seeable. Because it is covert, the institutional antiracist says. Because it hardly exists, the post-racialist says.
“Policymakers and policies make societies and institutions, not the other way around. The United States is a racist nation because its policymakers and policies have been racist from the beginning. The conviction that racist policymakers can be overtaken, and racist policies can be changed, and the racist minds of their victims can be changed, is disputed only by those invested in preserving racist policymakers, policies, and habits of thinking.”
“Racism has always been terminal and curable. Racism has always been recognizable and mortal.
It happens for me in successive steps, these steps to be an antiracist.
I stop using the “I’m not a racist or I can’t be racist” defense of denial.
I admit the definition of racist (someone who is supporting racist policies or expressing racist ideas).
I confess the racist policies I support and racist ideas I express.
I accept their source (my upbringing inside a nation making us racist).
I acknowledge the definition of antiracist (someone who is supporting antiracist policies or expressing antiracist ideas).
I struggle for antiracist power and policy in my spaces. (Seizing a policymaking position. Joining an antiracist organization or protest. Publicly donating my time or privately donating my funds to antiracist policymakers, organizations, and protests fixated on changing power and policy.)
I struggle to remain at the antiracist intersections where racism is mixed with other bigotries. (Eliminating racial distinctions in biology and behavior. Equalizing racial distinctions in ethnicities, bodies, cultures, colors, classes, spaces, genders, and sexualities.)
I struggle to think with antiracist ideas. (Seeing racist policy in racial inequity. Leveling group differences. Not being fooled into generalizing individual negativity. Not being fooled by misleading statistics or theories that blame people for racial inequity.)
Racist ideas fooled me nearly my whole life. I refused to allow them to continue making a fool out of me, a chump out of me, a slave out of me. I realized there is nothing wrong with any of the racial groups and everything wrong with individuals like me who think there is something wrong with any of the racial groups. It felt so good to cleanse my mind.
Chapter 18: Survival
The history of racist ideas is the history of powerful policymakers erecting racist policies out of self-interest, then producing racist ideas to defend and rationalize the inequitable effects of their policies, while everyday people consume those racist ideas, which in turn sparks ignorance and hate. Treating ignorance and hate and expecting racism to shrink suddenly seemed like treating a cancer patient’s symptoms and expecting the tumors to shrink. The body politic might feel better momentarily from the treatment from trying to eradicate hate and ignorance but as long as the underlying cause remains, the tumors grow, the symptoms return, and inequities spread like cancer cells, threatening the life of the body politic. Educational and moral suasion is not only a failed strategy. It is a suicidal strategy.
…. some of the steps we can all take to eliminate racial inequity in our spaces.
Admit racial inequity is a problem of bad policy, not bad people.
Identify racial inequity in all its intersections and manifestations.
Investigate and uncover the racist policies causing racial inequity.
Invent or find antiracist policy that can eliminate racial inequity.
Figure out who or what group has the power to institute antiracist policy.
Disseminate and educate about the uncovered racist policy and antiracist policy correctives.
Work with sympathetic antiracist policymakers to institute the antiracist policy.
Deploy antiracist power to compel or drive from power the unsympathetic racist policymakers in order to institute the antiracist policy.
Monitor closely to ensure the antiracist policy reduces and eliminates racial inequity.
When policies fail, do not blame the people. Start over and seek out new and more effective antiracist treatments until they work.
Monitor closely to prevent new racist policies from being instituted.
“But before we can treat, we must believe. Believe all is not lost for you and me and our society. Believe in the possibility that we can strive to be antiracist from this day forward. Believe in the possibility that we can transform our societies to be antiracist from this day forward. Racist power is not godly. Racist policies are not indestructible. Racial inequities are not inevitable. Racist ideas are not natural to the human mind.”
Race and racism are power constructs of the modern world. For roughly two hundred thousand years, before race and racism were constructed in the fifteenth century, humans saw color but did not group the colors into continental races, did not commonly attach negative and positive characteristics to those colors and rank the races to justify racial inequity, to reinforce racist power and policy. Racism is not even six hundred years old. It’s a cancer that we’ve caught early.”
(If you would like to join our antiracism work, here in Georgia or wherever you are, feel free to write us at email@example.com.
If you would like to purchase a complete copy of Kendi’s “How to Be An AntiRacist” book, and find out more information on Kendi and his Antiracism Center, you can do so at https://www.ibramxkendi.com/how-to-be-an-antiracist.)
Some antiracist activities you can join us in immediately include:
1) Join the global movement which is already changing the world GLOBAL CITIZEN.
2. A must read and really one of the main “textbooks” of this Institute is the book by Ezrah Aharone “The Sovereign Psyche: Systems of Chattel Freedom vs. Self-Authentic Freedom“ (We will be compiling an abridged version and posting it on this website, so stay tuned but in the meantime you can order and/or read excerpts from the book by clicking on the title.)
3. Join the continental revolutionary movement, Symbiosis, “a confederation of community organizations across North America, building a democratic and ecological society from the ground up.“
4. Join the main organization exposing and trying to end America’s violent, militaristic, and terroristic foreign policy Win Without War.
6. A must watch: The REAL MLK
https://youtu.be/AJhgXKGldUk This is the real MLK which most Americans conveniently forget, speaking of the third “triple evil”, militarism, beyond civil rights and racism , calling for human rights for ALL PEOPLES OF THE WORLD and the cessation of American imperialism, terrorism and warfare around the world, and the fact that American racism and poverty will never end here until we end the greatest evil of American militarism against the poor and people of color of the nations of the world.