Stamped From the Beginning, Ibram X. Kendi

"Antiracists should stop connecting selfishness to racism, and unselfishness to antiracism. Altruism is wanted, not required. Antiracists do not have to be altruistic. Antiracists do not have to be selfless. Antiracists merely have to have intelligent self-interest, and to stop consuming those racists ideas that have engendered so much unintelligent self-interest over the years."


"Leo Africanus may have never visited the fifteen African lands he claims to have seen. But veracity did not matter. Once the manuscript was finished in 1526, once it was published in Italian in 1550, and once it was translated into French and Latin in 1556, readers across Western Europe were consuming it and tying African people to hypersexuality, to animals, and to the lack of reason. It is not know what happened to Leo the African, the author of the most widely read and most influential book on Africa--next to Zurara's--during the 1550s. He made countless Europeans feel that they knew him, or rather, knew Africa." p. 29


"Already, the American mind was accomplishing that indispensable intellectual activity of someone consumed with racist ideas: individualizing White negativity and generalizing Black negativity. Negative behavior by any Black person became proof of what was wrong with Black people, while negative behavior by any White person only proved what was wrong with that person." p. 42


"No matter what African people did, they were barbaric beasts or brutalized like beasts. If they did not clamor for freedom, then their obedience showed they were naturally beasts of burden. If they nonviolently resisted enslavement, they were brutalized. If they killed for their freedom, they were barbaric murderers." p. 70

"Enlightenment intellectuals produced the racist idea that the growing socioeconomic inequities between England and Senegambia, Europe and Africa, the enslavers and enslaved, had to be God's or nature's or nurture's will. Racist ideas clouded the discrimination, rationalized the racial disparities, defined the enslaved, as opposed to the enslavers, as the problem people. Antiracist ideas hardly made the dictionary of racial thought during the Enlightenment." p. 82


"American-born descendants of Africa judged the continent based on the standards they had learned from the very people who were calling them inferior and trying to kick them out of the United States. Africans in America had received their knowledge of Africa and their racist ideas from White Americans. And White Americans' racist ideas had been procured from a host of European writers--everyone from Sarah Baartman's dissector, Georges Cuvier of France, to philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel of Germany." p. 147


"This was the America that The Liberator entered in the 1830s, a land where Black people were simultaneously seen as scary threats, as sources of comedy, and as freaks. In their totality, all these racist ideas--emanating from minstrel shows, from "freak" shows, from literature, from newspapers, and from the Democrats and Whigs--looked down upon Black people as the social problem. Garrison loathed the shows and the literature, and he loathed those politicians, too. And yet he also crafted Black people as the social problem." p. 172


"Not from everyone, though. German Friedrich Tiedemann's skull measurements did not match Morton's hierarchy. So Tiedemann concluded there was racial equality. Like the Germantown petitioners in the 1600s, and John Wollman in the 1700s, Tiedemann showed that racists were never simply products of their time. Although most scholars made the easy, popular, professionally rewarding choice of racism, some did not. Some made the hard, unpopular choice of antiracism." p. 180


"Researchers routinely used Black subjects. In 1845, Alabama's J. Marion Sims horrifically started experimenting on the vaginas of eleven enslaved women for a procedure to heal a complication of childbirth called vesicovaginal fistula. The procedures were "not painful enough to justify the trouble" of anesthesia, he said. It was a racist idea to justify his cruelty, not something Sims truly knew from his experiments. "Lucy's agony was extreme," Sims later noted in his memoir. After a marathon of surgeries into the early 1850s--one woman, Anarcha, suffered under his knife thirty times--Sims perfected the procedure for curing the fistula. Anesthesia in hand, Sims started healing White victims, moved to New York, built the first woman's hospital, and fathered American gynecology. A massive bronze and granite monument dedicated to him--the first US statue depicting a physician--now sits at Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street, across from the Academy of Medicine." p. 185

"Stowe's popularization of spiritually gifted Black people quickly became a central pillar of African American identity as Black readers consumed the book and passed on its racist ideas. Racist Whites, believing themselves to be void of soul, made it their personal mission to find soul through Black people. Racist Blacks, believing themselves to be void of intellect, made it their personal mission to find intellect through White people. Black Americans almost immediately made Uncle Tom the identifier of Black submissiveness, while accepting Stowe's underlying racist idea that made Uncle Tom so submissive: Blacks were especially spiritual, they, especially, had soul." p. 194


"For years, northern racists had agreed, almost religiously, that enslaved Africans were like brutes. They disagreed, among themselves, about the capacity of Black people for freedom, independence, and civilization. This racist northern debate--segregationists adamant about Black brutes' incapacity, assimilationists like Garrison and Villard adamant about Black brutes' capacity--became the primary conversation in the wake of emancipation. Hardly anyone in a position of authority--whether in the economic elite, the political elite, the cultural elite, or the intellectual elite--brought antiracist ideas of equal Black people into this conversation." p. 223


