Voices of Simmons

President Wooten's 6 Takeaways from "How to Be an Antiracist"

President Lynn Perry Wooten will moderate an upcoming virtual conversation on antiracism, diversity, equity and inclusion with Professor Ibram X. Kendi, one of the world's leading historians and scholars in antiracism. In advance of the event, check out President Wooten's favorite quotes and takeaways from Kendi’s powerful book, How to Be an Antiracist – which explores the concept of antiracism and how we might build an antiracist society.


1. Denying racism perpetuates racism.

“Racist” is not — as Richard Spencer argues — a pejorative. It is not the worst word in the English language; it is not the equivalent of a slur. It is descriptive, and the only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it — and then dismantle it. The attempt to turn this usefully descriptive term into an almost unusable slur, is, of course, designed to do the opposite: to freeze us into inaction.

- Ibram X. Kendi, “My Racist Introduction”

2. There’s an opportunity gap, not an achievement gap. 

“What if we measured intellect by an individual's desire to know? What if we realized the best way to ensure an effective educational system is not by standardizing our curricula and tests but by standardizing the opportunities available to all students?”

- Ibram X. Kendi, Chapter 8

3. Find courage in the face of fear.

“‘Courage is not the absence of fear, but the strength to do what is right in the face of it,’ as the anonymous philosopher tells us. Some of us are restrained by fear of what could happen to us if we resist. In our naïveté, we are less fearful of what could happen to us—or is already happening to us—if we don’t resist.”

- Ibram X. Kendi, Chapter 10

4. Antiracism acknowledges intersectionality.

“To be antiracist is to reject not only the hierarchy of races but of race-genders. To be feminist is to reject not only the hierarchy of genders but of race-genders. To be anti-racist is to be feminist. To truly be feminist is to be antiracist.”

“Queer antiracism is equating all the race-sexualities, striving to eliminate the inequities between the race-sexualities. We cannot be antiracist if we are homophobic or transphobic.”

- Ibram X. Kendi, Chapters 14 and 15

5. Policies matter.

“Admit racial inequity is a problem of bad policy, not bad people. Identify racial inequity in all its intersections and manifestations.  Investigate and uncover the racist policies causing racial inequity. Invent or find antiracist policy that can eliminate racial inequity.”

- Ibram X. Kendi, Chapter 18

6. Keep hope alive, even during these challenging times.

“What gives me hope is a simple truism. Once we lose hope, we are guaranteed to lose. But if we ignore the odds and fight to create an antiracist world, then we give humanity a chance to one day survive, a chance to live in communion, a chance to be forever free.”

- Ibram X. Kendi, Chapter 18

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