The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

By Ibram X. Kendi

feedback image
Total feedbacks: 59
Looking for The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America in PDF? Check out
Check out

Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sinta nisfuanna
Extremely worthy effort by Kendi. An important and significant review of the history of racism in America. Page after page of so much that was unknown to me. I have recommended this book to many people.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
brad sherman
Read just the prologue and your views on racism, but also on other messages of power and exclusion, will change forever.
But don't stop there. Reading year by year, idea by idea, voice by voice development of racism is more chilling than learning about the history of slavery and Jim Crow in high school history. The racism of both the supporters of slavery who spouted segregation but also of the abolitionists who spouted the more subtle racism of assimilation is examined in detail. You realize how much that we thought was anti-racist says that black people aren't genetically different but can become like us if we teach them how, totally discounting the strength and beauty of African culture, the role of racism in creating the living conditions that we blame on black nature, and the inherent racism of white paternalism.
And I apologize that I have been white for most of my life. This prevents me from having the precise focus on black racism that Prof. Kendi achieves. But it does allow me to find applications for Kendi's approach in gender, religious, and LGBT oppression.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jenny betow
Stamped from the Beginning makes an important contribution to our dialogue on race relations in America. Having lived through the Civil Rights Era, I didn't think I had much to learn about racism, but Dr Kendi offered a fresh way of looking at racist ideas, including, surprisingly, my own.
Blood of the Fold (Sword of Truth, Book 3) :: Temple of the Winds; Soul of the Fire; Faith of the Fallen :: Faith of the Fallen (Sword of Truth, Book 6) :: Chainfire Trilogy, Part 1 (Sword of Truth, Book 9) :: The World According to Mister Rogers - Important Things to Remember
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
peter mcasn
This book eloquently underscores why and how race and racism is genuinely a false concept, as well as a socially suicidal tool of a knowing elite and the willfully ignorant masses of any ethnicity. Stamped From the Beginning is also truly worthy of a Pulitzer. Moreover, it fully affirms assertions by both former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice ("America's birth defect.") and former US Attorney General Eric Holder ("a nation of cowards."). Yes, this book is a "Definitive History" that must be on everyone's bookshelf.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This is a very well written work. I definitely see why it has won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction among other nominations. But, like many contemporary books written on the topic of anti-black racism and pan-Africanism, it suffers from incomplete research, depth, and nuance on the subject of medieval Arab perspectives on "Africans", especially views expressed by Ibn Battuta and Ibn Khaldun. Toward the beginning of Kendi's work when speaking of the Arab conquest of North Africa, while juxtaposing indigenous African civilization with that of Arabia, he neglects to underscore the fact that Songhay, Mali, and Ghana were not merely "African" empires. They were African "Muslim" empires. This attempt to disassociate their flourishing from Islam is characteristic of many anti-Arab anti-Muslim Africanist writers. Kendi clearly believes that Arabs were a white race, saw themselves as such, and even were intent on reinforcing positive "white" stereotypes and negative "black" stereotypes. The reality is that the original Arabs---or the very Arabs who conquered North Africa---were brown-skinned people. The very commander, 'Amr b. al-'As, who conquered Egypt was the son of an Ethiopian mother, and his uterine brother from the same mother, 'Uqbah b. Nafi', conquered lands west of Egypt and founded the Tunisian city of Kairouan. The Arabs of old considered "whites" to be the people of Europe, Persia, and Syria. And, there is plenty in the works of Arab historians, lexicographers, and literati that show that Arabs neither saw themselves as a subspecies of whites nor did they deem themselves to be inferior to them. On the contrary, Arabs considered themselves and their civilization superior to others. Kendi, like other Africanists, clearly has applied contemporary conceptions of race to the premodern period, especially North American conceptions of "black" and "white." The reality is that both Ibn Battuta and Ibn Khaldun had specific Africans in mind when they spoke negatively of them. This, of course, is not meant to justify any unsolicited critique of any geographical group that either of them may have had. But, Kendi reaches too far in trying to make their ideas and theories cause for reinforcing anti-black sentiment. Ibn Khaldun has plenty of good things to say about the empires of Mali, Songhay, and Abyssinia. His negative comments about "Negros" are directed mainly against sub-saharan naked cannibals encountered by Arabs in the distant past, not all of those we consider "black" today. Ibn Khaldun also rejects the curse of ham myth and the idea of Ham being the direct descent of black skinned people. What further undermines Kendi's allegations launched against Ibn Khaldun and other Arab scholars is the very fact that Ibn Khaldun attributes similar uncivilized or savage attributes to the Slavs. If he was attempting to attribute civilizational superiority to white skinned people---instead of theorizing the relative industriousness of a people based upon the effects of climate, he would have not characterized Slavs in the way he did. He would have had nothing negative to say about them. In addition, Kendi provides no evidence that Ibn Battuta's positive statements about the great west African empires was "an abhorred oddity" as he claims. There's much more that can be said about this. But, this aspect of the work is a glaring flaw to me. Writers like Kendi will need to tone down their passions and preconceived assumptions about Arabs, Islam, and the spread of Islam in Africa if there is hope to offer a truly objective work on the topic of anti-blackness. I say this as an African American Muslim myself. Other than that, I find this work exceptional, although I'm certain there are more that can be critiqued in it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Honestly, as of this writing, I'm only half-way through the book. But the first half has been excellent, a very thorough, scholarly, yet lively history of ideas that traces the history of racism and racist ideas, their origins, evolution, socioeconomic implications, and policy applications. Must reading for everyone who acknowledges that race hatred and prejudice are an ancient and persistent stain on the soul of America, that racism is a 400 year old crime in progress, and who's ever wondered how we got here.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
darren wood
Just received book and excited to read but concerns me that it’s not noted it may have errors and what I might run across in book. I like a good deal and it is a great price on book but transperancy goes a long way, just be honest if these are copies that may have an error (or more than one?).
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is an excellent book for understanding how racist ideas were created and maintained in the the US. and the world. It is often shocking involving names that are familiar and not so familiar who were purveyors of the immoral narrative that was/is the legacy of racist ideas in the U.S. The text time and again relays how people of color AND women have been constantly kept between a rock and a hard place when it comes to just living a calm, peaceful, and fulfilling life. If one wanted to understand the reality of institutional racism, this book is a must read.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
jordan leidlein
Reads like a non-fictional historical account of which makes for an easier read. However, the author's style of writing seems to blurr lines between opinion and actual events. Gives a detailed historical perspective as to recurring contemporary racial challenges. A personal must read for anyone looking to understand how we can grow past racial differences and accept one another as one and the same.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tam s
I am

