Patton's Picks from the PMA Library: How to Be An Antiracist

June 2020

"How to be an Antiracist" by Ibram X. Kendi

If you're looking for book recommendations in the productivity and professional development genre, Patton offers a weekly summary of some of the essential and emerging titles from the PMA Library. 

Kendi's premise is that "not being a racist" is insufficient to truly create positive change, and being a more proactive Antiracist is the way to do so. As a white ally listening, learning and trying to do better, this book provided me an excellent understanding of the nuances of racism as well as practical steps anyone can take to improve conditions for the Black community and for our communities in general.  Kendi effectively blends his personal story - going back two generations - with detailed research on the origins of the slave trade to help the reader understand how institutional and individual racism has come to exist. 


1. Antiracist allies acknowledge racist systems have been in place for generations, many of which persist and go unacknowledged. Racism is often implemented after a power structure is established, creating a false narrative and hierarchy that maintains the status quo. Kendi illuminates the historical record which not only established a racist structure, but allowed to evolve and continue. A racist can be active in their support of racist policies, but can also contribute to a racist society by doing or saying nothing to dismantle it. 
2. Acts of racism often take the form of assumptions about someone based on certain qualities. Generalizing universal bevhaviors, traits, or characteristics about people through ethnic, physical, and even biological classifications is wrong, and can take the form of outright profiling to microaggressions of which you and those around you might not be entirely aware. Kendi breaks down the common categories of this type of profiling and how you can recognize them. 
3. Actively do YOUR part to engage with the people you elect, and assure they can dismantle the policies which uphold racism. Be sure to educate yourself about the policies behind any of these racist beliefs. Also know that while it is difficult to change individual minds, be assertive in calling out racist behaviors in those around you, as well as identifying the faults within policies, systems, and actions. Finally, invest in leaders who understand, both by electing antiracist officials as well as lifting up Black voices in the workplace. 


Ibram Xolani Kendi is an American author, historian, and leading scholar of race and discriminatory policy in America. In July 2020, Kendi will start work as the founding director of Boston University's Center for Antiracist Research, a continuation of his work at The Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University.