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← The difference between being "not racist" and antiracist

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Showing Revision 18 created 06/17/2020 by Erin Gregory.

  1. Cloe Shasha: So welcome, Ibram,
  2. and thank you so much for joining us.
  3. Ibram X. Kendi: Well, thank you, Cloe,

  4. and Whitney,
  5. and thank you everyone
    for joining this conversation.
  6. And so, a few weeks ago,
  7. on the same day we learned
    about the brutal murder of George Floyd,
  8. we also learned that
    a white woman in Central Park
  9. who chose not to leash her dog
  10. and was told by a black man nearby
    that she needed to leash her dog,
  11. instead decided
    to threaten this black male,
  12. instead decided to call the police
  13. and claim that her life
    was being threatened.
  14. And of course, when we learned
    about that through a video,
  15. many Americans were outraged,
  16. and this woman, Amy Cooper,
  17. ended up going on national TV
  18. and saying,
  19. like countless other Americans have said
    right after they engaged in a racist act,
  20. "I am not racist."
  21. And I say countless Americans,
  22. because when you really think
    about the history of Americans
  23. expressing racist ideas,
  24. supporting racist policies,
  25. you're really talking
    about a history of people
  26. who have claimed they're not racist,
  27. because everyone claims
    that they're not racist,
  28. whether we're talking
    about the Amy Coopers of the world,
  29. whether we're talking about Donald Trump,
  30. who, right after he said
    that majority-black Baltimore
  31. is a rat and rodent-infested mess
    that no human being would want to live in,
  32. and he was challenged as being racist,
  33. he said, "Actually, I'm the least racist
    person anywhere in the world."
  34. And so really the heartbeat
    of racism itself
  35. has always been denial,
  36. and the sound of that heartbeat
  37. has always been, "I'm not racist."
  38. And so what I'm trying to do with my work

  39. is to really get Americans
    to eliminate the concept of "not racist"
  40. from their vocabulary,
  41. and realize we're either being racist
  42. or anti-racist.
  43. We're either expressing ideas
    that suggest certain racial groups
  44. are better or worse than others,
  45. superior or inferior than others.
  46. We're either being racist,
  47. or we're being anti-racist.
  48. We're expressing notions
    that the racial groups are equals,
  49. despite any cultural
    or even ethnic differences.
  50. We're either supporting
    policies that are leading
  51. to racial inequities and injustice,
  52. like we saw in Louisville,
    where Breonna Taylor was murdered,
  53. or we're supporting policies
    and pushing policies
  54. that are leading to justice
    and equity for all.
  55. And so I think we should be very clear

  56. about whether we're
    expressing racist ideas,
  57. about whether we're
    supporting racist policies,
  58. and admit when we are,
  59. because to be anti-racist
  60. is to admit when
    we expressed a racist idea,
  61. is to say, "You know what?
  62. When I was doing that in Central Park,
  63. I was indeed being racist.
  64. But I'm going to change.
  65. I'm going to strive to be anti-racist."
  66. And to be racist
  67. is to constantly deny
  68. the racial inequities
    that pervade American society,
  69. to constantly deny the racist ideas
    that pervade American minds.
  70. And so I want to built
    a just and equitable society,
  71. and the only way we're going
    to even begin that process
  72. is if we admit our racism
  73. and start building an anti-racist world.
  74. Thank you.
  75. CS: Thank you so much for that.

  76. You know, your book,
    "How to Be an Antiracist,"
  77. has become a bestseller
    in light of what's been happening,
  78. and you've been speaking a bit
  79. to the ways in which
    anti-racism and racism
  80. are the only two polar opposite ways
    to hold a view on racism.
  81. I'm curious if you
    could talk a little bit more
  82. about what the basic tenets
    of anti-racism are,
  83. for people who aren't as familiar with it
    in terms of how they can be anti-racist.
  84. IXK: Sure. And so I mentioned in my talk

  85. that the heartbeat of racism is denial,
  86. and really the heartbeat
    of anti-racism is confession,
  87. is the recognition
  88. that to grow up in this society
  89. is to literally at some point in our lives
  90. probably internalize
    ideas that are racist,
  91. ideas that suggest certain racial groups
    are better or worse than others,
  92. and because we believe
    in racial hierarchy,
  93. because Americans
    have been systematically taught
  94. that black people are more dangerous,
  95. that black people are more criminal-like,
  96. when we live in a society
    where black people
  97. are 40 percent of the national
    incarcerated population,
  98. that's going to seem normal to people.
  99. When we live in a society
  100. in a city like Minneapolis
  101. where black people
    are 20 percent of the population
  102. but more than 60 percent of the people
    being subjected to police shootings,
  103. it's going to seem normal.
  104. And so to be anti-racist
  105. is to believe that there's nothing wrong
  106. or inferior about black people
    or any other racial group.
  107. There's nothing dangerous
  108. about black people
    or any other racial group.
  109. And so when we see these
    racial disparities all around us,
  110. we see them as abnormal,
  111. and then we start to figure out, OK,
    what policies are behind
  112. so many black people
    being killed by police?
  113. What policies are behind
    so many Latinx people
  114. being disproportionately
    infected with COVID?
  115. How can I be a part of the struggle
  116. to upend those policies and replace them
    with more antiracist policies?
  117. Whitney Pennington Rodgers:
    And so it sounds like