"Racist ideas were easy to revise, especially as the demands of discriminators changed. Democrats changed their racist ideas to properly attack Black soldiers. While before the war they had justified slavery by stressing Black male physical superiority, during the war they promoted White soldiers and stressed White male physical superiority. While before the war they had justified slavery by deeming Blacks naturally docile and well equipped to take orders, during the war they stressed that Blacks were uncontrollable brutes, arguing against the Republicans, who said that naturally docile Blacks made great soldiers. Republicans often credited superb Black performances on the battlefield to their superb submissiveness and to their excellent White commanders. Both sides used the same language, the same racist ideas at different points, to make their case, reinforcing the language and ideas with plausible examples on the battlefield." p. 224


"The discriminators were subscribing to Social Darwinism and to the idea that Blacks were losing the racial struggle for existence. For ages, enslavers had pictured Black people as physically hardy, hardy enough to survive the heat of southern enslavement. With emancipation, racist ideas progressed to suit this new world. Discriminators started picturing Blacks as weak, too weak to survive in freedom, beings that desperately needed to learn to be strong without their masters and government assistance." p. 264


"In this new American Empire, American racist ideas went through what seemed very much like a revolving door, constantly going out into the colonizing world and then coming back into the country after conditioning the immigrant minds of the people arriving in the United States in the early 1900s. White Irish, Jewish, Italian, Asian, Chicana/o, Latina/o people in America were called anti-Black racial epithets like "greasers" or "guineas" or "White niggers," some resisted and joined in solidarity with Black people. But most probably consumed the racist ideas, distancing themselves from Black people. Blacks in the early twentieth century would joke that the first English word immigrants learned was "nigger."" p. 285


"As Thomas tried to distance himself from Blackness through The American Negro, it was, ironically, his very Blackness that caused White Americans to shower him with the adoration he so desired. Since racist ideas deemed every individual Black person an expert and representative of the race, Black people like Thomas had always proved to be the perfect dispensers of racist ideas. Their Blackness made them more believable. Their Blackness did not invite defensive mechanisms to guard against their racist ideas about Black inferiority." p. 290


"In the same way that Tarzan became the primary medium through which Americans learned about Africa, Gone with the Wind became the primary medium through which they learned about slavery. The only problem was that, in both cases, the depictions were woefully incorrect." p. 344


"But what about those northern discriminators with private policies that had long kept Blacks out? What about those who were still blockbusting and segregating northern cities, and still creating, maintaining, and increasing racial inequities in wealth, housing, and education? If the northern backers of the act defined policies as racist by their public outcomes instead of their public intent, then they would be hard-pressed to maintain the myth of the antiracist North and the racist South. By not principally focusing on outcome, discriminators had to merely privatize their public policies to get around the Civil Rights Act. And that is precisely what they did." p. 386


"Reagan never mentioned race when he looked out at some of the descendants of slaveholders and segregationists, people who had championed "states' rights" to days in the other Philadelphia, where the US Constitution had been written. Reagan promised to "restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them." He then dodged Carter's charges of racism. Thanks in part to southern support, Reagan easily won the presidency." p. 430


"During the crack craze in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the situation was the same. Whites and Blacks were selling and consuming illegal drugs at similar rates, but the Black users and dealers were getting arrested and convicted much more. In 1996, when two-thirds of the crack users were White or Latina/o, 84.5 percent of the defendants convicted of crack possession were Black. Even without the crucial factor of racial profiling of Blacks as drug dealers and users by the police, a general rule applied that still applies today: wherever there are more police, there are more arrests, and wherever there are more arrests, people perceive there is more crime, which then justifies more police, and more arrests, and supposedly more crime." p. 436

"The United States was maybe a multicultural nation in homes, behind closed doors, but certainly not in public in 1997. Racists in the United States were only embracing diversity and multiculturalism in name. In practice, they were enforcing cultural standards." p. 470



"The racial progress of Clinton's 99.9 percent announcement brought on the next segregationist theory: the 0.1 percent genetic difference between humans must be racial. First curse theory and then natural slave theory and then polygenesis and then Social Darwinism and now genes--segregationists had produced new ideas to justify the inequities of every era."


p. 475



"History is clear. Sacrifice, uplift, persuasion, and education have not eradicated, are not eradicating, and will not eradicate racist ideas, let alone racist policies. Power will never self-sacrifice away from its self-interest. Power cannot be persuaded away from its self-interest. Power cannot be educated away from its self-interest. Those who have the power to abolish racial discrimination have not done so far, and they will never be persuaded or educated to do so as long as racism benefits them in some way."


p. 508



"There will come a time when Americans will realize that the only thing wrong with Black people is that they think something is wrong with Black people. There will come a time when racist ideas will no longer obstruct us from seeing the complete and utter abnormality of racial disparities. There will come a time when we will love humanity, when we will gain the courage to fight for an equitable society for our beloved humanity, knowing, intelligently, that when we fight for humanity, we are fighting for ourselves. There will come a time. Maybe, just maybe, that time is now."


p. 511

© Kyuwon Lee, 2020.