In his new book, How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi holds up both a magnifying glass and a mirror to examine how to uproot racism from society—starting with ourselves. Followed by his talk at UC Berkeley, on September 12, 2019, Kendi is joined in conversation by john a. powell of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, Lateefah Simon of the Akonadi Foundation, and moderated by Alice Y. Hom of Northern California Grantmakers.
Denise Herd: Okay good afternoon. We're going to begin our program now. And I'm just really excited and pleased to welcome you to this important event, Belonging in Practice, How to be an Antiracist with our special guest Ibram X. Kendi. And my name is Denise Herd and I'm a Professor of Public Health here at UC Berkeley. I'm also the Associate Director. Public Health in the house. I'm also the Associate Director for the House Institute for Fair and Inclusive Society. And first off I'd like to thank our three partner organizations who've worked so hard in putting this event together for all of us today. Borealis Philanthropy, the Haas Institute for Fair and Inclusive Society, and Northern California Grant Makers. They've been fabulous. This event is part of UC Berkeley's 400 Years of Resistance to Slavery and Injustice Series that started with an all day symposium just a couple of weeks ago. And I hope many of you were able to attend. This is a year long series of conversations and events to delve into the slavery past in America, and its effects on our society now. Today's event explores a crucial aspect of charting the course of how our country can transform this legacy of oppression and exclusion to one of belonging. And now I'd like to offer very deep gratitude, and a huge thank you to our sponsors for making this event possible, the Stupski Foundation, Akonadi Foundation, Kippur Center, San Francisco Foundation, East Bay Community Foundation, and General Services Foundation. Why don't we acknowledge them with a hand? So during Ibram's talk and the panel conversation I encourage you to submit questions on note cards or on Twitter at #400Years. There'll be people coming up and down the aisles to take your questions. And the questions will be synthesized for the Q and A portion at the end of the program. Also please note that we'll have book sales continuing after the program in the lobby. Again welcome to this program and thank you so much for being a part of this important conversation.
Maya Thornell-Sandifor: Good afternoon my name is Maya Thornell-Sandifor. I'm the director of racial equity initiatives at Borealis Philanthropy. I am thrilled to be a partner bringing this event together today, and also to introduce my friend Ibram Kendi. I will be brief, I know you've been waiting for awhile and you're not here to hear from me. So I met Ibram two years ago at an event much like this one. Albeit quite smaller by about 1200 people. We were inviting him to speak about his second book, Stamped From the Beginning, the Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. We had a Q and A, and that's talking Seattle. I asked Ibram, what instructions do you have for us about how to be anti-racist? In other words how do we heal and repair? He leaned back looked at me with a sly smile and said I'm working on it. And he did, delivering his third book, How to be an Antiracist, just last month. In How to be an Antiracist Ibram is giving us the gift of sharing his own journey from child swimming in a sea of racist ideas, to young man grappling with identity, to full grown scholar attempting to practice what he preaches. As a black person growing up in this country, reading how to be an Antiracist was validating to my own experience in many ways. Through Ibram's vulnerability and discovery he gives us permission to reflect on our own journey, and understanding of not only how we as individuals have inherited racist ideas, but how we also propagate them in our relationships, in our institutions, in our communities. Through his writing and teaching Ibram models an ability we all need to bring to this work, and the courage to tell our truth so that our children and their children can move beyond a place of self interest to human interest. After all dismantling racism and addressing our great assumes through an anti-racist lens will not just benefit black and brown people. It will mean liberation for all people. Lastly I want to give gratitude to Ibram for providing much needed historical context on racist ideas, and for raising the conversation of anti-racism to a place where people want to engage in a dialogue about solutions. Indeed I hope that's what brings all of us here today. So please join me in welcoming to the stage National Book Award winner, New York Times bestselling author, founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, Professor of History and International Relations, and winner of the 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.
Ibram X. Kendi: Good afternoon everyone. It's truly and truly an honor for me to be here before all of you. Thank you so much for coming out this afternoon. Thank you to the sponsors and to the organizers. I'm always just joyous when I'm outside of Washington DC. And certainly in a place like the Bay Area. And one of the reasons why I'm always joyous when I leave Washington DC is because I have to continuously hear someone say that they're the least racist person you've ever encountered, the least racist person you've ever interviewed. He has said that he's the least racist person you've ever met and then, he decided to take it to a whole nother level and say I'm the least racist person anywhere in the world. But you know I didn't come here to talk about Donald Trump. And so let's just get him out the way. Is that cool? I came here to talk about those Americans who oppose Donald Trump, but also self identify like Donald Trump as not racist. And ironically Americans who self identify as not racist, whether they're conservatives, moderates, liberals, radicals, progressives, they don't realize. I think many of us don't realize that we are connecting ourselves to a history of slave traders who self identified as not racist, although they didn't use that term. We're connecting ourselves to enslavers who said yes when we say black people should be enslaved. When we say slavery is a positive good, when we say slavery is a necessary evil, when we say that black people are the cursed descendants of Ham, those are not racist ideas, that's God's law. That's science's law, that's nature, that's logic. We don't realize we're connecting to Jim Crow segregationists who said I'm not racist, it's separate but equal down here. You can't tell? No we can't. You can't tell? No we can't. You can't tell it's separate but equal? We're following the law. We're not racist. We're connecting to eugenicists who were really the first group of Americans to be classified as racist who also turned around and said this is science. This isn't racism. This is science. We have empirical data to demonstrate that black people are intellectually inferior by nature. Just look at their test scores. And today we have white nationalists. We have white supremacists who self identify is not racist. We have white supremacists who before they go into a Walmart in El Paso Texas write a manifesto claiming that Latinx immigrants are invading Texas. And then also claiming I'm not racist. We have this long history of racists classifying themselves as as not racist, racists who cannot imagine that they have been reinforcing notions that there's something wrong with a particular racial group, racist who can't imagine that the policies and policy makers they're supporting are creating and reproducing racial inequity. Fundamentally racism, its heartbeat, has always been denial. And the sound of that heartbeat has always been I'm not racist. To be more specific, the sound of that heartbeat has always been not racist.