  118. you do make that distinction, then,
    between not racist and anti-racist.
  119. I guess, could you talk a little bit
    more about that and break that down?
  120. What is the difference between the two?
  121. IXK: In the most simplest way,

  122. a not racist is a racist who is in denial,
  123. and an anti-racist is someone
  124. who is willing to admit the times
    in which they are being racist,
  125. and who is willing to recognize
  126. the inequities and
    the racial problems of our society,
  127. and who is willing to challenge
    those racial inequities
  128. by challenging policy.
  129. And so I'm saying this because
    literally slaveholders, slave traders,
  130. imagined that their ideas
    in our terms were not racist.
  131. They would say things like,
  132. "Black people are the cursed
    descendants of Ham,
  133. and they're cursed forever
    into enslavement."
  134. This isn't, "I'm not racist."
  135. This is, "God's law."
  136. They would say things, like, you know,
  137. "Based on science, based on ethnology,
  138. based on natural history,
  139. black people by nature
  140. are predisposed to slavery and servility.
  141. This is nature's law. I'm not racist.
  142. I'm actually doing what nature
    said I'm supposed to be doing."
  143. And so this construct of being not racist
    and denying one's racism
  144. goes all the way back
    to the origins of this country.
  145. CS: Yeah.

  146. And why do you think it has been so hard
  147. for some people now to still accept
    that neutrality is not enough
  148. when it comes to racism?
  149. IXK: I think because it takes
    a lot of work to be anti-racist.

  150. You have to be very vulnerable, right?
  151. You have to be willing to admit
    that you were wrong.
  152. You have to be willing to admit
  153. that if you have more,
    if you're white, for instance,
  154. and you have more,
  155. it may not be because you are more.
  156. You have to admit that,
    yeah, you've worked hard
  157. potentially, in your life,
  158. but you've also had certain advantages
  159. which provided you with opportunities
  160. that other people did not have.
  161. You have to admit those things,
  162. and it's very difficult
  163. for people to be publicly,
  164. and even privately, self-critical.
  165. I think it's also the case of,

  166. and I should have probably led with this,
  167. how people define "racist."
  168. And so people tend to define "racist"
  169. as, like, a fixed category,
  170. as an identity.
  171. This is essential to who a person is.
  172. Someone becomes a racist.
  173. And so therefore --
  174. And then they also connect a racist
    with a bad, evil person.
  175. They connect a racist
    with a Ku Klux Klansman or woman.
  176. And they're like,
    "I'm not in the Ku Klux Klan,
  177. I'm not a bad person
  178. and I've done good things in my life.
  179. I've done good things to people of color.
  180. And so therefore I can't be racist.
  181. I'm not that. That's not my identity.
  182. But that's actually not
    how we should be defining racist.
  183. Racist is a descriptive term.
  184. It describes what a person
    is saying or doing in any given moment,
  185. and so when a person in one moment
  186. is expressing a racist idea,
  187. in that moment they are being racist
    when they're saying black people are lazy.
  188. If in the very next moment
  189. they're appreciating the cultures
    of native people,
  190. they're being anti-racist.
  191. WPR: And we're going to get
    to some questions

  192. from our community in a moment,
  193. but I think when a lot of people hear
    this idea that you're putting forward,
  194. this idea of anti-racism,
  195. there's this feeling
    that this is something
  196. that only concerns the white community.
  197. And so could you speak a little bit
    to how the black community
  198. and nonwhite, other ethnic minorities
  199. can participate in and think about
    this idea of anti-racism?
  200. IXK: Sure.

  201. So if white Americans
    commonly say, "I'm not racist,"
  202. people of color commonly say,
  203. "I can't be racist,
  204. because I'm a person of color."
  205. And then some people of color
    say they can't be racist
  206. because they have no power.
  207. And so, first and foremost,
  208. what I've tried to do in my work
    is to push back against this idea
  209. that people of color have no power.
  210. There's nothing more disempowering
  211. to say, or to think, as a person of color,
  212. than to say you have no power.
  213. People of color have long utilized
    the most basic power
  214. that every human being has,
  215. and that's the power to resist policy --
  216. that's the power to resist
    racist policies,
  217. that's the power to resist
    a racist society.
  218. But if you're a person of color,
  219. and you believe that people coming here
  220. from Honduras and El Salvador
  221. are invading this country,
  222. you believe that these Latinx immigrants
  223. are animals and rapists,
  224. then you're certainly not,
    if you're black or Asian or native,
  225. going to be a part of the struggle
  226. to defend Latinx immigrants,
  227. to recognize that Latinx immigrants
    have as much to give to this country
  228. as any other group of people,
  229. you're going to view these people
    as "taking away your jobs,"
  230. and so therefore you're going
    to support racist rhetoric,
  231. you're going to support racist policies,
  232. and even though that is probably
    going to be harming you,
  233. in other words, it's going to be harming,
  234. if you're black, immigrants
    coming from Haiti and Nigeria,
  235. if you're Asian,
    immigrants coming from India.
  236. So I think it's critically important
    for even people of color
  237. to realize they have the power to resist,
  238. and when people of color
    view other people of color as the problem,
  239. they're not going
    to view racism as the problem.
  240. And anyone who is not viewing
    racism as the problem
  241. is not being anti-racist.
  242. CS: You touched on this a bit
    in your beginning talk here,