I consider myself well read, especially regarding black history. Yet,this book capsuled every important American incident that changed the making of racial relations. Detailed,nuanced, and facts brought to our attention never before mentioned in polite politics.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Stamped from the Beginning" introduced me to new ideas and to reconsider some old ideas. This book is a must-read for people of all races, especially those of us who seek to break down stereotypes and gain a deeper meaning of ourselves and those who are different from us.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is a hard book to read because it brings to light so many awful things our country has done to Black people. It is a book to read if you really care about race relations and the work Kendi has done is epic. I learned so much of the back story of events I have witness in my life that have changed my understandings. If you have any interest in understanding in depth how our country has treated and still treats our Black brothers and sisters this is a must read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Well researched and written in a style that is easy to understand and follow. Helps to realign the basis for establishing and propagating using a concept of differences and variations in the human race to promulgate abuses and concepts of inferiority as a basis for conquest and greed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
little mike
This National Book Award winner is intelligent, far-reaching and persuasive in its anti-racist message. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to end racism, sexism, homophobia, etc in America. An excellent historical review of key Americans and their impact on racism in America. Ultimately, ends on an optimistic note, with some excellent recommendations on the path forward.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ana anderson
A great lesson. How much of my behavior and joking is racist. I thank Mr. Kendi for this learning experience. Now I have use what I learned into use. Not so easy as I am quick with jokes. But I will educate my self with a strong mind and effort. You should read this book...and learn.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
chris shaffer
Really incredible book that delves deep into all facets of racism providing incredible perspective that all Americans should read. One interesting fact in the book that I had never heard before is that the author claims that following dinner with Booker T. Washington and the ensuing maelstrom that occurred, Teddy Roosevelt officially decided to name the executive mansion "the White House" to make it clear it represented white people. I found that very interesting (I never heard that before). I found plenty of facts backing up TR's naming of the executive mansion officially as "White House" but I could not find any support that it was in reaction to the dinner with Booker T. Washington and thus intended to show "white" as the author suggests. If anyone knows where to support this fact, please comment.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amelia gingold
Kendi's book provides historical context for many of this country's current ills. by providing a great deal of past history, he was able to explain the United States current history as well as current events.
Excellent reading with a solid background of historical facts.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Being white I have long questioned "our" real history. Some things didn't make sense. Racism especially haunted me and I have read many books over the years and have still been left with questions. Well!, here are the answers! Starting with Aristotle right on up to the present. That seems like a long way to go and an even longer read, But!, Mr. Kendi will walk you through it in beautifully easy to manage prose. Just enough facts (real facts!!) fill the story so that you don't get bogged down. Better have a couple to good highlighters at the ready, for every page is filled with "wow!, so that's where that (stuff) came from. This is a book ALL American and World History students need to read. This is a book All Christians must read! This is a book all Americans should read .. then, when you are done you will understand the Facts enough to counter any racist chatter you hear. Read this Book!: every African American deserves our knowledge of their history and pain.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
abigail smith
Couldn't put this down. Very compellingly written, with only the most minor stylistic issues. It is painstakingly researched and very meticulously cited, and does a very good job of defining terms and concepts consistently and clearly. Just a really a impressive academic work.

That said, this was also one of the most enlightening books I have ever read in my life. I have never had such a visceral and emotional response to a history book before. Can't recommend enough. Everyone should read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
marc buwalda
The author presents a very well researched history of racism in America from the establishment of the institution of slavery until today. Our democratic system will never be the model for governance as long as we retain a system that is designed to oppress those who were not born with the privilege of "Whiteness."
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
brandi munn
The further in I got; the harder it was to put down. The concepts within began to bleed into everything around me; the arguments my liberal friends were having on their facebook walls; the news I was reading and watching; the media I consume. The ideas and rippling effects detailed here are so pervasive that I was often overwhelmed with helpless rage as my entire conception of history got re-arranged.

This is one of the most vital books I have ever read - fiction or non-fiction; and I am going to be carefully exploring some of the works he references in the fifth portion of the book to re-examine them with fresh eyes. I would highly recommend it to basically everyone - it reads smoothly and efficiently.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
risma muthia
Thorough, insightful, and at times shocking book... This book really opened my eyes to a different perspective on the history of the US, and how much racist ideas have defined it. In addition, it was an easy read (especially considering the complexity of the concepts he discusses). I'd highly recommend this book for anyone interested in race, history, or current events.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jenny hadley
Both comprehensive and immersing, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi has succeeded in compiling an impressive contribution to dialogues on race, racism, and racist thought in America. Employing an innovative methodology, Kendi “narrates the entire history of racist ideas, from their origins in fifteen-century Europe, through colonial times when the early British settlers carried racist ideas to America, all the way to the twenty-first century and current debates about the events taking place on our streets.”(6) Articulating such an extensive history is not a simple task, but Kendi traverses its many complexities with candor, eloquence, and respect. Specifically, his methodology explores “five main characters” who serve as the work's “tour guides.” Stamped’s thoughtful explorations of Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Angela Davis lend toward a lively and unique read. At the same time, this work is not merely “a set of five biographies.” It is much more. Appropriately subtitled, Stamped from the Beginning truly is a “definitive history of racist ideas in America.”

Even further, it has multidisciplinary value as resource in Africana Studies, Sociology, Political Science, and even Philosophy (as Kendi demonstrates a strength in intellectual history). Like his first book The Black Campus Movement, Stamped has a spirit of protest, activism, and change, which is incredibly valuable for twenty-first century readers. In polarizing times of continued injustice, Stamped provides a distinctly sincere perspective. Throughout this work, many necessary and timely conclusions are posited, like:

• “Racist ideas are ideas. Anyone can produce or consume them.” (10)
• “Racial discrimination --> racist ideas--> ignorance/hate: this is the casual relationship driving America’s history of race relations.” (9)
• “Racially discriminatory policies have usually sprung from economic, political, and cultural self-interests…“ (9)
• “what it truly means to think as an antiracist: to think there is nothing wrong with Black people, to think that racial groups are equal.” (11)
• “no racial group has ever had a monopoly on any type of human trait or gene, not now, not ever” (11)
• “Racist ideas preceded American slavery, because the need to justify American slavery preceded colonial America.” (19)
• “From their arrival around 1619, African people had illegally resisted legal slavery. They had thus been stamped from the beginning as criminals…resisting Africans were nearly always cast as violent criminals, not people reacting to enslavers’ regular brutality, or pressing for the most basic human desire: freedom.” (69).

Stamped is a trove of truths. These are truths not only students should have access to, but the American public as a whole. Kendi’s candid, yet sensitive handling of these truths lends hope for a better a future.
As he concludes, “There will come a time when Americans will realize that the only thing wrong with Black people is that they think something is wrong with Black people…There will come a time when we will love humanity, when we will gain the courage to fight for an equitable society for our beloved humanity, knowing, intelligently, that when we fight for humanity, we are fighting for ourselves. There will come a time. Maybe, just maybe, that time is now.”(510-511) As a graduate student of the millennial generation, I am often frustrated, disillusioned, and at times cynical contemplating the future and direction of our nation. Therefore, Kendi’s vision of a progressing, changed America befitting of its principles in brotherhood, courage, equality, liberty, and freedom is quite refreshing and commendable.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
louisa pickering
Although the author's original intent was to tell a story about the history of the origins of Black Studies in the 1960s, he ended up telling the whole story of white racism in America -- from its ignominious beginning with slavery in 1619, to its uncompromising devolution into today's confusing reversal of laws intended to foster racial progress, to false and misleading racial symbolism with its mulatto president, all morphing into what can only be called faux multiculturalism.

