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.
Ibram X. Kendi clearly outlines this definition in the beginning of his book How to Be An Antiracist (2019, One World). This thorough but captivating book outlines an intersectional look at antiracism. As Kendi argues, we must pick a side with each of our actions, ideas, and the things we choose to support. There are no “not-racist” policies or ideas – all policies and ideas can be viewed as racist (upholding the belief that one racial group is better or worse than others) or antiracist (upholding the belief that all racial groups are equal and that none are better or worse than others). When it is written out and defined this clearly, these definitions appear easy to comprehend and to act upon, but our biases, habits, assumptions, and the structures around us prove time and time again to complicate the issue.
Kendi’s writing powerfully navigates topics such as ethnicity, color, class, gender, sexuality, and more, offering a framework for how to think about and interpret antiracism while weaving in his own personal experiences and struggles as both the victim and the perpetrator of racist actions and beliefs. Kendi bravely takes us on his own personal journey to understand and strive for antiracism, adding a human narrative to his analysis. His courageousness in examining himself while dissecting the impacts of racism on all aspects of our lives and our communities show that striving for antiracism is a continual process that we must constantly navigate. Kendi points out, “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? … Being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.” While it is no doubt challenging, How to Be An Antiracist offers a clear framework and a compelling narrative to both guide as well as remind us of the importance of this work.
During these disturbing and emotional times in Denver and across the country, it is easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed. One of the many ways we can show up for those around us is to continue to educate ourselves, to stay informed, and to challenge inequity wherever we find it. Reading books like How to Be An Antiracist offers the tools to do just that, and is as important in this moment as ever.
You can check out How to Be An Antiracist online as an ebook through denverlibrary.org – it is also available as an eaudiobook narrated captivatingly by the author. This book is also available in print at your closest library branch once it reopens.
More antiracist resources available through Denver Public Library
Looking for more information during these challenging times? Consider the suggestions below, and visit our website at denverlibrary.org for more information, blog posts, and book lists on antiracist topics.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the library on social media, by submitting a Personalized Reading List request (https://www.denverlibrary.org/reads), or by chatting, emailing, or calling to let us know what you would like to see from your local library – you can find contact information at denverlibrary.org/ask.
· Denver is home to the Blair Caldwell African American Research Library, featuring archives and primary sources on African Americans in Colorado and the American West. Find out more information and access digital archives at history.denverlibrary.org/blair.
· For information on talking to children about race, visit kids.denverlibrary.org/racetalk and discover books for all age groups as well as discussion tips.
· Denver Public Library is currently holding a Virtual Social Justice Book Club once a month – the next meeting will be on Wednesday, June 24th from 6-7pm. This month’s book is Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. More information and registration is available at denverlibrary.org/events.
· Denver Public Library is also a partner library for Noname’s Book Club, which is an “online/IRL community dedicated to uplifting POC voices” and which highlights two books every month written by authors of color. Find more information at nonamebooks.com.
Hannah Evans is the senior librarian at the Smiley Branch of the Denver Public Library.