  243. but you've talked about how
    racism is the reason
  244. that black communities
    and communities of color
  245. are systematically
    disadvantaged in America,
  246. which has led to so many more deaths
    from COVID-19 in those communities.
  247. And yet the media is often
    placing the blame on people of color
  248. for their vulnerability to illness.
  249. So I'm curious, in line with that,
  250. what is the relationship
    between anti-racism
  251. and the potential for systemic change?
  252. IXK: I think it's a direct relationship,

  253. because when you are --
  254. when you believe
    and have consumed racist ideas,
  255. you're not going to even believe
    change is necessary
  256. because you're going to believe
    that racial inequality is normal.
  257. Or, you're not going
    to believe change is possible.
  258. In other words, you're going to believe
    that the reason why black people
  259. are being killed by police
    at such high rates
  260. or the reason why Latinx people
    are being infected at such high rates
  261. is because there's
    something wrong with them,
  262. and nothing can be changed.
  263. And so you wouldn't even
    begin to even see the need
  264. for systemic structural change,
  265. let alone be a part of the struggle
    for systemic structural change.
  266. And so, to be anti-racist, again,
  267. is to recognize
  268. that there's only two causes
    of racial inequity:
  269. either there's something
    wrong with people,
  270. or there's something wrong
    with power and policy.
  271. And if you realize that there's
    nothing wrong with any group of people,
  272. and I keep mentioning groups --
  273. I'm not saying individuals.
  274. There's certainly black individuals
  275. who didn't take coronavirus seriously,
  276. which is one of the reasons
    why they were infected.
  277. But there are white people
    who didn't take coronavirus seriously.
  278. No one has ever proven,
    actually studies have shown
  279. that black people were more likely
    to take the coronavirus seriously
  280. than white people.
  281. We're not talking about individuals here,
  282. and we certainly should not
    be individualizing groups.
  283. We certainly should not be looking
    at the individual behavior
  284. of one Latinx person or one black person,
  285. and saying they're
    representatives of the group.
  286. That's a racist idea in and of itself.
  287. And so I'm talking about groups,
  288. and if you believe that groups are equals,
  289. then the only other alternative,
  290. the only other explanation
    to persisting inequity and injustice,
  291. is power and policy.
  292. And to then spend your time transforming
    and challenging power and policy
  293. is to spend your time being anti-racist.
  294. WPR: So we have some questions
    that are coming in from the audience.

  295. First one here is from a community member
  296. that asks, "When we talk
    about white privilege,
  297. we talk also about the privilege
    not to have the difficult conversations.
  298. Do you feel that's starting to change?"
  299. IXK: I hope so,

  300. because I think
  301. that white Americans, too,
  302. need to simultaneously recognize
  303. their privileges,
  304. the privileges that they have accrued
  305. as a result of their whiteness,
  306. and the only way in which
    they're going to be able to do that
  307. is by initiating and having
    these conversations.
  308. But then they also should recognize
  309. that, yes, they have more,
  310. white Americans have more,
  311. due to racist policy,
  312. but the question I think
    white Americans should be having,
  313. particularly when they're having
    these conversations among themselves,
  314. is, if we had a more equitable society,
  315. would we have more?
  316. Because what I'm asking is that, you know,
  317. white Americans have more
    because of racism,
  318. but there are other groups of people
    in other Western democracies
  319. who have more than white Americans,
  320. and then you start to ask the question,
  321. why is it that people in other countries
    have free health care?
  322. Why is it that they
    have paid family leave?
  323. Why is it that they have
    a massive safety net?
  324. Why is it that we do not?
  325. And one of the major answers
  326. to why we do not here have is racism.
  327. One of the major answers as to why
  328. Donald Trump is President
    of the United States
  329. is racism.
  330. And so I'm not really asking
    white Americans to be altruistic
  331. in order to be anti-racist.
  332. We're really asking people
  333. to have intelligent self-interest.
  334. Those four million, I should say
    five million poor whites in 1860

  335. whose poverty was the direct result
  336. of the riches of a few thousand
    white slaveholding families,
  337. in order to challenge slavery,
  338. we weren't saying, you know,
    we need you to be altruistic.
  339. No, we actually need you
    to do what's in your self-interest.
  340. Those tens of millions of Americans,
    white Americans, who have lost their jobs
  341. as a result of this pandemic,
  342. we're not asking them to be altruistic.
  343. We're asking them to realize that
    if we had a different type of government
  344. with a different set of priorities,
  345. then they would be
    much better off right now.
  346. I'm sorry, don't get me started.
  347. CS: No, we're grateful to you. Thank you.

