In 1976, when Black History Month was first officially established, Americans were called upon to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” During subsequent years, it was easy to use this month to celebrate the perceived progress that had been made since the Civil War’s ending of slavery, and particularly since the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. When Barrack Obama was elected president, in 2008, many believed that it marked an end of racism in a “post-racial” America. How naive that was. White supremacy has reared its ugly head, and it turns out that discrimination, oppression, inequality, bigotry and hate were simmering below the surface, the whole time - all of which is no surprise to African Americans. So, this Black History Month, let’s take a closer look at why this just won’t go away.
Ibram X. Kendi, who appeared in Roanoke last fall, is a professor of history and international relations at American University, and was the youngest winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction, for 2016’s Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. “In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis. As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation's racial inequities. In shedding light on this history, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose racist thinking. In the process, he gives us reason to hope.” - Amazon
In 2019’s How to Be an Antiracist, “Kendi dissects why in a society where so few people consider themselves to be racist the divisions and inequalities of racism remain so prevalent. How to Be an Antiracist punctures the myths of a post-racial America, examining what racism really is—and what we should do about it.” - TIME