And so in writing How to be an Antiracist, I've had one singular goal. If I could somehow shape the world what I would hope that would come out of this book is very simply we would eradicate the term not racist from the American vocabulary. And then it would force people to recognize that there either what? Racist or anti-racist. It would force Americans, if we eliminated the term race neutral from the American vocabulary, to recognize that all policies are either racist or anti-racist. If we eliminated terms like racially charged. They use so many now I can't keep up with them, but I know that's one of them. If we eliminated all of those racially, whatever they call it, terms and realized all ideas are either racist or anti-racist. Then we can truly have an accounting of ourselves, of our ideas, of our policies, and of our country. Because at some point we are going to have to stop denying that we have metastatic racism. Because if you didn't already know, it is literally killing America. It is literally killing this world. The three lethal weapons that are threatening American existence, and human existence are of course nuclear war, climate change, and bigotry. And so I, of course, was born and raised in New York City. Anybody from New York? Okay, okay, anybody from Queens? Okay, okay, I was born in Queens New York, Jamaica Queens New York. I was raised the child of two parents who were in the black power movement, specifically the black theology movement. They were walking around with their 'fro saying God is black and Jesus is black, and the church needs to be an engine of liberation, and we are practicing liberation theology, that our job as a Christian is to liberate black people. But by the time I came around the 'fros got a little lower. And they had risen a little higher in the economic ladder. And like other members of the civil rights and black power generation, they certainly maintained, my parents did, their liberation theology. But they also in the 1980's, like the black middle class more broadly, like the white middle class had historically done, they'd also began to imagine that they had moved into the black middle class. And a large segment of black people had not, because of what was right about them, and what was wrong about those black poor people. And so what had emerged was this sort of dueling consciousness that there was nothing wrong with black people and we need to continuously challenge the racism of the Reagan era, while simultaneously these ideas that there was indeed something wrong with the black poor, that indeed there was something wrong with these black women having all these children, that there was something wrong with these black men committing all these crimes. And this was part of a larger American discourse that the reason why racial inequity was persisting after civil rights was not because the civil rights movement, and even the black power movement did not eradicate racism.
Y'all know we talked about post racial now. Well they imagined that it was post racial by the mid 1970's. Or some would say the day Lynden Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, suddenly racism was eradicated. Yeah I mean we heard that when they said the day Obama was elected, suddenly racism no longer existed. One person walked into one office that was powerful, but one office, and suddenly I and none of the black, or Latinx, or Native people, or Asian people in this room were no longer subjected to racism. It just so happened that racial inequities persisted after the election of Obama, just as racial inequities persisted, and even in many ways deepened for black poor people after civil rights. And so it was imagined that the reason being was because there was something wrong with these people. There was something wrong with these black people. And more specifically by the 1990's. If there was ever a decade in which black youth were seen as the fundamental American problem it was the 1990's. And so for anyone who grew up like I did, as a black youngster in the 1990's, we were seen as the problem from our parents and grandparents generations, to white America. Everyone was looking at us as the problem, the way we dressed, the list of music we listened to, the way we danced. All these ideas about something wrong with black youth, I consumed them, I internalized them. And ended up preaching them back to black folk when I was a senior in high school. And so How to be an Antiracist opens with this scene where I am participating in this Martin Luther King oratorical contest in Prince William County. By that point we had moved from New York City to Northern Virginia. And I had won my high school competition, and went on to this countywide competition. And was one of the top three finalists, and the top three finalists were able to speak at MLK Day in 2000. And I used that platform, a day in which we were celebrating black youth, because we had three high school orators, and three middle school orators, all of whom were black. And the vast majority of the people in that auditorium of 3000 people were black. And I used my speech to condemn black youth, to say black youth don't value education, which was a widely circulating racist idea about black youth, even though there was no evidence. I used that speech to say black youth are the most feared in society, as if it was was their fault they were so feared, as if they wanted to be hunted like they were super predators. I used that speech to imagine that black youth continued to climb the high tree of pregnancy, as it had been imagined by the previous two decades that the reason for the increasing percentage of black children born into single parent households was because single, typically teenage black girls and women were having too many babies.