  348. And in line with that,
  349. obviously these protests and this movement
    have led to some progress:
  350. the removal of Confederate monuments,
  351. the Minneapolis City Council pledging
    to dismantle the police department, etc.
  352. But what do you view
    as the greatest priority on a policy level
  353. as this fight for justice continues?
  354. Are there any ways in which
    we could learn from other countries?
  355. IXK: I don't actually think necessarily

  356. there's a singular policy priority.
  357. I mean, if someone was
    to force me to answer,
  358. I would probably say two,
  359. and that is,
  360. high quality free health care for all,
  361. and when I say high quality,
  362. I'm not just talking about
    Medicare For All,
  363. I'm talking about a simultaneous scenario
  364. in which in rural southwest Georgia,
  365. where the people are predominantly black
  366. and have some of the highest
    death rates in the country,
  367. those counties in southwest Georgia,
  368. from COVID,
  369. that they would have access to health care
  370. as high quality as people do
    in Atlanta and New York City,
  371. and then, simultaneously,
  372. that that health care would be free.
  373. So many Americans not only of course
    are dying this year of COVID
  374. but also of heart disease and cancer,
  375. which are the number one killers
    before COVID of Americans,
  376. and they're disproportionately black.
  377. And so I would say that,

  378. and then secondarily,
    I would say reparations.
  379. And many Americans claim
  380. that they believe in racial equality,
  381. they want to bring about racial equality.
  382. Many Americans recognize
    just how critical economic livelihood is
  383. for every person in this country,
    in this economic system.
  384. But then many Americans reject
    or are not supportive of reparations.
  385. And so we have a situation
  386. in which white Americans
  387. are, last I checked,
  388. their median wealth is 10 times
    the median wealth of black Americans,
  389. and according to a recent study,
  390. by 2053 --
  391. between now, I should say, and 2053,
  392. white median wealth is projected to grow,
  393. and this was before
    this current recession,
  394. and black median wealth
  395. is expected to redline at zero dollars,
  396. and that, based on this current recession,
    that may be pushed up a decade.
  397. And so we not only have
    a racial wealth gap,
  398. but we have a racial wealth gap
    that's growing.
  399. And so for those Americans who claim

  400. they are committed to racial equality
  401. who also recognize the importance
    of economic livelihood
  402. and who also know
    that wealth is inherited,
  403. and the majority of wealth is inherited,
  404. and when you think of the inheritance,
  405. you're thinking of past,
  406. and the past policies
  407. that many Americans consider to be racist,
  408. whether it's slavery or even redlining,
  409. how would we even begin to close
  410. this growing racial wealth gap
  411. without a massive program
    like reparations?
  412. WPR: Well, sort of connected to this idea
    of thinking about wealth disparity

  413. and wealth inequality in this country,
  414. we have a question
    from community member Dana Perls.
  415. She asks, "How do you suggest
    liberal white organizations
  416. effectively address problems of racism
    within the work environment,
  417. particularly in environments where people
    remain silent in the face of racism
  418. or make token statements
    without looking internally?"
  419. IXK: Sure.

  420. And so I would make a few suggestions.
  421. One, for several decades now,
  422. every workplace has publicly pledged
  423. a commitment to diversity.
  424. Typically, they have diversity statements.
  425. I would basically rip up
    those diversity statements
  426. and write a new statement,
  427. and that's a statement
    committed to anti-racism.
  428. And in that statement you would
    clearly define what a racist idea is,
  429. what an anti-racist idea is,
  430. what a racist policy is
    and what an anti-racist policy is.
  431. And you would state as a workplace
    that you're committed
  432. to having a culture of anti-racist ideas
  433. and having an institution
    made up of anti-racist policies.
  434. And so then everybody
    can measure everyone's ideas
  435. and the policies of that workplace
    based on that document.
  436. And I think that that could begin
    the process of transformation.
  437. I also think it's critically important
  438. for workplaces to not only
    diversify their staff
  439. but diversify their upper administration.
  440. And I think that's
    absolutely critical as well.
  441. CS: We have some more questions
    coming in from the audience.

