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Book Review: “How to Be an Antiracist”

How to Be an Antiracist

Ibram X. Kendi

Hardcover, 320 pages

Publication Date: August 13, 2019

Publisher: One World

Genre: Nonfiction

For me, reading is not all about leisure. Sure, I enjoy sitting down to read a compelling novel or a collection of comics, but over the last year or so, I have tried to incorporate more nonfiction reading into my life. Even in my short time reading nonfiction, I have learned about subjects I never would have encountered otherwise. I have learned about history, culture and the way the world works. “How to Be an Antiracist” covers all of these categories.

“How to Be an Antiracist” is a definitive book on the subject of racism. Ibram X. Kendi is thorough with his research, and the hard work he put into this book is readily apparent. Racism is a systemic problem, and each chapter focuses on one area in society where racism is present. Kendi covers biology, behavior, space, sexuality and everything in between.

Each chapter builds upon the last, so by the end of the book, the reader has a clear view of how pervasive racism is and what it means to be an antiracist. Kendi is quick to point out being “not racist” is not the same as being “antiracist.” Antiracism is the opposite of racism, rather than claims of not being a racist person. To truly be opposed to an idea, Kendi says, one must actively work against it. Therefore, antiracism is the only solution to racism.

In each chapter, Kendi relates moments of his personal life from childhood to the present. He admits periods of racism in his own life and how he rectified those as he learned about the ideology of antiracism. The memoir aspect of “How to Be an Antiracist” provided practical examples of what it looks like to live an antiracist life. Kendi also shares the experiences and people who changed his mind about his viewpoints on racism.

If there is any fault in “How to Be an Antiracist,” it is the writing style Kendi uses. He is a professor at American University teaching history and international relations, and he writes like an academic. This is particularly noticeable in a few instances of dense text, but for the most part, the personal aspect of the writing works well with the commentary on culture and racism Kendi is presenting.

I have one final note on “How to Be an Antiracist.” While I read it over the course of a week near the end of summer break, my reading experience would have been ideally suited to a class or book club environment. Each chapter Kendi writes is so full of information and ideas I struggled to process everything when I read it all at once. A conversation at the end of each chapter to discuss everything Kendi has to say would have helped me enjoy “How to Be an Antiracist” even more than I already did.

This is not an easy book to read. It is not a comfortable one to read. If anything, these are signs of the importance of “How to Be an Antiracist.”

Paige Holmes is a senior journalism major from Topeka, KS. Reading is her favorite thing to do because it teaches one how to think, imagine and live. Paige believes there is no better way to learn something or be entertained than by reading a book. Her favorite genre of books is fantasy/thriller and her favorite book is ‘Opening Moves’ by Steven James.

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