But we didn't realize that the actual cause of that increasing percentage of black children born into single parent households was because married black women were having less children. We didn't realize that. Because we as Americans have been taught that if you have a racial inequity, if you have a racial disparity, there must be something wrong with the people on the lower end. And it's our job as scholars apparently to figure out what's wrong with those people. And so that's what I believed. I had internalized those ideas whole. And I ended up reaching them back to black people, the majority of whom applauded for me. And so I opened the text with that story, not only to sort of demonstrate just how deeply I had internalized anti-black racist ideas, but just how deeply many other black folk had internalized anti-black racist ideas. And just how deeply internalized racism has actually always been the real black on black crime. And some would say well, you know black people, I mean yes those ideas are not true, yes those are not ideas black people should be saying about black people, but I wouldn't classify those as racist ideas because black people apparently have no power. So apparently black people are slaves. Because the only group of people who don't have any power are slaves who don't resist. And I'm not saying enslaved people, because these are people who have literally been enslaved by violence and terror, and are constantly resisting, and that's why they needed to be enslaved by violence and terror. I'm talking about people who are confined and oppressed and doing nothing in the face of that, not resisting, not recognizing that they have the power to resist. And every single human being in this world, in this country, in this city has the power to resist. But some Americans don't resist, They don't resist racist power and policy. In the face of all of these racial inequities from police violence, to health disparities, to educational disparities, to wealth disparities, they look at all these disparities and see normality, and see nothing wrong. And if anything they say the cause of those disparities are the inferiorities of those racial groups. So what they do is they don't use their power to resist, because they've internalized racist ideas. That has always been the net effect of racist ideas on the human mind. It causes people to say yeah, black people should be 40% of the incarcerated population in this country, even though we make up only 13%. We should be that, because our neighborhoods are more dangerous, black people are more dangerous, black people are more violent. When you put Latinx and black people together they make up about two thirds of the incarcerated population, which is twice, about twice their makeup in the general population. And white people make up about a third, which is essentially one half of their population in this country. So then people understand that yeah, black and Latinx people are dangerous animals. So they should be enslaved at that, they should be incarcerated at that clip. And apparently white people, including white people with AK-47's, are safe.
Those racist ideas cause us to look at this problem and not see anything wrong with it, continuously drive by poor or black and Latinx neighborhoods and not see anything wrong with that, see that the cause of that poverty, the cause of those lack of resources and opportunities is not policies, it's not racism, there's something wrong with the people. They don't want to save, they don't want to work hard, they prefer welfare, there's something wrong with the people. Those are racist ideas talking in our minds, causing us to not resist racism, to imagine that racism, or I should say more so racial disparities should exist. And so fundamentally anyone, any person who is thinking that the problem is black people, that the problem is Latinx people, that the problem is Asian or Native people, even the problem that it's white people. Anyone who is thinking that the problem is a racial group, and their cultural or behavioral inferiority, and not recognizing that the problem is racist power and policy is being racist. An anti-racist obviously is looking out at our society and saying you know what, there are ethnic differences, there are cultural differences coming out of those ethnic differences. I'm going to level that difference. I'm not gonna judge that difference from my own cultural standard. But all of those racialized groups are equals. There's nothing wrong with black women. There's nothing wrong with the Native poor. There's nothing wrong with Asian professors. There's nothing wrong with any racialized group. And if there's a disparity between racial groups, it must be because of racist power and policy. And therefore an anti-racist, instead of looking and trying to figure out what is wrong with people, an anti-racist is trying to figure out what is wrong with policy. But not just what's wrong with policy, what's wrong with those individuals who have the power to institute and shape policy, policymakers. So when I talk in How to be an Antiracist, I often times in the book used the term racist power. And when I talk about racist power, I am fundamentally talking about people who are in positions of power in which they can institute, shape, eliminate policies. And they use that policy, I should say they use that position of power, to institute, defend, and shape policies that lead to racial inequity, that lead to racial injustice. That is racist power. And I contrast that with anti-racist power. And anti-racist power is not just those anti-racists who historically as a result of social movements, who historically is a result of their own political campaigns, have been able to seize positions of power and have used those positions of power to deliver policies that reduce inequities, that create equity. Not just those who anti-racist policymakers, but anti-racist power is the power of the people, the power of the people to resist, the power of the people to resist racist policies, the power of the people to resist racist policymakers.