  442. We have one from Melissa Mahoney,
  443. who is asking, "Donald Trump seems
    to be making supporting Black Lives Matter
  444. a partisan issue,
  445. for example making fun of Mitt Romney
  446. for participating in a peaceful protest.
  447. How do we uncouple this
    to make it nonpartisan?"
  448. IXK: Well, I mean, I think that
    to say the lives of black people

  449. is a Democratic declaration
  450. is simultaneously stating
  451. that Republicans do not value black life.
  452. If that's essentially
    what Donald Trump is saying,
  453. if he's stating
  454. that there's a problem
    with marching for black lives,
  455. then what is the solution?
  456. The solution is not marching.
    What's the other alternative?
  457. The other alternative
    is not marching for black lives.
  458. The other alternative is not caring
    when black people die of police violence
  459. or COVID.
  460. And so to me, the way in which
    we make this a nonpartisan issue
  461. is to strike back
  462. or argue back in that way,
  463. and obviously Republicans
    are going to claim
  464. they're not saying that,
  465. but it's a very simple thing:
  466. either you believe black lives matter
  467. or you don't,
  468. and if you believe black lives matter
  469. because you believe in human rights,
  470. then you believe in the human right
    for black people and all people to live
  471. and to not have to fear police violence
  472. and not have to fear the state
  473. and not have to fear
    that a peaceful protest
  474. is going to be broken up
  475. because some politician
    wants to get a campaign op,
  476. then you're going to institute
    policy that shows it.
  477. Or, you're not.
  478. WPR: So I want to ask a question

  479. just about how people
    can think about anti-racism
  480. and how they can actually
    bring this into their lives.
  481. I imagine that a lot of folks,
  482. they hear this and they're like,
  483. oh, you know,
    I have to be really thoughtful
  484. about how my actions and my words
  485. are perceived.
  486. What is the perceived intention
    behind what it is that I'm saying,
  487. and that that may feel exhausting,
  488. and I think that connects
    even to this idea of policy.
  489. And so I'm curious.
  490. There is a huge element of thoughtfulness
  491. that comes along
  492. with this work of being anti-racist.
  493. And what is your reaction and response
    to those who feel concerned
  494. about the mental exhaustion
    from having to constantly think
  495. about how your actions
    may hurt or harm others?
  496. IXK: So I think part of the concern
    that people have about mental exhaustion

  497. is this idea
  498. that they don't ever
    want to make a mistake,
  499. and I think to be anti-racist
  500. is to make mistakes,
  501. and is to recognize
    when we make a mistake.
  502. For us, what's critical
    is to have those very clear definitions
  503. so that we can assess our words,
  504. we can assess our deeds,
  505. and when we make a mistake,
    we just own up to it and say,
  506. "You know what, that was a racist idea."
  507. "You know what, I was supporting
    a racist policy, but I'm going to change."
  508. The other thing I think
    is important for us to realize
  509. is in many ways
  510. we are addicted,
  511. and when I say we, individuals
    and certainly this country,
  512. is addicted to racism,
  513. and that's one of the reasons why
  514. for so many people they're just in denial.
  515. People usually deny their addictions.
  516. But then, once we realize
    that we have this addiction,
  517. everyone who has been addicted,
  518. you know, you talk
    to friends and family members
  519. who are overcoming an addiction
    to substance abuse,
  520. they're not going to say
  521. that they're just healed,
  522. that they don't have
    to think about this regularly.
  523. You know, someone who is
    overcoming alcoholism
  524. is going to say, "You know what,
    this is a day-by-day process,
  525. and I take it day by day
  526. and moment by moment,
  527. and yes, it's difficult
  528. to restrain myself
  529. from reverting back
    to what I'm addicted to,
  530. but at the same time it's liberating,
  531. it's freeing,
  532. because I'm no longer
    having to wallow in that addiction.
  533. And so I think, and I'm no longer
    having to hurt people
  534. due to my addiction."
  535. And I think that's critical.
  536. We spend too much time
    thinking about how we feel
  537. and less time thinking about how
    our actions and ideas make others feel.
  538. And I think that's one thing
    that the George Floyd video
  539. forced Americans to do
  540. was to really see and hear, especially,
  541. how someone feels
  542. as a result of their racism.
  543. CS: We have another question
    from the audience.

  544. This one is asking about,
  545. "Can you speak to the intersectionality
  546. between the work of anti-racism,
    feminism and gay rights?
  547. How does the work of anti-racism
    relate and affect the work
  548. of these other human rights issues?"
  549. IXK: Sure.

  550. So I define a racist idea
  551. as any idea that suggests
    a racial group is superior
  552. or inferior to another
    racial group in any way.
  553. And I use the term racial group
  554. as opposed to race
  555. because every race is a collection
    of racialized intersectional groups,
  556. and so you have black women and black men
  557. and you have black heterosexuals
    and black queer people,
  558. just as you have Latinx women
    and white women and Asian men,
  559. and what's critical for us to understand
  560. is there hasn't just been racist ideas
  561. that have targeted,
    let's say, black people.
  562. There has been racist ideas
    that have been developed
  563. and have targeted black women,
  564. that have targeted black lesbians,
  565. that have targeted
    black transgender women.
  566. And oftentimes these racist ideas
    targeting these intersectional groups
  567. are intersecting
    with other forms of bigotry
  568. that is also targeting these groups.
  569. To give an example about black women,
  570. one of the oldest racist ideas
    about black women
  571. was this idea that they're inferior women
  572. or that they're not even women at all,
  573. and that they're inferior to white women,
  574. who are the pinnacle of womanhood.
  575. And that idea has intersected
  576. with this sexist idea
  577. that suggests that women are weak,
  578. that the more weak a person is,
    a woman is, the more woman she is,
  579. and the stronger a woman is,
    the more masculine she is.
  580. These two ideas have intersected
  581. to constantly degrade black women
  582. as this idea of the strong,
    black masculine woman
  583. who is inferior to the weak, white woman.
  584. And so the only way
    to really understand these constructs
  585. of a weak, superfeminine white woman
  586. and a strong, hypermasculine black woman
  587. is to understand sexist ideas,
  588. is to reject sexist ideas,
  589. and I'll say very quickly,
    the same goes for the intersection
  590. of racism and homophobia,
  591. in which black queer people
    have been subjected to this idea
  592. that they are more hypersexual
  593. because there's this idea of queer people
  594. as being more hypersexual
    than heterosexuals.
  595. And so black queer people have been tagged
  596. as more hypersexual
    than white queer people
  597. and black heterosexuals.
  598. And you can't really see that
    and understand that and reject that
  599. if you're not rejecting and understanding
    and challenging homophobia too.
  600. WPR: And to this point of challenging,