Morally, spiritually, and in the toll it takes on the humanity of all players, the story of white racism in America as told here is a thoroughly sordid affair. It is full of betrayals, religious hypocrisy, brutality, savagery, lying and dissembling, and many dramas of false heroism. Thus, by anyone's reckoning, America's racial history has been a complete moral mess from beginning to end. And if we are to be completely honest, there are no heroes on either side in the story of America's racial history, only "fake pretend heroes," that under closer scrutiny, seem more like villains than authentic heroes.

As we all do, the author too wanted to know why white racism continues to be so persistent despite America's sweet-sounding democratic rhetoric of equality to the contrary. The story he tells here is a panoramic, well told, well-researched and a thoroughly convincing one.

Oddly, the author's framework of slavers, discriminators, assimilators, abolitionists, and antiracists, sidesteps all of the moral, spiritual, emotional landmines and intrigue with which we all are so familiar. He does this in order to tell a larger deeper story about how the powers and interests that lie on a plane below it all, have fashioned the "drama of lack of racial progress."

The best analogy to fully understand the phenomenon of white racism as it is explicated in this book, in my view, is to use the metaphor of an old fashion pinball machine. If one imagines the big steel ball being a black man shot from the canon off a slave ship onto a downwardly sloping trajectory onto a tilted hostile continent called America, where his labor is then used without pay for three centuries, then the reader will see how the evolution of the drama of "lack of racial progress" and the persistence of racism has unfolded.

On land, as the black man rolls steadily down a sloping racist obstacle course, his job is to get to the final hole of freedom with a full-measure of his humanity still intact; or if he is unlucky, as most are, he can only watch another generation of blacks get shot from a canon similar to what was done to him during slavery.

The downwardly-sloping land of course is just another metaphor for a very tainted American humanity that has been sullied and forever slanted away from a global moral norm by slavery. Slavery, followed by Jim Crow, lynching, segregation, American style Apartheid, and in our generation, reversal of laws designed to advance racial progress, and then mass incarceration, all prove that America never intended for the playing field to be level, or, for equality to reign supreme on this hypocritical and immoral land.

Because white power and white interests launched the steel ball, and thus are driving the process -- not morality, not religion, nor even race hatred -- the slope of American humanity has remained tilted in the embarrassing downward direction throughout its history. So much so that it has begun to bend away from, instead of towards, the proverbial asymptotic arc of social justice. And over the last 240 years, despite rhetoric to the contrary, and because of white supremacy, very few attempts have been made to set American humanity upright again.

Unnecessarily, the American experiment with race has been an evolving downward rolling pinball-like obstacle course for individual blacks, one designed only to protect the interests and power of those who still stand to gain from keeping the steel balls in play -- serving only white power and white interests. When the ball ceases to do this, as it did at the end of slavery, then white power and white interests on longer has a place for blacks.

Freedom and equality for the black man in a world ruled by the white supremacist rules and worldview, are dangerous and problematic concepts for white power and white interests to come to grips with. To avoid the implications of complete black freedom and the social, political and economic equality that would flow from it, white interests and white power have evolved in tandem with a tilted humanity and a self-fashioned but tilted white immorality, both of which have been turned into mandatory American norms of a pseudo racist "American morality."

From the use of free slave labor to a rough, but still almost seamless un-critiqued evolution into an overarching ideology of white supremacy, in which a whole parcel of intangible white benefits, perks, advantages, prerogatives and interests follow, and are accrued and continuously defended and protected in order to keep the steel ball rolling ever rapidly downwards, America has fashioned itself into a racial Potemkin village. The American Potemkin Village has proven to be a necessary existential companion to the dissembling white American soul, and the immorality it has turned into an American norm of racist pseudo-morality.

On front street in this village, we have the sugary rhetoric of freedom, equality, justice and democracy. But on the back streets, we see only the poisonous ideology of white supremacy feverishly and devilishly at work. Spiked as it is with a litany of well-honed and well-rehearsed "blame-the-victim" justifications as an integral part of its supremacist ideological creed, whiteness is secure in its own self-contained racist bubble. Its most familiar justificatory stratagem is the lament that blacks are inferior and thus have always deserved their low unholy station in America's racist caste system.

The obstacles along the field of play are registered as bulbs that light up whenever the ball bumps against the very sensitive rules of engagement of white racist society, rules which are themselves designed to keep the ball rolling straight downward to a hole that repeats the whole process for the next generation of blacks.

Some bulbs briefly light up to register progress; but most register only strong red-lights of resistance. They do this, not only to any and all forward progress, but also to any attempts to change the rules of the game making them fairer, or attempts to remove or readjust any of the obstacles. The white supremacist skin-color worldview, limits whites to being able to think only through their skin without even being conscious that their humanity is limited only to seeing the world through a skin-color lens.

One of the important contributions made to the conversation on race by this author is to remind us that white racism is not about morality, religion or even about hatred and emotions, as we have come to theorize it and understand it -- because, after all, it is easy enough to see that these are all "tacked on" after the fact. It is about defending white interests and protecting white power, and the white supremacist ideology and skin-color prerogatives against all challenges. White racism is about defending the power and interests of racists, whether they be passive, passive-aggressive, or your regular overt garden variety good ole boys.

Thus, achieving racial progress for the black man -- the solitary steel ball traversing the white-made obstacle course -- the author warns us, is an arms race between two asymmetric sets of power influenced interests: those pushing for more racial progress, and those pushing to retard it.

Throughout American history, America's racist culture has rested on a "homeostatic racist status quo" that maintains race relations, at least vis-a-vis blacks, in a cruel racist steady-state. This is true because every move towards black progress is met by an equal and opposite counter-move to retard that progress. As this book's many examples aptly show, American history is rife with self-evident examples of why American whites are happiest and most content only when there is zero black progress.

According to this author, what has been missing from the conversation on race is that "white power" and "white interests" have been driving the racist train -- not emotions, not race hatred, not lack of communication between the races, not black uplift suasion, not lack of black responsibility, etc. These things, which have been mistaken for being in the driver's seat of race relations, are merely tacked on after the fact, as disingenuous justifications for the continuing need to defend white power and the increasingly narrow and discredited white racist self-interests.

