Professor, author shares history of racist ideas in new book
Ibram X. Kendi, award-winning historian and assistant professor of African American history at the University of Florida, discussed the story of anti-black racist ideas in the U.S. in his latest book Tuesday afternoon at Agnes Arnold Hall.
Kendi’s second book, “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” released April 12. He dedicated it to “the lives they said don’t matter.”
“Every group of people who I chronicled in this book defined themselves out of racism — every single one,” Kendi said. “So just like now we have people who are trying to defend the racism of Donald Trump by saying that he is not a racist, so too were people who said slave owners were not prejudiced.”
The book is a narrative history of racist ideas from the origins to the present organized into five sections. Each of these sections recounts the lives of historical figures such as Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois and Angela Davis.
Kendi said that when it comes to racism, there are two groups of people: the producers and the consumers of racist ideas. The process of educating a producer of racist ideas won’t stop them from making them if there is an economic or political benefit, Kendi said.
“Every time black individuals act in a stereotypical way, they are bringing the race down and they are reinforcing racist ideas,” Kendi said.
“I really enjoyed the experience because he mentioned that racism that we have in place today is not from hatred or ignorance: It is from power, and it is all about power, and that is the movement when it comes to our policy as a nation instead of what people think it is,” said French senior André Brown. “It is really from people producing these ideas to keep themselves in power to make sure that the masses are consuming these ideas and believing them in a collective level.”
Phillip Sinitiere, a UH alumnus and history professor at the local College of Biblical Studies, said that Kendi’s book is essential to society.
“The focus on ideas is very important because Dr. Kendi talks about the connection between ideas and policy and about the structural aspect of racist ideas as opposed to merely discussing racism as one’s individual opinion,” Sinitiere said. “He is unpacking a history that has to be told and understood.”