  601. we have another question
    from Maryam Mohit in our community,
  602. who asks, "How do you see cancel culture
    and anti-racism interacting.
  603. For example, when someone
    did something obviously racist in the past
  604. and it comes to light?"
  605. How do we respond to that?
  606. IXK: Wow.

  607. So I think it's very, very complex.
  608. I do obviously encourage people
  609. to transform themselves,
  610. to change, to admit those times
    in which they were being racist,
  611. and so obviously we as a community
  612. have to give people
    that ability to do that.
  613. We can't, when someone admits
    that they were being racist,
  614. we can't immediately
    obviously cancel them.
  615. But I also think
  616. that there are people
  617. who do something so egregious
  618. and there are people who are so unwilling
  619. to recognize how egregious
    what they just did is,
  620. so in a particular moment,
  621. so not just the horrible, vicious act,
  622. but then on top of that
  623. the refusal to even admit
    the horrible, vicious act.
  624. In that case, I could see how people
    would literally want to cancel them,
  625. and I think that we have to,
  626. on the other hand,
  627. we have to have some sort of consequence,
  628. public consequence, cultural consequence,
  629. for people acting in a racist manner,
  630. especially in an extremely egregious way.
  631. And for many people, they've decided,
  632. you know what, I'm just
    going to cancel folks.
  633. And I'm not going
    to necessarily critique them,
  634. but I do think we should try
    to figure out a way
  635. to discern those who are refusing
  636. to transform themselves
  637. and those who made a mistake
    and recognized it
  638. and truly are committed
    to transforming themselves.
  639. CS: Yeah, I mean,

  640. one of the concerns
    many activists have been expressing
  641. is that the energy behind
    the Black Lives Matter movement
  642. has to stay high
  643. for anti-racist change
    to truly take place.
  644. I think that applies
    to what you just said as well.
  645. And I guess I'm curious
    what your opinion is
  646. on when the protests start to wane
  647. and people's donation-matching campaigns
    fade into the background,
  648. how can we all ensure
    that this conversation
  649. about anti-racism stays central?
  650. IXK: Sure.

  651. So in "How to Be an Antiracist,"
  652. in one of the final chapters,
  653. is this chapter called "Failure."
  654. I talked about what I call
    feelings advocacy,
  655. and this is people feeling bad
    about what's happening,
  656. what happened to George Floyd
  657. or what happened to Ahmaud Arbery
    or what happened to Breonna Taylor.
  658. They just feel bad about this country
    and where this country is headed.
  659. And so the way
    they go about feeling better
  660. is by coming to a demonstration.
  661. The way they go about feeling better
  662. is by donating
    to a particular organization.
  663. The way they go about feeling better
  664. is reading a book.
  665. And so if this is what
    many Americans are doing,
  666. then once they feel better,
  667. in other words once the individual
    feels better through their participation
  668. in book clubs or demonstrations
  669. or donation campaigns,
  670. then nothing is going to change
    except, what, their own feelings.
  671. And so we need to move past our feelings.

  672. And this isn't to say
    that people shouldn't feel bad,
  673. but we should use our feelings,
  674. how horrible we feel
    about what is going on,
  675. to put into place, put into practice,
  676. anti-racist power and policies.
  677. In other words, our feelings
    should be driving us.
  678. They shouldn't be the end all.
  679. This should not be
    about making us feel better.
  680. This should be about
    transforming this country,
  681. and we need to keep our eyes
    on transforming this country,
  682. because if we don't,
  683. then once people feel better
    after this is all over,
  684. then we'll be back to the same situation
    of being horrified by another video,
  685. and then feeling bad,
  686. and then the cycle will only continue.
  687. WPR: You know, I think when we think about

  688. what sort of changes we can implement
  689. and how we could
    make the system work better,
  690. make our governments work better,
  691. make our police work better,
  692. are there models in other countries
  693. where -- obviously the history
    in the United States is really unique
  694. in terms of thinking
    about race and oppression.
  695. But when you look to other nations
    and other cultures,
  696. are there other models
    that you look at as examples
  697. that we could potentially implement here?
  698. IXK: I mean, there are so many.

