Among the byproducts of the worldwide mayhem and destruction carried out in solemn memory of career criminal George Floyd is that books on racism are selling almost as briskly as guns. As I write this, the #3 bestseller on Amazon is something called How to Be an Antiracist by one Ibram X. Kendi.
This book is Kendi’s third. The first was The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965–1972 (2012); the second, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016), won the National Book Award, led to a Guggenheim Fellowship, and propelled Kendi, three years ago, from a low-level teaching job at the University of Florida to a position as full professor and head of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University.
Next month, in a further move up the academic ladder, Kendi, age 37, will take up a plum post as director of the brand-new Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. He’ll also publish Antiracist Baby, a “board book” for very young children (already #15 on Amazon) “that introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of anti-racism.”
But we’re here to talk about How to Be an Antiracist, in which Kendi frames his life story as an account of how he came to understand race properly. Born Ibram Henry Rogers in Queens, N.Y., Kendi was raised by liberationist Christians who encouraged him to be a rebel. But he soon got out of hand even for them.