And I just get so upset when we imagine that only people like Donald Trump have power, when we imagine that only white people have power, when we imagine that white people and Donald Trump are all powerful, when we recognize that to say anyone, or any group of people, are all powerful is essentially to call them gods. And so we're imagining that these people are gods. And for those of you who are religious you just can't beat God right? I mean there's just no way you're gonna beat God. So you might as well just stop and let God continue to have his or her way. And so then it breeds this pessimism, it breeds this notion that racism is fundamentally permanent. It breeds this idea that racism is natural to humankind. Yes, everywhere we look there's racial disparities. Everywhere we look there's racist policies. Everywhere we listen we hear racist ideas. But that doesn't mean that racism is natural and even normal. It's normal because it's been made normal. Racism is only roughly 600 years old. Humans have lived a long time before we started imagining that the people who cover Africa, or all of those diverse ethnic groups are one race, that the people, all those diverse peoples in Europe are one race. Humans lived a very long time before we imagined these continental races. And we imagined that those continental races, that certain ones were superior an inferior. When we sort of started connecting those continental races to behavioral traits, when we started imagining, I should say that you know what those African people's can be enslaved. And we Portuguese slave traders who initiated the transatlantic slave trade, we can make a ton of money off these people. And abroad we have to create a justification for why we're exclusively slave trading African people in the mid 1400's. Oh, because they're inferior, because they're beastly, because we're actually trying to civilize them. And then these racist ideas then became the justification for these racist policies, these racist policies that were instituted out of self interest. This really is a new phenomena, as much as it's old and widespread. And so I think it's critical for us to be very very specific when we talk about racism. And that's one of the things that I've been trying to do with my work, is to add a layer of specificity, specifically to how we describe racism. The words we use to describe the multi-layered phenomena that is racism. And what I mean by that is the way that I like to sort of talk about this issue called racism, is you have racist power, you have racist policies, you have racist ideas, and you have racial inequities. And understanding the relationship between all of those is really understanding the way racism operates. And so I actually define racism as a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity, and are substantiated by racist ideas. And I define a racist individual as someone who is expressing a racist idea, or supporting a racist policy with their actions or even inaction. And the reason why someone expressing a racist idea in that moment is being racist, is because in that moment they're thinking the problem is a group of people, as opposed to policy. And obviously the reason why someone who is supporting a racist policy is being racist is because their action is causing racial inequity. And the reason why someone who is doing nothing in the face of racist policy, that is pretty much the status quo in this country, is because they are allowing that racist policy to persist. They are allowing that racial inequity to pass on to another generation. When we look at the enslavement era, what slaveholders wanted from non slave owners, from Northerners, in the face of slavery was to do one thing, nothing. That's what they wanted. They wanted you to do nothing. What did Jim Crow segregationists want? They wanted people to do nothing. What do people who benefit from mass incarceration, because they're able to make seemingly blue states into swing states, and swing states into red states. They want us to do nothing. The purpose of racist ideas is to get people to do nothing.
And so when you do nothing, like someone who does nothing on election day, it's literally having a political impact. And that impact is the persistence of racism. And so there's no side line to this struggle. There's no viewing box to this struggle. We are all in this struggle. What are we doing? Are we doing nothing, or doing something that's allowing racial inequity to persist, allowing racist policies to persist? Is that what we're doing? Or are we being an anti-racist? Then I define an anti-racist as someone who is expressing an anti-racist idea, or supporting an anti-racist policy with their actions, someone who is stating that there's nothing wrong with any of the racial groups, someone who was recognizing the equality of difference, someone who was pushing back against misleading statistics, against faulty premises that make some sort of case that there's something genetically, culturally, or even behaviorally wrong with a particular racial group, someone who's saying no, we're not just created equal, we are equal. That's being an anti-racist, that's expressing anti-racist ideas. And obviously someone who's supporting anti-racist policies that are leading to racial inequity. And when I say support, you have some people who have a ton of money but they don't have much time. And they recognize that. And so they literally financially support institute's like the Haas (Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society), all sorts of organizations that are actually identifying and challenging racist policies. You have people who don't have a lot of money, but they have time. And so they dedicate their time, they volunteer for organizations. And then of course unfortunately, you have a lot of people who ain't got no time and no money. And that's a little bit more complex. But one thing I wanted to sort of say is that these two terms, racist and anti-racist, I said someone who is. These are not fixed categories. These are not tattoos. These are not identities. This is not who a person is. These are descriptive terms describing when a person is saying a racist idea, they're being racist. Describing when a person is saying an anti-racist idea, they're being anti-racist. Describing when a person is supporting a racist policy, they're being racist. Describing when in the very next moment they're supporting an anti-racist policy, so they're being anti-racist. One of the things I think, one of the greatest misnomers about the term racist is that it is a pejorative term, it is literally an attack term, it is something that is in one's bones, it's in one's heart, that only bad people can be racist, that only people who wear hoods can be racist, that only people in the Klu Klux Klan can be racist, no. There were abolitionists who were racist. There were civil rights activists who are racist. There were people shoving black lives matter who didn't really believe all black lives matter. Y'all know what I'm talking about right? They just believed black men matter, but they didn't believe black women matter. Or they believe black heterosexuals matter, but didn't believe black gays and lesbians matter. Or they believe black elites mattered, but didn't believe black poor people mattered. Oh they believe black cisgendered people mattered, but not black transgender women. And so it doesn't matter your identity. It doesn't matter your political affiliation. It doesn't matter whether you marched with King. I get that a lot, I'm sorry. All that matters is what you're doing in each moment. And the beauty about that is it then allows people, it allows us to admit, to confess, to say you know what yes. In that moment I did feel fearful when that young black male was passing me by in the street. Yes, in that moment I recognized that that fear was sourced in racist ideas. I recognized that that black male was trying to get home just like me. I recognized that I was being racist in that moment. And that is the distinction between a racist and an anti-racist. The racist, no matter what is said about them, no matter how they're charged with being racist, they are always going to deny it. While an anti-racist will take these definitions of a racist idea, of a racist policy, and of a racist and apply their behavior to it. And say you know what? I was being a racist. I was, but I'm going to change. That's the distinction. And we have the capacity to change.
