It is impossible these days to listen to National Public Radio, watch CNN or MSCNBC, and not to realize that The United States is in a period of potentially huge changes in society, politics and it’s fundamental founding attitudes. In amongst the grueling, daily grim statistics of Covid 19, nuggets of change are often missed: US police forces coming under more scrutiny and criticism; the NFL apologizing for the way it treated Colin Kaepernick when he began his kneeling protests; NASCAR insisting that the Southern Cross be banned from all raceways; Confederate statues being removed as thought to be offensive… I could go on.
The unity behind the marches is encouraging.
Change is coming.
One of the major voices in this movement is Ibram X. Kendi. His bestseller, How to be an Antiracist (published by Random House books in 2019), remains crucial reading. As the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy center at American University, DC, a professor of history and international relations, he is informed, eloquent and relevant. There are no easy answers, no quick fixes but there are ways to move forward and the solution remains firmly in our hands. If you haven’t read it, do so immediately!
During a recent CNN interview, he talked of how change must come from the young, that he felt this subject was often either ignored through fear or lack of knowledge in children’s fiction and that something as fundamental as this could no longer be pushed aside. With a young daughter, he wanted a platform that promoted these ideals in a form that could be easily understood and digested.
Kendi’s opening words set the tone:
“Antiracist Baby is bred, not born.
Antiracist Baby is raised to make society transform”
He then sets out nine steps to make this equity a reality:
- Open your eyes to all skin colors
- Use your words to talk about race.
- Point at policies as the problem, not people
- Shout. “There’s nothing wrong with the people”
- Celebrate all our differences.
- Knock down the stack of cultural blocks.
- Confess when being racist.
- Grow to be an Antiracist.
- Believe we shall overcome racism.
Each page has a supporting picture and rhyme for each point, simple language, but with oh such a complex message!
The list reads like a blueprint for social change; almost like a PowerPoint for a diversity training session. It’s written in a clear, no nonsense style, told in a lilting rhyming prose.
The book could operate on many levels and most definitely a way into this subject for children and adults of all ages. It could be used at home, a school setting, even a staff meeting, the opportunities are endless. The talking points are clear, concise and can no longer be avoided. They need to be faced.
Do not expect a warm and fuzzy kid’s story that enables you to avoid the issues. This book sets out the fundamentals and how to go about them. They are at its very core. Almost like a declaration of intent. Do not let this prevent you buying it, this book is the start of a journey.
Ashley Lukashevsky’s illustrations are bright, cheery and with lots to look for and comeback too. Their simplicity and boldness draw’s you in, allowing you to digest and reflect on the challenging subject.
At the end of the book, Kendi sets out suggested talking points and discussion starters which are relevant, easily understood and used. He offers suggested activities to build upon and broaden these ideals. This book offers us a way into the prickly uncomfortable conversations we all need to be having about race and racism.
My fear is that people will buy this book because of the writer’s name, the ethos of the moment and then leave it prominently on the coffee table for all to see how enlightened they are… hopefully this is not a metaphor for how the process of social change might go forward. But maybe that is my own cynical outlook…
Change must come from the youth and leaders of tomorrow.
It’s time for action!
This article was first published on The Letterpress Project website