Thus, those blacks who have been appealing to morality, religion, "uplift suasion," more individual black responsibility, or to the better angels of the white man's heart, have all been barking up the wrong tree: White racism yields only to Newton's Second Law of Racial Thermodynamics: The power and interests of white racists will yield only to an equal and opposite power and interest of those seeking to sustain racial progress. So far, in the history of this nation, the power and interests of the white supremacists have continued to hold sway over a rapidly dying racist culture. Five stars
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
janet storar
I feel like it's no coincidence that I was reading this over the last weekend, when the events of Charlottesville (and the current president's many responses to said event) put America on notice about just how bad things are in this country in terms of race relations. From the beginning of our country (the Pilgrims) right up to the formation of Black Lives Matter, Ibram X. Kendi does a magisterial job of highlighting the ways in which racist ideas are disseminated and accepted into the body politic and the intellectual life of Americans (and not just white Americans; Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King Jr. don't escape scrutiny for their missteps along the way). This is a powerful, sobering indictment of the way in which our nation chooses to talk about (or avoid talking about) race and class, and it's required reading in these fractious times.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kelley neff
Ibram X. Kendi argues that self-interest is the primary cause of enduring racism in the US using slight distinctions in social/political movements of assimilation and anti-racism. It gave me a lot of food for thought, especially within the context of The New Jim Crow , The Half Has Never Been Told , Just Mercy, and so many other works that examine the racial history and cultural climate of this country. The nuanced examination of cause-effect and the voices of historical and literary figures makes this a worthwhile read. He follows the history of racism from the Puritans through the Obama presidency, contextualizing the less well-known historical events and people within the most obvious historical touchstones.

I will likely want to go back to this book at some point later in order to more fully consider the evidence and my own potential unaware complicity. Many of the movements that seemed to induce a positive change in race and cultural relations veil racist views and actions, according to Kendi. The shift in paradigm at this point has raised my awareness and made me reconsider many of my previous well-intentioned-but-maybe-undermining stances.

There were places in this text where I would have liked Kendi to slow down to make the full arguments that he treats as warrants. Because I have a literary bent, I was particularly aware of his use of literature in his argument, wherein he sometimes provided a very brief but contrary interpretation of a major literary work. I'm not sure that I am willing to buy into his reading and analysis of these works without further examination and consideration. Next time I approach this text, I will slow it down, maybe pausing to go directly to the sources to try to reexamine them in the light in which he portrayed them.

Overall, Stamped from the Beginning provokes thought and adds to the complexity of the supposed "post-racial" America that some would argue exists. I very much appreciate the recommendation from a former student.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ted rabinowitz
I am in the midst of reading this book now, based upon the author's interview on FreeSpeechTV. Without question, the book is wonderfully written. Dr. Kendi is extremely adept at articulating clearly his thoughts and ideas which is something many academics lack the ability to do. What bothers me about this work is its bias amd it's lack of original research.

He begins the work citing criminal statistics amd argues that these exist due to inherent racism. He digs no deeper. As for me, my first thoughr after reading these stats was what's behind these numbers the rest of his work reads this way. Mostly written using contemporary material his argument is one sided with no actual evidence to back up the claims - only lifting and paraphrasing the thoughts of others.

I have no doubt this will become a mainstay in AA studies courses, but I find its lack of source material, particularly in the early chapters where he is laying his groundwork disappointing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This exhaustive and well-documented history of racism in America should be required-reading for every college and university student and should be taught in schools and discussed in book clubs and online forums across the country. It peels back the layers of obfuscation and concealment that have covered the ugliness of our racist past and that remain in our racist present to demonstrate how racism is woven into the fabric of our society. The author, in a very readable style, reveals how racist ideas were brought over from Europe with the earliest colonists and how the seeds of racial bias found fertile ground on American soil. Racism spread along with the growth of our nation, infecting our entire population at every level and through every stage of our history to the present day. It has been glossed over in history books, denied by its perpetrators, excused by political, educational, and religious institutions, and even adopted as a creed by too many. We have to recognize as individuals and as a society that no one, regardless of skin color or ethnic background, is unaffected by and uninfected with racist attitudes. Until we are willing to recognize its insidious presence in our own lives, we cannot hope to eliminate it from the lives of others. In the immortal words of Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” This book is an invaluable tool for exposing and combating racist attitudes and actions wherever they are found—in our society, in our city, in our neighborhood, in our family, in our own heart.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Rationalization, it has been written, is what rational minds do best – a principle never better illustrated than by this scholarly exposition of the origins and propagation of racism as it pertains to blacks and whites in contemporary American society. Especially surprising for me was the enthusiastic invention and/or endorsement of blatantly racist justifications for the enslavement of black Africans by such Enlightenment figures as Carl Linnaeus, Robert Boyle, John Locke, Voltaire, and Thomas Jefferson. Less surprising (due, perhaps, to 20 years of research in the service of my own historical novel touching on the evolution of organized Christianity in the wake of the 4th century Council of Nicaea) were the politically motivated exonerations of racism promoted, e.g., by 18th century Portuguese Catholicism, Church of English clergy, and New England Puritans led by the likes of John Cotton, Richard Mather, and their common descendant Cotton Mather. With a pedigree like that, how surprising can it be that myths concerning black inferiority and white superiority not only persist but thrive in Donald Trump’s America?! (PS For those who might be discouraged by the word “scholarly”, know that far from a boring treatise, this fine book is as engaging as it is enlightening.)
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I borrowed this book from the library. Went back and forth between giving it 4 stars or 5. It's a 5-star read, but I ended up with 4 because I don't totally agree with the author about assimilation. I think some level of it has to be accommodated by everyone in order for a civilization to function. That said, this is a powerful, important book that all should read so that we can move the dialogue forward instead of hardening our hearts toward one another. This book will make you think. Whether you agree with the author's arguments or not, you'll think about what he's written.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
judy ludin
As a beneficiary of white privilege and a college history minor, I found this book frustrating and difficult to read. Witnessing Professor Kendi lay out centuries of destructive racist thoughts and actions by many different people, I found myself examining the thoughts and statements that I have had over my life. I found that I have taken on board many subtly racist thoughts during my lifetime. While this book masterfully lays out the history of racist thought in the United States, I finished the book hoping for a specific action plan to be followed. While Professor Kendi lays out a broad plan in the epilogue, perhaps he desired that each reader examine their own thoughts and actions and proceed accordingly.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bree normandin
This master work may very well be exactly what its subtitle ("The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America") proclaims it to be. It provides an insightful and original lens through which we may view the oft-times tangled and conflicted forest of "racist ideas". The result is a much clearer definition of such ideas and an explanation of how they came into being. Anyone even vaguely interested in the history of American racism in particular or American history generally would do well to make a careful reading of this book. It is a giant leap forward in our potential understanding of the issue.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
fred vaughn
one of the most important books which tells the truth on the racism that has worked against
African Americans for over 400 plus years and change. institutional in the overt
and covert form. love how this book covers all eras, times and decades and through the various forms
which impacts all walks of life and only delusional haters ignore the obvious racism that dictates
and runs everything in America against Black People. you can't build Economical giants
without having someone who was pimped and used to step over.
this book is a must read and have.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
stephanie thornton
Ibram X Kendi makes a number of fruitful distinctions in his wonderful historical tome of racist ideas in America. He distinguishes between producers of racist ideas (typically a small, socio-economic elite) and consumers of racist ideas. As a white male raised in deeply conservative Oklahoma, I appreciate this distinction. It was an environment that -- as has become increasingly clear over the years -- was saturated in racist ideas, so saturated that the racist ideas just seemed like common sense, typically presented without a whiff of racial animus.