We have the capacity to change ourselves. We have the capacity to change this country. I should say 99% of us have the capacity to change. I don't know about a certain character I live near. But finally, and I'll say in closing that the reason why I emphasize the capacity to change, the capacity that we have to change as individuals, the capacity we have to change in terms of policies, in terms of the very underpinnings and structures, and systems of this country, of this world, is because we have to believe that change is possible in order to bring it about. We have to. We have to believe that. And we have to believe that even though this country has metastatic racism, and even though those tumors of racial inequity have literally spread to every part of the body politic, and that were likely to die, that the overwhelming odds state that we will die, and that it's gonna a painful death. Despite those odds we still have to believe that we can heal from racism, we still have to believe that. I should say that I'm speaking from experience. Last year, as some of you may know, I was diagnosed with with stage four metastatic colon cancer, a disease that kills 88% of people in five years. And the odds clearly were completely against me. The disease had spread. But if I would have said, first if I would have said I don't have cancer. And the way we get rid of cancer is by not talking about it. First I had to acknowledge that it was that bad. I first had to acknowledge that. And then I first, as we have to do with racism, have to acknowledge that in order for us to heal ourselves from this, individually and as a society, that we're gonna go through some pain. And that pain is essential to healing, and that there's another side to that pain. And we have to believe, even when we're going through that pain that we can be healed. Because what else is going to get us through that pain other than a belief that we can be healed, even when the odds are completely against us? What else other than that belief? And so I challenge each of you to stop, if you are, denying that you have cancer, the cancer of racism. To recognize, that once you accept that you have that, that the process of healing is gonna be painful. But there's another side to that pain. It is the side in which you're basically no longer enslaved by racist ideas. It's deciding which you can be a part of a fight that's going to create a different type of America, a different type of America where racist policies are not just harming people of color, but also arming white people. A different type of America where the cronies of racism, all of the bigotries that intersect and reinforce, and are reinforced by racism, like sexism and homophobia, and a series of others will no longer exist. Because in order for us to truly be anti-racist we have to recognize that every single form of bigotry is wrong. And in order to create a different type of society we have to challenge all forms of bigotry. And we have to believe that that is possible. And I believe it, I believe it. Thank you.
Alice Y. Hom: Okay, so we wanted to have a conversation with Dr. Kendi, and john powell, and Lateefah Simon because they bring in different vantage points, different perspectives. And if you read How to be Antiracist you realize not everybody should be classified in just one sort of grouping. So let me just do an introduction. john powell, a Professor here at UC Berkeley. Professor of Law, and African American Studies, and Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, and the Executive Director of the Haas Institute for Fair and Inclusive Society. And we have Lateefah Simon. Lots of fans of Lateefah here. President of the Akonadi Foundation, Director on the BART Board, and Trustee of the California State University Board. They are more than that, and we're gonna hear a little bit of that right now. So I'm gonna start off with, we heard a little bit of Dr. Kendi's personal story. Could john and Lateefah, could you in a thumbnail, share your personal view of what it means to be an anti-racist? And how do you connect the dots of your own personal experience to your community, organizing political activism, philanthropic advocacy, or to your academic work?
john a. powell: Good afternoon. So it's great to be here. Dr. Kendi, I just flew over from London. I got off the plane at 1:30. What kept me company was your book, so thank you. I think there's a lot of really profound stuff in the book. And I really can't do justice in the little time that we have. I want to lift up a couple of things and share just a little bit about myself. I've been around a moment. Some of you may have noticed that. Derrick Bell is a good friend of mine. A new edition of Faces From the Bottom of the Well recently came out with a foreword by Michelle Alexander. And Derrick influenced the whole generation of critical race columnists, and I was part of that generation. And one of the things, and Derrick was a personal friend, someone I loved and cared about and learned a lot from. But I took exception to a couple of things he said, which he talked about in Faces from the Bottom of the Well. He talked about the permanency of racism, and that we have to just learn to live with it. And Dr. Kendi what I appreciate so much about your work is call to action, is saying-- Yes it's hard, yes it maybe painful. And I have children. One of them might be in the audience today I'm not sure. When they were little I would say to them if you didn't want to have challenge and suffering you should not have been born. But I think turning that corner from a sense that racism is permanent, that we can do nothing about it, which has again strongly influenced a number of brilliant black scholars, and white scholars, who are in some ways students of Derrick Bell is a really important addition that you're making. That we have to, that this has a history that's changing, and it can change, and it will change. How it change, and will it be better or worse is up for grabs. And it's up for grabs in large part in terms of what we do. And so one of the things I want to give you is that, I want to push you, and maybe Professor Kendi a little bit and say it's not enough to be anti-racist. It's not enough to be against something, you have to be for something. And my staff has been helping me prepare for this, EJ and others and they're saying really when you look at your work and Professor Kendi's work, you use different words, but there's a lot of similarity. And there is, more than I can say. But I want to suggest to you the formative thing which we actually talk about belonging, is really important, it calls upon us to imagine something different. And it's hard to imagine. Usually when we imagine, we imagine something bad, or something ridiculous like colorblind. I'm not gonna see race. The best thing do is just ignore it. I'm not gonna see gender inequity, I'm not gonna see. And of course we can't do that, and we shouldn't do that. But can we imagine something else? Can we begin to have an expression of that? Can we begin