  699. There are countries in which
    police officers don't wear weapons.
  700. There are countries
  701. who have more people
    than the United States
  702. but less prisoners.
  703. There are countries
  704. who try to fight violent crime
  705. not with more police and prisons
  706. but with more jobs and more opportunities,
  707. because they know and see
    that the communities
  708. with the highest levels of violent crime
  709. tend to be communities
    with high levels of poverty
  710. and long-term unemployment.
  711. I think that --
  712. And then, obviously,
  713. other countries provide pretty sizable
    social safety nets for people
  714. such that people are not
    committing crimes out of poverty,
  715. such that people are not
    committing crimes out of despair.
  716. And so I think that
    it's critically important for us
  717. to first and foremost
  718. think through, OK, if there's
    nothing wrong with the people,
  719. then how can we go about
    reducing police violence?
  720. How can we go about
    reducing racial health inequities?
  721. What policies can we change?
    What policies have worked?
  722. These are the types of questions
    we need to be asking,
  723. because there's never really
    been anything wrong with the people.
  724. CS: In your "Atlantic" piece

  725. called "Who Gets To Be
    Afraid in America," you wrote,
  726. "What I am, a black male,
    should not matter.
  727. Who I am should matter."
  728. And I feel that's kind of
    what you're saying,
  729. that in other places
    maybe that's more possible,
  730. and I'm curious when you imagine
  731. a country in which
    who you are mattered first,
  732. what does that look like?
  733. IXK: Well, what it looks like
    for me as a black American

  734. is that people do not view me as dangerous
  735. and thereby make my existence dangerous.
  736. It allows me to walk around this country
  737. and to not believe
    that people are going to fear me
  738. because of the color my skin.
  739. It allows me to believe, you know what,
  740. I didn't get that job because
    I could have done better on my interview,
  741. not because of the color of my skin.
  742. It allows me to --
  743. a country where there's racial equity,
  744. a country where there's racial justice,
  745. you know, a country
    where there's shared opportunity,
  746. a country where African American culture
    and Native American culture
  747. and the cultures of Mexican Americans
  748. and Korean Americans
    are all valued equally,
  749. that no one is being asked
    to assimilate into white American culture.
  750. There's no such thing
    as standard professional wear.
  751. There's no such thing as, well,
    you need to learn how to speak English
  752. in order to be an American.
  753. And we would truly not only have
    equity and justice for all
  754. but we would somehow have found a way
  755. to appreciate difference,
  756. to appreciate all of the human
    ethnic and cultural difference
  757. that exists in the United States.
  758. This is what could make
    this country great,
  759. in which we literally become a country
  760. where you could literally
    travel around this country
  761. and learn about cultures
    from all over the world
  762. and appreciate those cultures,
  763. and understand even your own culture
  764. from what other people are doing.
  765. There's so much beauty here
    amid all this pain
  766. and I just want to peel away
  767. and remove away
  768. all of those scabs of racist policies
  769. so that people can heal
  770. and so that we can see true beauty.
  771. WPR: And Ibram, when you think
    about this moment,

  772. where do you see that
    on the spectrum of progress
  773. towards reaching that true beauty?
  774. IXK: Well, I think, for me,

  775. I always see progress
    and resistance in demonstrations
  776. and know just because people
    are calling from town squares
  777. and from city halls
  778. for progressive, systemic change
    that that change is here,
  779. but people are calling
  780. and people are calling
    in small towns, in big cities,
  781. and people are calling
    from places we've heard of
  782. and places we need to have heard of.
  783. People are calling for change,
    and people are fed up.
  784. I mean, we're living in a time
  785. in which we're facing a viral pandemic,
  786. a racial pandemic
    within that viral pandemic
  787. of people of color disproportionately
    being infected and dying,
  788. even an economic pandemic
  789. with over 40 million Americans
    having lost their jobs,
  790. and certainly this pandemic
    of police violence,
  791. and then people demonstrating
    against police violence
  792. only to suffer police violence
    at demonstrations.
  793. I mean, people see
    there's a fundamental problem here,
  794. and there's a problem that can be solved.
  795. There's an America that can be created,
  796. and people are calling for this,
  797. and that is always the beginning.
  798. The beginning is what
    we're experiencing now.
  799. CS: I think that
    this next audience question

  800. follows well from that, which is,
  801. "What gives you hope right now?"
  802. IXK: So certainly resistance to racism
    has always given me hope,

  803. and so even if, let's say,
  804. six months ago we were not in a time
    in which almost every night
  805. all over this country people
    were demonstrating against racism,
  806. but I could just look to history
  807. when people were resisting.
  808. And so resistance always brings me hope,
  809. because it is always resistance,
  810. and of course it's stormy,
  811. but the rainbow
    is typically on the other side.
  812. But I also receive hope philosophically,
  813. because I know that in order
    to bring about change,
  814. we have to believe in change.
  815. There's just no way
    a change maker can be cynical.
  816. It's impossible.
  817. So I know I have to believe in change
  818. in order to bring it about.
  819. WPR: And we have another question here

  820. which addresses some of the things
    you talked about before
  821. in terms of the structural change
    that we need to bring about.
  822. From Maryam Mohit: "In terms of putting
    into practice the transformative policies,
  823. is then the most important thing
    to loudly vote the right people
  824. into office at every level who can make
    those structural changes happen?"
  825. IXK: So I think that that is part of it.

