Ibram X. Kendi, author of the best-selling book “How to Be an Antiracist,” has compiled a reading list he calls a “step ladder to anti-racism.” It’s not enough to be “not racist,” he says, because it’s a claim “that signifies neutrality.“
“Those who are striving to be anti-racist realize it’s not an identity,” said Dr. Kendi, who is the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. “It’s something they’re striving to be, to be sure in each moment they are expressing anti-racist ideas and anti-racist policies.”
But what’s Kendi, whose perspective is that colorblind society is racist because one needs to see black people and elevate them above others in compensation for their historic treatment, got to do with dinner chat?
Dr. Kendi recently published a children’s book, “Antiracist Baby.” The book, written in rhyme, offers nine steps, including seeing skin color, celebrating differences and growing up to be an antiracist. “Parents use books to teach about love or kindness or to potty train. Why not do the same for teaching our kids to be anti-racist,” Dr. Kendi said. He notes that people who are uncomfortable talking about race often come from homes where it wasn’t a topic of conversation.
“Our parents didn’t want to talk to us about it in a controlled constructive environment,” he said. “We didn’t even learn to start having these conversations because we’d already been trained by our parents that this was something you don’t talk about. There’s a cycle.”
It’s not enough that your kids will go to elementary school, where their teachers will explain to them that they’re racist and should dedicate their lives to being anti-racist. If your parenting at home doesn’t
obsess focus on how they should loathe themselves for their privilege and dedicate their lives to the pursuit of anti-racism, they will not deserve your love.
Parents can start conversations about race with books, documentaries or even movies like “Black Panther” or “Crazy Rich Asians,” two box office hits that proved the power of diversity in movie making.
I thought both movies were great, by the way.
“Bring it into your house and say to your kids, ‘Let’s talk about why that movie was different than every other movie we’ve seen,” said Julie Lythcott-Haims, whose books include “Real American,” a memoir about her life as a black and biracial woman living in predominantly white spaces. “Don’t ask leading questions. Let kids fill the space with their thoughts. They might not even mention race. Then tell them why it was different for you. After the movie is over, that’s where you show up with your values.”
That wasn’t why I thought either movie was great. Maybe I need to watch them again? But there are pitfalls that a good parent must avoid.
A common mistake some parents make is to say they don’t “see color” and they want to raise their children to be “colorblind.”
“To say, ‘I’m colorblind is to say ‘I have the privilege of never having to worry about color,’” says Ms. Lythcott-Haims, a former corporate lawyer and Stanford dean. “Those of us who wear skin of brown don’t have that luxury. The right approach is to recognize that humans come in innumerable varieties of color and hair texture and eye shape and noses and lips and height and weight. There are differences aplenty. The key is to teach our children that differences aren’t bad.”
Apparently, the only difference that is bad is to be sitting at home, at the dinner table, eating good food with one’s parents, and if you, a parent of this privileged little shit, do not teach your child to hate herself for it, you parented all wrong.