When thinking about racial differences in various social outcomes, nearly all of the explanations available to the young inquiring mind are racist. Not because of hatred, but because there is no historical context. There are whites and blacks (and others, of course), and all these social outcomes are different. Slavery was one and a half centuries ago; my parents didn't talk about the Civil Rights Movement, which was going on during their youth. That's ancient history. Why can't black people just get their act together?

But in Stamped from the Beginning one learns two related things: virtually every argument blaming blacks for failing to achieve socioeconomic parity with whites has been heard before in some form, including during and just after slavery; and every instance of racial progress (the end of slavery, the end of Jim Crow, etc) has been followed by a racist backlash that simply refits the nuts and bolts of racist policies. So, e.g., slavery is followed by black codes and sharecropping that keep blacks working the same land as before without the benefits of ownership or economic independence.

Indeed, a central theme of Kendi's book is that it is a mistake to think of racial progress as a singular dimension, along which we sometimes take steps backward but generally progress forward. Instead, racial progress happens (Obama served two terms as POTUS), but racist progress happens as well, at the same time, and in its own way (Trump is POTUS now). Racist and anti-racist ideas co-evolve and progress together.

Kendi further distinguishes between two broad kinds of racist ideas and ideologies. These are assimilationist and segregationist ideas. These ideologies adapt to whatever the circumstances and debates of the day happen to be. Basically, the segregationist is what we often have in mind when we think of a racist. They believe blacks are inherently inferior and should be treated as such, either by separation or subjugation.

The assimilationist, by contrast, may have good will toward blacks, but they still believe blacks to be inferior, if only because of environmental or other contingent historical reasons. For example, a popular assimilationist line of thought was that slavery imbruted black folks, and thus they needed gentle guiding by enlightened whites before being granted full political and economic freedom. One of the devastating features of Kendi's book is that very few of our heroes from history were not possessed of some assimilationist ideas about (contingent) black inferiority at some time or another.

The antiracist, by contrast, thinks that "the only thing wrong with black people is that people think there is something wrong with black people."

One of my biggest practical takeaways from the book is the importance of black power. Kendi persuasively argues that what he calls "uplift suasion," the patient attempts to persuade whites (and blacks and everyone else for that matter) that blacks are worthy of equal moral regard as fully human beings by being perfectly upstanding in ethical life and outstanding in all their endeavors -- in short, by impressing whites. But this will always fail for two reasons: whites will always be motivated to cling to privilege and thus believe whatever is convenient about blacks; and blacks will always fail at their quest for perfection because they are human (like everyone else). It follows that the only way blacks will achieve freedom and equality is by getting power (political, economic, cultural, whatever) directly. How this cashes out is a big question of course, but it has implications for debates on affirmative action, reparations, and policies designed to integrate various spaces.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
As a Mexican-American, I find this book crucial to understanding the real history of our country. The good, the bad, and the real ugly. I read this book as a 40 year old man. I wish I had read this 20 years ago. Unfortunately, a book like this didn't exist then.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"History is clear. Sacrifice [White sacrifice of privilege], uplift [Blacks bettering themselves], persuasion, and education have not eradicated, are not eradicating, and will not eradicate racist ideas, let along racist policies. Power will never self-sacrifice away from its self-interest. Power cannot be persuaded away from its self-interest. Power cannot be educated away from its self-interest. Those who have the power to abolish racial discrimination have not done so thus far, and they will never be persuaded or educated to do so as long as racism benefits them in some way." (pp.508-509)

I should with my disappointments in "Stamped from the Beginning." (Stamped)

First, there isn't a bibliography, certainly not in the book and I haven't been able to find one online. I have written to Kendi to request he post one. That's easy to correct.

Second, all books must end somewhere, with editing and proofs taking a substantial amount of time, but the coverage of former President Obama is thin.

When we speak of "mass incarceration," which I take to be a fact and one that is racially driven, remember Obama presided over that system for eight (8) years with the power to end it. At any time. By active desire and/or not caring, Obama didn't end mass incarceration in the US.

Obama continued the racist policies of his predecessors with regard to "terrorism," and exploitation of Africa.

Obama nearly succeeded in making international investors and corporations equal to sovereign nations (TPP) and despite that failure, that was clearly his desire.

But enumerating the racist failures of the Obama administration would fill a book as long as Stamped. Barack, Michele and their two daughters benefited from his political career. It's hard to say that racism suffered at all from it.

On the plus side, Kendi documents a history of ideas and events from Cotton Mather to Angela Davis that went unmentioned in any general American history class I ever had in high school or college.

Just as a quick example, Lincoln's proposal for gradual emancipation, ending in 1900 with compensation to slave owners. Note, no compensation to former slaves, only slave owners. Gives a different perspective on his "compassion" for his fellow human beings.

I would definitely assign Stamped as reading in both high school and college history classes. In part as just a different perspective from the standard chant in textbooks but also as encouragement to look for the details. Yes, we have the dry facts of legislation, for example, but who won and who lost? Why were they interested to begin with?

For those of us, ah, older than college students, Stamped is an explication of what you have always suspected: the dice are loaded and deliberately so. Attributing failure as a class or group to personal short-comings is a cover for the dice being loaded.

Another plus is that Kendi doesn't spend his last chapter trying to give a solution on the back of a match book to what has taken hundreds of pages to begin to describe.

Intimations yes, but calling out the details that sustain racism in the form of racist policies, will be the labor of a lifetime. Several lifetimes. Kendi has started shaping the tools for that work, the question for people of all races is: Will we join in the shaping and use of those tools or accept the racist present?

PS: I quibble about the use of "definitive" in the sub-title. If a "definitive" history of racism in America is even possible, it would resemble Church Dogmatics by Barth. ;-)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"By 1968 both Democrats and Republicans had popularized the call for “law and order.” It became a motto for defending the Planet of the Whites. “Law and order“ rhetoric was used as a defense for police brutality..."

The above passage from Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi tells us two important things: that anybody can be racist, no matter the political party they've stamped themselves with, and that racist ideas lead to racial discrimination and violence. As Kendi will shrewdly argue, racism will not abate if we do not eliminate racist ideas.

Unfortunately, America inherited racist ideas built on the hierarchical political structure of Britain where the American colonists had previously lived. The poor, nonwhite, female colonist was unwanted by aristocratic Britain and so they were stamped from the beginning by racist ideas.

