CM 071: Ibram Kendi on Rethinking Racist Ideas in America

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Blog Post - IbramInnovators often invent the future and some do so by rethinking the past. For example, innovative historical researchers not only help us understand what happened yesterday, they improve how we respond to those issues today.

Ibram Kendi is one of those researchers. In his book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, he uncovers the history of racist ideas in America. Winner of the 2016 National Book Award, his research reveals that racist policies fuel ignorance and hate, rather than the other way around. His findings challenge what many of us were taught to believe about racism in America today and the strategies we use to address it.

Highlights from our conversation include:

  • How racist ideas stem from racist policies that reinforce power structures
  • History shows that 200+ years of educating and persuading away racism has been less impactful than eliminating racist policies
  • How uplift suasion has worked against blacks by making them believe they are responsible for the racist ideas of others
  • Why there is a very real mutual interest in working against racism, sexism, homophobia, and poverty to eliminate one and all of these isms
  • How eliminating racist policies and disparities are key to eliminating racist ideas
  • The fact that racist ideas connote racial hierarchy while anti-racist ideas connote racial equality
  • How misleading statistics and unscientific approaches reinforce negative stereotypes around predominantly black neighborhoods
  • How the academic achievement gap is a racist idea
  • Three perspectives on our ongoing historical debate on race – segregationism, anti-racism, assimilation – and what they mean for blacks
  • How W.E.B DuBois helped us recognize that black striving for suasion and uplift maintains false notions of black inferiority
  • How Angela Davis taught us about the complexities of our identities in terms of gender, race, class, sex, age, etc
  • How scientific racism served to reinforce notions of black inferiority
  • How even after scientific racism was disproven by biologists and geneticists those in power wanted to fixate on any tiny percentage of difference to reinforce superiority
  • How the debates we are having today about race are not new and are informed by a long history of racist policies in the US that allow those in power to argue that blacks are inferior
  • How the US government sought to use deportation to evict freed slaves

Links to Topics Mentioned in this Podcast


Jefferson Davis

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy ONeil

How the Academic Achievement Gap is a Racist Idea by Ibram Kendi

Cotton Mather

Thomas Jefferson

William Lloyd Garrison

W. E. B. DuBois

Double consciousness

Angela Davis


Bill Clinton

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald

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