to live that at Berkeley and beyond? So that's the one person I want to make, to really think if we are deeply committed, then how do we do this? And the last thing I'll say on this is, in Kendi's book he talked about being a white supremacist hurt white people. And even suggests that being a human supremacist, suggests that supremacy and domination, rather it's dominating males, dominating females, straight people dominating gays. And the other thing is that you can be oppressed, and engage in oppression. So another, and I know I'm going on too long but I'll stop at this, one of the things that, a debate in the social justice, racial justice movement that's been around for a long time is that the one, black people can't be racist because they don't have any power. It's like what? You must not know any black people. We all have power. We don't have, the power's not evenly distributed. But we all have power. And one of the things that makes it hard to really challenge racism at a policy level, at a structural level, at an institutional level, at a deep level is that power, power with not power over. Because we're not trying to dominate. Power requires connection. And in this country we have been so indoctrinated to go it alone. And one thing else is about health. And I had read about your struggle with cancer. And I watched my father and my family struggle with illness, and myself. No one gets through it alone. We need each other. That's how we heal. We need each other. So that's how I feel. That's how I feel since growing up in a family of nine children, where we struggled economically. We struggled in terms of a number of things. But we have just tremendous caring and love for each other. And I just came back from London. Before London, and it's not to get your sympathy. Professor Kendi said if you want to support us you give us money, not just your sympathy. And your time. But I just came back from visiting my dad at his 99th birthday. And for those of you who know me a little bit he's in good health, so we're already thinking about 100. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. But we're gonna have a party next year. And there are five generations of Powells alive. And he's here, after doctors four years ago said he should not be here, they said he was dying. They just said his brain was liquefying. They sent him home to die and this trek of his offspring was coming to visit. And you may have all heard me tell this story. And we had this vigil, so someone was always with him. He was unconscious, he was incontinent, he wasn't there. And they said a week or two weeks and he'd be gone. And we were singing, and given him massages, and praying. And I was on the vigil. I was sleeping in the room on the floor. And he hadn't talked for about two weeks. And he woke up and he said john? I said yes dad? He's said I hope you're not too disappointed, but I don't think I'm gonna die right now. The doctor said that was not possible. So that's my story, is that when we do stuff together our imagination is even greater than we know.
Lateefah Simon: Behold the truth tellers right? I'll say that again, behold these truth tellers. I get to sit with heroes, and also gotta represent. I'm a sister up here so I gotta try to, I can't do what he just did, or what you do, I see you doing all the time, but I will say in reading the text, thank you. Because you see when you read, who's read the book? You're in for a treat, you in for it. The mirror that you shine back to those of many of us, most of us in this audience, you clarify what we've been taught, not only by our political mentors, but spiritual and what we've been taught by God that racism in its essence is a sin. And that it is seductive. You also talk to us, and I'm gonna tell you my story too. But what I love so much about what you pose to all of us who are fighting this beast, this sin, this seductive drug that tells you as a black woman that I am less human than you, that I am not deserving, my children are not deserving of the same humanity as their white counterpart. It is seductive to believe and talk about. That is nurtured, not just in childhood, but it's nurtured and deep infancy and in the womb. And for those of us who are warring, warring against something so invasive, as not just white supremacy. And you also talk about white supremacy as an additive to racism. I mean I was reading this book like yes, yes. Thank you. When the scholar presents ideas to us that provide more rigor, and an excitement to attack with more idea, more word, more spirit, it gives us the armor to go harder. So I just want to thank you again, I want to thank you. In terms of my, I'll be brief. I'm here with my Akonadi crew. Also I hear Mills College is in the house. I'm a Cyclone so, I had to refer to the text because I think one of my Professors is there. And I got trained really well to refer to the text what I'm talking about stuff. When I was in my teens, and I was on juvenile probation I got this opportunity to become a youth organizer at an amazing institution called the Young Women's Freedom Center, then the Center for Young Women's Development. Being on the streets every single day with young black and brown girls who were literally dying, who were being bought and sold, then to be caged, some by people who look like them, young people who died, young people that we buried, and young people that begged to be employed, begged to get back in school after they were thrown out. It was really really clear that folks in power, some that looked like us, didn't see our own humanity and that we were children. It was super clear to me as a young person in a lot of trouble, I was in a lot of trouble all the time. But I had radical parents. And they had both the racial justice lens, a radical racial justice lens. And they taught us about human rights movements around the world, but it wasn't clear that young people of color in this here Bay Area weren't given the amnesty that street children around the world were, child soldiers were. It was really clear that as an organizer working in institutions that the very marrow of the institutions that were supposed to support, and love, and honor the child didn't see humanity in the black young body. And I couldn't believe it. And as we step over black bodies, even outside of this building, and as we deny admission to black bodies in many of our institutions by people sometimes that like us, we know that our work is righteous, and it is good, and we are fighting that mighty sin. And so we'll talk a little bit more I know about all of our work, but I think we all come to this conversation today, especially those who read the text, knowing that we all have a responsibility to go through rehab. That this sin, denying people the humanity, the opportunity to not only live in dignity, but looking at not just the other but ourselves. It's time. It's time so I'm in this work with so many of you all. And racism is a sin that we can not only recover from, we can be redemptive. We can be redemptive, we can be saved, thank you.