Kendi wisely narrowed the scope of his book by telling the stories of five exceptional American leaders who greatly influenced the progression, side by side, of racist ideas through segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists throughout America's entire history. These Americans are the minister Cotton Mather, Pres. Thomas Jefferson, politician William Lloyd Garrison, writer W.E.B. DuBois, and antiracist activist Angela Davis. Many, many other Americans help to tell America's story and I hadn't heard of some of them.

It's still a huge book of nearly six hundred pages, but narrowing the subject down really kept Kendi passionately focused on telling an intimate story, rather than an academic one, that the average, flawed-like-himself reader could relate to. This worked well for me and now I understand how deeply Americans, often unconsciously, are racist because of popular myths undergirding American society.

So while Kendi shows us America's racist problem and why the failed approaches of denoting black exceptionalism to upwardly mobile blacks, encouraging blacks to work harder, and educating those who are racist, are still being used, he also shows us what has briefly worked in the past and will again, and permanently. We must stop using the above failed approaches to racism, which are themselves basically racist. By acknowledging that nonwhites and white deserve equal respect, by being antiracist and not looking for a white savior or to be like the whites, we will finally address racism's claws.

As you can see, there's much to be reflected on in Stamped From The Beginning. I may not be a nonwhite, but I've felt discrimination as a poor, not able-bodied woman. Another critical point made by Kendi is that racism will survive as long as we promote sexism, genderism, classism, homophobia, ethnocentrism, colorism, nativism, and cultural prejudice first. Too bad he didn't mention able-bodied prejudice. There's speciesism too.

It's true that America needs bold, anti-discriminatory leaders, but local grassroots movements may spark a national and global movement. Kendi urges us to realize that entrenched racism will remain in power until the powerful find it's in their self-interest to become antiracist in their politics. We are all important in changing their self-interests through their wallets and our votes.

There's so much more to appreciate in this book, but the focus in my review has been to prepare you to absorb both the complexity and passion of Kendi's message.

Racists wish we'd simply dismiss racism as being part of our country's history and not an issue anymore, especially since we elected a black president, but we don't live in a post-racial climate and our presidents only passed antiracist bills, defended the right to desegregation, and created opportunities for immigrants, because they knew that upholding America as the land of the free and leader of the free world (rather than Russia) was crucial to our relationship with other countries.

We were regarded as great then during the Cold War. Today in this Warm War with Russia, we can never be seen as great, in my opinion. Kendi's story ends with speculations of the post-Obama, racist backlash times we now suffer. With him I hope the time has come at last to move beyond the lies of racism into the truth of our shared humanity.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The book Stamped from the Beginning, in my opinion, is a must-read for every college class and every institution. I say this as a broad statement because I think not only educational institutions but all, meaning large corporations who are still requiring their teams and associates to read “Tuesday’s with Morrie” need to incorporate more ground-breaking, intellectual and mind-blowing texts that will shake and crack the ever so cemented racist and discriminatory backbone of America. Kendi will do that. This book opened my mind. I am now analyzing everything I see in a way I never have before. Kendi not only illuminates America’s racist past but shines a light on our media, politicians, war heroes, and doesn’t let anyone off the hook (including himself). I’m sure I have yet to scratch the surface in regard to truly understanding the racial disparity in America but after reading this book, I can now truly say that I have a better understanding of the inequality of power and wealth in this country and how it has impacted the people, the economy, and the American Dream.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mark arundel
A massive and well researched study of racism in America. The author has chosen to focus on five historical figures from different historical eras with many additional side stories. They are Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W. E. B. DuBois and Angela Davis. I have taught college level history for over twenty five years and I learned so much from this book. There are assimilationists and segregationists. There are blatant racists and people who feel they aren't racists but are in many subtle ways. This is a very important book to understand our country's story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This is a well-meaning, interesting and often compelling story of racist ideas in the history of the United States by Ibram X. Kendi. It is limited by a lack of strong editing and the author's constant insistence on categorizing all ideas into three boxes; anti-racist, assimilationist or segregationist. This ongoing labeling of every racist idea into three points of view, essentially the good the bad and the ugly of racist thought is more of a hindrance than a help in the course of the history.

I learned a lot and revisited a lot of history from the particular perspective of racist thinking and enjoyed reading this history but feel the book would benefit from a thorough revision to minimize the editorializing and tighten up the writing and facts in a second edition.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sara mutchler
I don't typically read non-fiction or at least read it quickly but this book was so engrossing and well-written I couldn't put it down. If you read one book about racism and the importance of anti-racism, this is it. I wish it was required reading for every person in every community because I think the information could really impact peoples' inaccurate beliefs and perceptions of the birth of this nation and how our current state is dictated by severely biased systems and institutions.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kali anderson
Kendi's Stamped From the Beginning is an awesome (in its traditional definition) piece of scholarship. From pre-colonial America to the presidency of Barack Obama, Kendi exhausts the history of how racist policy has created and/or buffered racist ideas in America and, subsequently, throughout the world.

Kendi takes a deep dive into the meanings of "antiracist," "assimilationist," and "segregationist," and outlines how these ideas have adapted over time to meet the days' fashions. Perhaps most profoundly, Kendi shows (with extreme precision) how Black culture is denigrated and made "lesser" in the most quotidian and banal ways.

Highly suggested for fans of Michelle Alexander's 'The New Jim Crow' and Amos Elon's 'The Pity of It All' -- both are excellent parallels of Kendi's style: dense, thorough, chronologically structured inequality research that will challenge you profoundly. More casual readers may be turned off by its density, thoroughness, and willingness to humanize and, consequently, dethrone sacred cows (Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, for example). But Kendi is not gossiping -- he is merely fleshing out, with meaning, the motivations behind seemingly benign and/or "beneficial" policies that historically have affected (and continue to affect) Black lives. It's difficult to explain in an the store review, but this is the kind of book that you leave feeling like you've been rewired; I do not write that lightly.

This book is deeply needed, was always deeply needed, and if you allow yourself to be vulnerable, it will change your life and perspective for a richer, more humanistic and empathetic view of world history. And P.S.: for those of you who feel the urge to call Kendi "racist" for writing a book showing racism's profound grasp in 2017, do yourself a favor and read the latter-half of the final section on Angela Davis.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
laura cline
WOW! National Book Award? Rave reviews? This book by Professor Kendi is a self loathing, sophomoric chronicling of major events in the history of African Americans starting with the big white fathers (many of them slaveholders). A good high school or freshmen college seminar class travels similar ground. Deep thought. There are none. From my reading, it seems the thread here is the disrespect for the work, research and writings of Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois. "Willie?" Who addresses Dr., Du Bois as Willie? As for the "definitive history of racist ideas in America" (the books sub-title), forget it. Not even close. The indefatigable work that it takes to produce a serious book about the social history of Blacks in the United States (example: the late John Hope Franklin's FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM) this book is not. Sorry for a negative review but after receiving this book as a gift (Kindle version) and having read the hype, this book has been a great disappointment.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Kudos for Dr. Kendi's massive amount of research and literary skills. He does an excellent job of painting pictures so that readers who are compassionate will be overwhelmed with his presentation of facts. This is a book which can be appreciated by all Americans, regardless of race, for he presents history, though painful, it remains our history. Required Lists should include Stamped from the Beginning.
D. Mathews
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
adam maid
I heard Dr. Kendi speak at the Annapolis Book Festival last year, and was eager to get his book. It did not disappoint, in fact, I learned so much more than I thought I would. It is all there, you can trace today's racism back all the way to the beginning of the US. In acts big and overt (slavery, Jim Crow) to smaller and subtler forms of racism that Americans have been trained not to see.

