Ibram X. Kendi. Antiracist Baby. Penguin Random House, 2020.
Something feels different about this moment. Whether it is, has yet to be determined, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that this time may pass with little reform. However, the news coverage, the global reach, the books by Black authors sold out everywhere, and the rumblings within certain policing departments certainly glimmers…*some* change.
It is into this time that Kendi’s book has hit the market, the baby board book based upon his work in How To Be An Antiracist (my notes and review forthcoming). In accordance with my belief that to change the world you must change our children, I welcome this addition to the work of racial justice. But, this is not just a baby book. This ought to be read by everyone regardless of your parental status, for in these pages are the sum principles (noted below) that can be easily memorized and immediately deployed. According to the sociological concept of praxis, first do, then believe.
For those who would spurn or pull back from the over-simplified directness of these statements, wishing there were more critical nuances, I would carefully suggest that all ideas need distillation to variegated maturities. So, let us accept the phraseologies a priori. Then, as we deem ourselves more sagacious, we can consider the following:
First, psychology. While it is true that “babies are taught to be racist or antiracist,” it is also true that becoming biased or prejudiced is more acquired through experience, of which teaching/instruction is a factor. (cf. Biased by Jennifer Eberhardt)
Second, sociology/philosophy (& theology). While it is true that we should “Point at policies as the problem, not people,” there are attitudes, ideas, and beliefs that inhabit certain people, that people do hold, and the behaviors and systems that follow stem from those people. (cf. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, Divided By Faith by Emerson & Smith, and The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby)
Last, politics. While it is true that we ought to “confess when being racist,” we must consider that acknowledging any personal behavior as “being racist” is distinctly different from confessing that we “participate regularly in racist systems.” That level of understanding needs consideration, regardless of whether or not it is more more palatable or more effective, even though it requires a more perennial and systemic repentance. (cf. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson)
Go buy this book. Support its author. Promulgate its ideas.
Babies are taught to be racist or antiracist–there’s no neutrality.
1 Open your eyes to all skin colors.
2 Use your words to talk about race.
3 Point at policies as the problem, not people.
4 Shout, “There’s nothing wrong with the people!”
5 Celebrate all our differences.
6 Knock down the stack of cultural blocks.
7 Confess when being racist.
8 Grow to be an antiracist.
9 Believe we shall overcome racism.