Alice Y. Hom: On Monday I was at a implicit bias training, and went through a number of exercises that just expose the workshops biases, racism, sexism, homophobia, all of it. And the trainer said to us are you racist, are you sexist, are you homophobic? He says you're human. And that's what I got from your book. You showed us that we can have those thoughts, and we're human. And what I appreciate about reading the book is that you were vulnerable in saying you were racist and you had anti-racist ideas. And what I think people are gonna be aware, they're gonna reflect on their own history, stories, families. It gives us an opportunity to think about what can we do? And so my question is given the current climate, why is centering race and racism, and our conversations from the personal to the professional so important? And what examples could you share about how people in different positions of power and privilege can create anti-racist policies, and an anti-racist culture? And this is for everybody. We want to know. What can we take back to our institutions?
Ibram X. Kendi: I think that in many ways we can do an accounting, not only of ourselves but of our institutions. What I mean by that is we can assess whether there's inequities in our institutions, in our neighborhoods. And stop blaming, let's say inferior black people for those inequities. Start saying okay there must be some sort of policies that are causing this. And then try to figure out two things. First, what those policies or lack thereof are, and then who has the power to essentially change those policies, to institute those policies. And then we decide are we going as individuals to essentially ensure that we're going to put ourselves on a path to get into that position of power, so we can then use that position to transform those policies, and thereby that institution? Or are we going to decide that we're gonna be a part of that internal group in that institution, that probably already exists right now, that is challenging those policies, that is challenging power? So when we think about power, either we're going to challenge power, or we're gonna replace power. And I think each of us as individuals can sort of decide what role we're going to play. But I think in order for us to even get to that point, when we're challenging, or even replacing power, we first have to recognize that we have the power to resist, to challenge. And we have the capacity to basically play chess, to get into that position of power. I say chess and I'm like, I recently binge watched Game of Thrones. And I'm now watching Power, which is almost like a form of Game of Thrones. And what's amazing about these two shows for me is it really shows the dance that power basically exists that we're in that right now. We're in a power struggle, we're in a Game of Thrones right now in this country. And the question is always gonna be who is gonna be in those positions of power? Who is gonna be challenging those those forces of power? And so I think that that's something that we can do. But at the same time we have to be fundamentally deeply self aware and deeply self critical. And I think that's one of the things that just people struggle to really do. And you don't have to do with anybody. Meaning you ain't got to tell nobody your critiquing yourself. You don't got to do like I do and say it to the world. You could just do it to yourself, nobody even has to know. I wish I could be you and nobody sort of knows my most shameful moments, nobody knows those times in which I was berating black people at the same time I was imagining I was serving black people. Nobody has to know that. But you have to know that. And you have to be the one that changes.
Lateefah Simon: I wish it was like a whole semester you could just talk, and then sleep a little and then talk some more, and the sleep a little and then we would come back there. So much, so much to behold in this conversation. And everyone the audience, we're gonna be dissatisfied because it's not enough time. This is not enough time to here, again I think that there's a blessing coming from you. Not only in your words, in your spirit. So thank you so much. I think what is extremely important about this moment in time, and in your book. You say not only that we need to take responsibility for our interactions with each other in our institutions. But like you almost give up how dare you not? How dare you not can defund racism and power wherever you are? That we don't have the luxury to not, right? So what I whether it's in The Gap, or in class. I was talking to somebody who worked in a big tech company. And he said we just hire people that we have hung out with, and that went to school with us. Well you're a racist, and that's okay. But let's have that conversation, let's have it, let's have it and admit to it. It's a dirty dirty word to admit some for sin. It's like to admit you're an alcoholic, to admit that you have a disease, to admit that you're struggling with something. I decided to run for office. I decided to be in an institution like Akonadi, that has a ton of support but also resource and power to fund movements. And we also have to stop the bullshit, that people who decide to do change making work need to be supported to do that work with the fierceness, the vitality, and the support. If you're willing to change structure you should be supported, if you're just about activities maybe we should step back a little bit. We need folks who are serious about changing policy, racist policy. You can't put police in big schools with babies. You can't do that. And anybody elected in charge of implementing those kind of policies, they have to move out. You can't hire folks and put them in office, and they look the other way. Not just on that issue, but all issues. You can't tear down encampments in Oakland knowing that these black people have absolutely nowhere to go but the water. You can't do it and not call yourself a racist. I have to sometimes look at myself and say, how in the work that I'm doing, and your book helped. I'm like oh my goodness, I'm not gonna hold myself accountable for my own anti-blackness which I believe often times I have none. I think we're complicit, every one of us. And until we get there we can't ride hard and we can't change stuff.