If you are on a quest to learn more about racism and our shared American history, this book is a must!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andreas steffens
A brilliant and necessary book, a primer for all of us who only learned American history through a racist lens. Kendi's clear and readable prose untangles the complicated and contradictory racist ideas that have fueled American racism throughout our history. This work provides a useful context for viewing and explaining what's happening now as we try to make our way forward. Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cayt o neal
There are many great books, but few change your world view. This one was a rare find — one that looks at race in a searingly honest and original way, a book that challenges modern denial and sets what we think we know about American history on its head.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alex dern
Essential reading, a thorough historical analysis of racism in the United States. If you liked Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States or Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me, then you must read this.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
As I read this book I often ran into implausible or unfair interpretations of history. All pointed in the same direction - to make history seem more racist than it was. One example, a passage from the book about Newton:
"As he rose in stature over the next forty years to become one of the most influential scientists of all time, Isaac Newton took it upon himself to substantiate Boyle’s color law: light is white is standard. In 1704, a year after he assumed the presidency of the Royal Society, Newton released one of the most eminent books of the modern era, Opticks. 'Whiteness is produced by the Convention of all Colors,' he wrote. Newton created a color wheel to illustrate his thesis. 'The center' was 'white of the first order,' and all the other colors were positioned in relation to their 'distance from Whiteness.' In one of the foundational books of the upcoming European intellectual renaissance, Newton imaged 'perfect whiteness.' "
Newton’s color wheel, as he explains in Opticks, presents a graphical representation of what results from mixing different colors of light. As Newton wrote in Opticks to explain the color wheel:
“To give an instance of this Rule; suppose a Colour is compounded of these homogeneal Colours, of violet one part, of indigo one part, of blue two parts, of green three parts, of yellow five parts, of orange six parts, and of red ten parts. Proportional to these parts describe the Circles x, v, t, s, r, q, p, respectively, that is, so that if the Circle x be one, the Circle v may be one, the Circle t two, the Circle s three, and the Circles r, q and p, five, six and ten. Then I find Z the common center of gravity of these Circles, and through Z drawing the Line OY, the Point Y falls upon the circumference between E and F, something nearer to E than to F, and thence I conclude, that the Colour compounded of these Ingredients will be an orange, verging a little more to red than to yellow.”
One wonders, if Kendi objects to Newton’s color wheel, what he would have put in its place? It is a useful diagram to represent his rules for color mixing, and it is not clear how else Newton could have represented it. Newton’s color wheel is useful and still used in art and design instruction and software.
Kendi clearly objects to the fact that white is at the center of the diagram, but that is because mixing all colors of light results in white light. Kendi quotes Newton as saying this (although the first quoted portion was from an issue of The Philisophical Transactions of the Royal Society, not Opticks as Kendi states) There is nothing objectionable in what the Newton wrote. It is an accurate statement that the “convention” (mixture) of all colors produces white light. Apparently the paint color wheel, which shows what happens when paint rather than light is mixed, is anti-racist: it is black at the center. What nonsense. One has to wonder what happens when all colors of light are mixed in Kendi’s world.
Kendi also apparently objects to the phrase "perfect whiteness", but in context it clearly does not refer to white being a better color, but rather to whether there is any, say, greenishness to the white (light, not skin tone). This was a common usage of language at the time. His readers would not have interpreted “perfect whiteness” to mean “white is perfect”.
Newton’s theory of light was a significant achievement, as the only way Newton could produce single colored lights and mix them was by using prisms to decompose sunlight in a dark room. Rather than celebrating this advance in our understanding, Kendi contorts it into a statement of white supremacy. Thank heavens that Kendi was not around to harangue Newton when he made his monumental achievements.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
aaron hastings
This is an amazing book that has moved me, a 63 year old white male, to open my eyes about racism in my country. Having grown up in the turbulent 60's, racism was a fact of life which ensured my own priviliged position in the social hierarchy. Dr. Kendi has helped to answer questions I have battled with for years about the injustices this fact of life has caused and the shame I have felt about racism. This book should be read by all of us who care about the world we live in. Dr. Kendi, I sincerely thank you for writing this most important book and its contribution to creating a better world.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
emanuel silva
Dr. Ibram Kendi has painted an excellent picture of American history that has not been told, in writing. My thirteen year old and I are reading segments of this text as he is studying the early days of the United States. Because of our reading, we are asking questions about our democracy today and the distance we've come and the journey we must continue. You need to add this text to your list of essential readings, especially for our current socio-political milieu.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Stamped From the Beginning The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi (read 26 Nov 2016) (National Book Award Nonfiction prize in 2016) This is the 37thwinner of the National Book award for nonfiction I have read. The author is passionate about combating racism so he is very condemnatory of people who exhibit racist views--so this is not 'objective' history. And he sees things as racist which a less astute observer might not find to be racist. He is more pessimistic about race than I am and I appreciate the strides against racism which have been made in my lifetime. I well remember the viciously racist speeches which used to be common in Congress (in my younger days I read much in the Congressional Record, and cringed as I read speeches by guys like James Eastland and Theodore Bilbo and their like). I think persuasion and reason can do much to overcome racism--the author thinks such ineffectual. So I admit I did not like the book overly much, though no doubt the author's view is a valid one.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
emma bohrer
Reparations for Slavery and Disenfranchisement to African Americans: Four Hundred Years (Volume 1)
Neither Hate nor ignorance has driven the history of racist ideas in America, rather, it has been racist policies that have driven the history of racist ideas in America.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
jiri pevny
There are more than two races. Though the book superficially addresses Native Americans, it is almost entirely about the relationship between people of European and people of African heritage. This purportedly definitive history of racist ideas in America manages to avoid Asians and their relationship to the majority culture. And it fails to see how the construct of "race" is a construct of difference, and that racism is a subset of all the economic, class, social, and gender differences by which societies function and (more frequently) dysfunction. The book provides little in the way of positive prescription, nor does it give a glimmer that things have improved, and will substantially improve. This is a formula for never ending despair, with no hope for mutual reconciliation.

Yet, during my lifetime, I have seen the death of the stigmatizing consensus that Blacks are inferior, and the rise of a new consensus that stigmatizes racism.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
orvel ray wilsoln
This is a detailed history of racism in Western civilization, going back many centuries. For the educated reader, this fleshes out a few details of what we already knew, but it is otherwise unilluminating. No new ideas or insights.