  826. I certainly think
    we should vote into office
  827. people who, from school boards
    to the President of the United States,
  828. people who are committed
  829. to instituting anti-racist policies
  830. that lead to equity and justice,
  831. and I think that
    that's critically important,
  832. but I don't think
  833. that we should think that that's
    the only thing we should be focused on
  834. or the only thing that we should be doing.
  835. And there are institutions,
  836. there are neighborhoods
  837. that need to be transformed,
  838. that are to a certain extent
  839. outside of the purview of a policymaker
  840. who is an elected official.
  841. There are administrators
    and CEOs and presidents
  842. who have the power to transform policies
  843. within their spheres,
    within their institutions,
  844. and so we should be focused there.
  845. The last thing I'll say about voting is,
  846. I wrote a series of pieces
    for "The Atlantic" early this year
  847. that sought to get Americans
    thinking about who I call
  848. "the other swing voter,"
  849. and not the traditional swing voter
    who swings from Republican to Democrat
  850. who are primarily older and white.
  851. I'm talking about the people
    who swing from voting Democrat
  852. to not voting at all.
  853. And these people are typically younger
  854. and they're typically people of color,
  855. but they're especially
    young people of color,
  856. especially young black
    and Latinx Americans.
  857. And so we should view these people,
  858. these young, black and Latino voters
  859. who are trying to decide
    whether to vote as swing voters
  860. in the way we view these people
  861. who are trying to decide
    between whether to vote for, let's say,
  862. Trump or Biden in the general election.
  863. In other words, to view
    them both as swing voters
  864. is to view them both in a way that,
    OK, we need to persuade these people.
  865. They're not political cattle.
  866. We're not just going to turn them out.
  867. We need to encourage and persuade them,
  868. and then we also
    for these other swing voters
  869. need to make it easier for them to vote,
  870. and typically these young people of color,
    it's the hardest for them to vote
  871. because of voter suppression policies.
  872. CS: Thank you, Ibram.

  873. Well, we're going to come
    to a close of this interview,
  874. but I would love to ask you
  875. to read something that you wrote
  876. a couple of days ago on Instagram.
  877. You wrote this beautiful caption
  878. on a photo of your daughter,
  879. and I'm wondering if you'd be willing
    to share that with us
  880. and briefly tell us how we could each
    take this perspective into our own lives.
  881. IXK: Sure, so yeah,

  882. I posted a picture of
    my four-year-old daughter Imani,
  883. and in the caption I wrote,
  884. "I love, and because I love, I resist.
  885. There have been many theories
  886. on what's fueling the growing
    demonstrations against racism
  887. in public and private.
  888. Let me offer another one: love.
  889. We love.
  890. We know the lives of our loved ones,
  891. especially our black loved ones,
  892. are in danger
  893. under the violence of racism.
  894. People ask me all the time what fuels me.
  895. It is the same: love,
  896. love of this little girl,
  897. love of all the little and big people
  898. who I want to live full lives
  899. in the fullness of their humanity,
  900. not barred by racist policies,
  901. not degraded by racist ideas,
  902. not terrorized by racist violence.
  903. Let us be anti-racist.
  904. Let us defend life.
  905. Let us defend our human rights
    to live and live fully,
  906. because we love."
  907. And, you know, Cloe,
    I just wanted to sort of emphasize
  908. that at the heart of being anti-racist
  909. is love,
  910. is loving one's country,
  911. loving one's humanity,
  912. loving one's relatives
    and family and friends,
  913. and certainly loving oneself.
  914. And I consider love to be a verb.
  915. I consider love to be,
  916. I'm helping another, and even myself,
  917. to constantly grow
    into a better form of myself,
  918. of themselves, that they've expressed
    who they want to be.
  919. And so to love this country
    and to love humanity
  920. is to push humanity constructively
  921. to be a better form of itself,
  922. and there's no way
    we're going to be a better form,
  923. there's no way we can build
    a better humanity,
  924. while we still have on
    the shackles of racism.
  925. WPR: I think that's so beautiful.

  926. I appreciate everything
    you've shared, Ibram.
  927. I feel like it's made it really clear
    this is not an easy fix. Right?
  928. There is no band-aid option here
  929. that will make this go away,
    that this takes work from all of us,
  930. and I really appreciate all of the honesty
  931. and thoughtfulness
    that you've brought to this today.
  932. IXK: You're welcome.

  933. Thank you so much for having
    this conversation with me.
  934. CS: Thank you so much, Ibram.

  935. We're really grateful to you
    for joining us.
  936. IXK: Thank you.