By: Bonnie DiCarlo
Ibram X. Kendi, author of How To Be An Antiracist, was the guest speaker at Carlow University in the Gailliot Theater last fall.
Ibram Kendi is a New York Times best-selling author and the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at Washington University. He is a professor of history and international relations and a frequent public speaker. While answering questions from staff members and guests, Ibram Kendi talked about writing his third book while undergoing treatment for stage four colon cancer.
The book’s title is the foundation for the discussion. The opposite of racism is not merely “not racist”, but “antiracist”. We must be antiracist to confront racist beliefs and actions. The book is “about the basic struggle we’re all in, the struggle to be fully human and to see that others are fully human.”
The author was asked a question about the disparity studies that continue to be made. The purpose of these studies should be to lead to solutions. After decades of studies, the findings are the same. So we ask the question: What is needed to change the outcomes? The answer: opportunity and resources. But those in power must be willing to want to change. It’s not happening.
Kendi quoted Audre Lord: “We have all been programmed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate. But we have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals.” The author concludes: To be an antiracist is a radical choice in the face of this history, requiring a radical reorientation of our consciousness.
Well, for me, a radical reorientation cannot be accomplished in a one hour discussion. I left the auditorium knowing one thing: doing nothing about racist policies is being racist. On a person to person level, I began to understand “racist” as a verb, not a noun – not identifying a person as racist, but seeing them as being racist about a certain issue or policy.
In our society, being white is a privileged position. Those of us who are white have an obligation to be antiracist. Will we, as a society, ever really identify and eliminate racist power and policy? Will it ever be that we respect each other for who we are, without preconceived biases? This book will help our thought process, but our actions will make the difference.
Bonnie DiCarlo, musician, financial planner and political strategist, is a long-time member of the Merton Center. Bonnie has served as a board member many times, a finance committee member, and liaison with Thrifty, where she is known for leading carols at the holiday luncheon.
NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 50 No. 1. February, 2020. All rights reserved.