Some of his history is fuzzy, such as reference to the great empires of Sub-Saharan Africa rivalling Europe in scholarship, etc. Isaac Newton's theory of white as the primary color being racist.

More disturbing is the author's attempts to explain what is currently wrong and how to fix it. He seems utterly confused and self-contradictory about whether racism is self-interest or not. He posits that the notion of assimilation is racist, but then goes on to advocate for it. He posits current racist policies as the root of the problem, but does not further develop the concept or give any current examples. He seems to believe that racism can be legislated away, but doesn't explain how that might work. The book ends with him just throwing up his arms and proclaiming that there will come a time when we will love humanity, etc.

How did it get National Book Award? Nobody was willing to call it out.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Ibram Kendi imputes racism to President Lincoln in his advocacy of emigration to black leaders in 1862. In stating that ex-slaves are “yet far-removed from being placed on an equality with the white race” Lincoln rather reflected his pessimistic assessment of the racial reality of 1860’s America. He believed that slavery was the cause of the war, and underlying slavery was racism. Slavery being eliminated would not mean that racism would no longer exist. Yet, “Colonization,” so called, was always to be voluntary; Lincoln felt white prejudice in the US so intractable that as President he urged black leaders to consider it. “Go where you are treated the best,” he said.
Still, he worked to include blacks in the American polity. His reputation as “Great Emancipator” rests not only on the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment, but his request of Frederick Douglass, before his re-election and the 13th Amendment, to devise a plan to get as many slaves as possible out of the South while his re-election, the issue of the Proclamation’s constitutionality, and the outcome of the war seemed in doubt. As president, Lincoln approved of bills abolishing segregation on omnibuses in D.C.; for allowing black witnesses in federal courts; for equalizing penalties for the same crime; for equal pay for black soldiers; and outlawing discrimination on the basis of color in the carrying of the US mail. He welcomed, for the first time, an ambassador from Haiti; African-Americans picnicked on the White House grounds. He supported the activities of the Freedmen's Bureau. He initiated consultation, and approved the issuance of General William T. Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15 and the transfer of abandoned plantation land to ex-slaves. On the streets of occupied Richmond, Virginia, noted by national press and local citizens alike, he doffed his hat and returned the bow of an elderly black man. His last address called for extending suffrage and public schools to the freedmen. Frederick Douglass was "impressed with his entire freedom from popular prejudice against the colored race" after meeting with Lincoln three times in the White House, and in 1865 called him "emphatically the black man's president."
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
This is a book that must be approached with caution. The author is certainly to be commended for having read widely in the primary and secondary sources, and for having produced a thoughtful and engaging text, despite certain infelicities of style (e.g. on p.7 he describes William Lloyd Garrison as a "pulsating editor" and writes of a "ravishing racist backlash" , while on p. 172 the victims of Nat Turner, which included numerous children, are described as "enslavers", and on p. 210 he writes that the "mind of English polymath Herbert Spencer became the ultimate womb for Darwin's ideas"). However, the principal problem is that Kendi is a true believer in the ideology of cultural relativism and biological egalitarianism, as well as an apostle in what John McWhorter (whom the author appears not to like) has called the "religion of anti-racism."

The book is, in fact, less about the past than the present, although the earlier sections (Mather, Jefferson, Garrison, Du Bois) are superior to the final portion, which is devoted to Angela Davis and is almost entirely without merit. What Kendi is most concerned with is the persistence of racial disparities and the necessity of equal outcomes. Beguiled by the chimera of statistical parity among all racial groupings, he writes as though the mere existence of any disparities is, and will remain, ipso facto proof of discrimination ("racial discrimination is the sole cause of racial disparities in this country and in the world at large"-- p. 10; "if Black people make up 13.2 percent of the US population, then Black people should make up somewhere close to 13 percent of the Americans sitting in prisons, somewhere close to owning 13 percent of US wealth"-- pp.1-2).

Also troubling are the numerous falsehoods scattered throughout the text. In common with other Afrocentrists, he seems convinced of the "blackness" of the ancient Egyptians, while speculating wildly and without evidence about the glories of the medieval kingdoms of West Africa ("Ghana, Mali, and Songhay developed empires that could rival in size, power, scholarship and wealth any in the world. Intellectuals at universities in Timbuktu and Jenne pumped out scholarship and pumped in students from around West Africa"-- p.19, also p. 296). Concerning the Enlightenment, he writes bizarrely that "Europeans had rediscovered learning after a thousand years in religious darkness"- p.80). For his denunciation of the racism of the so-called "prison-industrial complex", Kendi relies on the thesis of Michelle Alexander, which is completely undermined by the many essays of Heather MacDonald. In addition, it is certainly not accurate to describe the erosion of the black family by welfare policies as a "disproven racist theory" (p.492). Yet it is the author's understanding of science that is most problematic. He is confused about the notion of heritability ("one of the most oppressive figments of the human imagination, that personality and mental traits were inherited"-- p.301), claims that general intelligence does not exist (p.386), and writes
falsely that "standardized tests had failed time and again to predict success in college and professional careers"-- p.426). In addition, his treatment of the U of C geneticist Bruce Lahn and of the former NYT science writer Nicholas Wade (pp. 475-476) is highly misleading.

The book can certainly be read with some profit, but it fails as a polemic against the "racist" idea of personal responsibility (p. 458) and against the
"evil of racial disparities", which are an unfortunate fact of the world and a part of the human condition not easily corrected by social engineering, however well-intentioned. Nor is Kendi's call for more and more agitation and posturing by BLM and other such groups in any way helpful. Finally, any interested reader should be willing to question the judgment of an author who is capable, in writing about a well-documented current event, of producing three sentences that are completely at variance with all the known facts of the case ( "George Zimmerman stared down a trotting Black teen, Trayvon Martin, as if he'd stolen something. Scared, the unarmed teen fled. Zimmerman defied a police dispatcher, chased after Trayvon, and ended the seventeen-year-old's life"-- p. 501).
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
brad blondes
History is always defined by the lens of the viewer. I hesitate to criticize a distinguished professor on his award-winning book, but I have found it more than disappointing. At points the author misrepresents historical events to serve his purpose (the eugenics movement was not for the sole purpose of oppressing blacks, as the author implies, and the League of Nations was not founded for the purpose of ruling the world and, by implication, further oppressing blacks). The author consistently criticizes people of all colors during all eras for not adequately agreeing with his own views -- personally, I find it impossible to denigrate someone from the past for not understanding life and having values consonant with mine in the 21st century! They did the best they could with what they had to work with - criticism without credit for effort is prejudice of the worst kind. I have one section left in the book, which I will probably finish, and then I expect to deposit the book at Half-Price Books for others.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
The prolog calls out anyone who doesn't have this view point as the author. You are, therefore the problem with this country if you think differently. Very factual, however it gives only one perspective to history. The way the book argues their perspective made me not interested. I have different views.
Please Rate The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
More information