Ibram X. Kendi covers a lot of ground in How to be an Anti-Racist. I believe we all are his intended audience, no matter our race, color, sexual or gender identities, political affiliation, or any other segmentation you might consider. He makes it clear that this issue of racism versus anti-racism is intersectional. His ideas also connect both perspectives with many other ways we segment “us” and “them.” Racism touches it all, as does his concept of anti-racism.

If you believe you are a “woke” reader, this will add more fuel to that feeling. Kendi is also very specific in differentiating those who say they are colorblind, or not a racist, from those who are anti-racist. These ideas are detailed and complex—too much to unpack here. Kendi uses examples from his own life, as well as history, to elucidate and prove his thesis.

He’s also quite honest about how he’s both succeeded and failed in the development of anti-racist precepts and actions. It’s clearly a work in progress, just as any personal, group, or societal change is, naturally.

My conclusions

This is a book to read both straight through, and used as a reference book. I listened to the audio, but also had a digital advanced reader’s copy to see the printed word. It’s helpful to hear the author’s voice, but many paragraphs bear closer consideration.

I imagine that in the future I’ll have a conversation or hear a news story, which will bring anti-racism to mind. The way Kendi organizes his chapters, I’d be able to refer back to his ideas and integrate them into the situation. For example, in talking about poverty or homelessness, I’d refer back to his chapters on class racism or space racism. Perhaps that would then lead me to other parts of the book.

Kendi’s tone varies from professor to preacher to friend, depending on the story he’s telling or the point he’s making. These variations were especially noticeable in his audio narration. Unfortunately, I found his vocal tones a bit strident sometimes. It’s most likely a function of the passion he feels about these ideas, which was also evident.

I also must say that when Kendi bares some of his personal soul, I felt especially moved. He is a cancer survivor, and two of our close family members are fighting that battle right now. His winning attitude gave me hope for them.

I recommend this thought-provoking and vital book to those who identify as both racist and not racist. Perhaps you’ll leave the book like I have, feeling that anti-racism is a better path.

Pair with another social justice read.


Thanks to NetGalley, Random House Publishing, One World, and the author for the opportunity to read a digital ARC in exchange for this honest review.