Communicator of the Month: How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Original artwork depicting the book How to be an Antiracist

Our Communicator of the Month series showcases individuals whose voices have made a lasting impact on our country. Over the past few years, more and more narratives — often those that explore love, representation and experience — have been labeled dangerous to our society. From environmental awareness to racial justice, storytellers have used their books to open our eyes, walk us in the shoes of others and move many to action.

In 2024, we celebrate 12 impactful authors and their books that have helped us to be better listeners and more informed activists. Through their words, they teach us to see and to care about the people around us and the world we live in.

 

“The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it — and then dismantle it.” — Ibram X. Kendi

 

As the world grapples with deep-rooted issues of systemic racism and inequality, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi has emerged as a powerful guidebook for individuals seeking to dismantle discriminatory structures and foster a more equitable society. Published in 2019, this thought-provoking work has resonated across the globe, sparking crucial conversations about race, privilege and the path to societal transformation.

As one of the world’s foremost historians and leading antiracist scholars, Dr. Kendi uses his knowledge and experience to challenge readers to actively engage in the fight against racism, not just support from the sidelines. His central thesis revolves around the concept that being antiracist involves more than just opposing racist ideas; it requires intentional actions that dismantle racist policies and systems.

How to Be an Antiracist extends beyond the individual level, however; it encourages institutions and organizations to reassess their policies and practices. In the book, Dr. Kendi encourages entities to critically examine their hiring practices, promotion policies, disciplinary procedures and any other systems that may disproportionately impact different racial groups. He also encourages organizations to ensure that diverse voices are represented at all levels of decision-making, creating inclusive environments and addressing systemic barriers that may hinder the success of individuals from marginalized communities.

The book and the wave of change it helped inspire has led many organizations to commit to creating more inclusive and equitable environments prompting discussions about systemic racism within education, business, and beyond. In August 2020, Vanguard’s Vice President and Diversity + Inclusion Practice Lead Crystal Borde shared best practices and insights on a panel designed to help organizations address and navigate conversations about race and racism.

On a larger scale, How to Be an Antiracist influenced individuals and groups committed to antiracist activism around the world. Social media platforms have become spaces for individuals to share book quotes and insights alongside their own personal experiences to create a network of support for those committed to dismantling racism. Accounts run by organizations and individuals have gained massive followings due to their work in the space, connecting thousands to resources and other activists in their journey to being antiracist.

Dr. Kendi urges readers to reflect on personal biases, encouraging an honest examination of beliefs and confronting uncomfortable truths. Here’s how:

  • Start by acknowledging the existence of implicit or unconscious biases. These biases are often ingrained and affect our perceptions and judgments without our conscious awareness. By recognizing them, individuals can begin the process of self-reflection.
  • Question and challenge stereotypes you may hold about different racial or ethnic groups.
  • Be open to feedback from others, especially from individuals who may experience the negative effects of biased behavior. Constructive criticism can be a valuable tool for individuals to recognize and address their biases.
  • Engage in continuous learning, staying informed about issues related to racism and seeking to understand the experiences of others.
  • Above all, take responsibility for biases and actively work toward change.

Looking to engage in the fight against racism and start your own antiracist journey? How to Be an Antiracist is available online and in most public libraries.

Dr. Kendi is a National Book Award-winning author and the director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. He was also one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the world in 2020.