john a. powell: I need to read Dr. Kendi's book a few more times. But here here's one thing I noticed in a quick read. What I take away from it in part is like when you compare, make the culture of poverty argument. And you're comparing the cultures. And one of the things I take away from it is this idea that you normalize white culture. And that becomes what all other cultures are measured against, and that's problematic for a lot of reasons, excuse me. So I still want to use that same idea to critique the idea of focusing too narrowly on equity and disparities. Because in the framework of talking about equities and disparities, we basically say there's a favored group, it's usually white. And there's a disparity, usually people of color, and we need to close that disparity. That's true but it's also extremely limited for two reasons. One, and the book talks about this, there are the elites that are not actually in that equation. And he talks about the history of race, and the history of whiteness. And this whiteness came on being in the new world. The elites didn't consider themselves white. Whites we're the middle stratum. They were the power brokers who were using whiteness to do some other work, like some class work and other work. When we focus just on disparities, again we're actually normalizing what whites have. And so there's a thread in your book in which you basically say that's not good enough. And equity actually, I think, puts us back to sleep. Instead of saying what do we all deserve as humans? Now I can tell you. I grew up, I'm six of nine. There were days when we didn't have enough food. There were times when I had holes in my shoes. If I could give the world a gift, it would be a gift to have a family like I had. And when I look around and frankly, at many of my not only black friends and family, but also my white friends, I don't see many families like that. And what I'm saying is that the capacity to create a space where we embrace each other's full humanness, which I don't think shows up that often in the white community. I think whiteness is actually organized around deep dislocation and fear, and I'm not chasing that. And the last thing I'll say, and I don't want to be a spoiler for the book. Kendi talks about his journey of actually hating white people, and then realizing that that's racist itself, and the white people themselves are suffering. And many of you I know are involved in the racial justice, social justice movement. And it has to be a movement, which I think is centered on the people who suffered most, but it's inclusive of everybody, it's inclusive of everybody. This is not a people of color movement. This is not a black movement. This is a human movement, where people color and blacks play a critical role. So I think the disparity question can actually cause us to sort of ignore. I was working in Dayton, Ohio and they had a 10 year plan to eliminate the gaps between blacks and whites, for whole bunch of indicators, health, others. And after 10 years the gap had essentially gone away. Unemployment, the gap had gone away. And it wasn't because blacks were more employed. It was because whites had actually slipped. If you look at the suicide rate among black men and white men in the United States, they're essentially the same now. But it's not because black men aren't still killing themselves. It's because white men have learned how to kill themselves more effectively. That's not what we after, we want to go beyond that. And so I just want to put that out that. Even as we pay attention to those disparities, we don't say the absence of disparities means the racial work is done, nor do we say we achieved that goal. So what is it we really trying to achieve? We're trying to achieve a world where we all belong, and where we can care about each other through institutions, policies, practice, and our interpersonal, and to imagine that, and to affirmatively not just oppose structures and policies, but affirmatively to promote the structures and policies that take us to where we want to go.
Alice Y. Hom: We should probably have some examples to share of how that's happening right now. What are some bright spots of anti-racist work? What are some movements that we should know about? What are some, Lateefah you know the Bay Area region quite well. john, you just came back from London so you could talk about national, international. Ibram you're on a book tour, are you seeing bright spots in the places that you're going to?
Ibram X. Kendi: I do think that, I remember when I first started talking about this book. And from the beginning we had the term, we thought that sort of How to be an Antiracist was gonna be the title. And we started talking about that title with people. And initially people were like, there's no way people are gonna buy the book, not buy a book which on the cover it says How to be an Anti-racist. A month later on The New York Times bestseller list, obviously there's there's a segment of Americans, and that's of all races, who are willing to self reflect, who are serious about creating this sort of nation, not only of equity, but as Professor powell stated, a nation of belonging, and justice, and freedom. And I've seen that, and I'm seeing that through traveling across the country in people who've been expressing, and been looking in the mirror. I mean obviously efforts to create universal health care. For me, obviously it's deeply personal to me. If I didn't have healthcare, health insurance. I wouldn't necessarily be here right now. Obviously the movements against police violence and mass incarceration, and even mass deportation. Obviously the beginning recognition of something that finally people are calling white supremacist domestic terrorism, which apparently has been happening in this country since we arrived in 1619. And 400 years later we're finally able to actually call a bird a bird. I think we should acknowledge that. And so I think that there are movements. There are shiftings of narratives. And there are individual people and even institutions that are reflecting and seeking the change. And those are the types of things that give me hope.
Lateefah Simon: You just made me think about a sister that I'd met. She's Latinx and she didn't speak a word of Spanish until a couple of years ago, and she's a lawyer. She was actually trained here and decided that she needed to set up an office, learn Spanish, and fight for her people. These movements are moving. They're moving all over the world and sort of denouncing global white supremacy, and capitalism as it exists. I think what's so interesting being at this event that is sponsored by Northern California Grant Makers. Folks like what is that? It's an organization that is bringing together grant makers, institutions that have money to give. Many of these institutions, like the one that I work for, Akonadi Foundation, we are explicitly anti-racist in our strategies. What we're doing is funding institutions, and warriors, folks who literally are laying their bodies on the line to get into the marrow of racist institutions, and to change policy and practice. And not only are we from that vantage point of being in philanthropy, able to do that work and giving resource where it is due. We're also in a position where we're able to challenge our own sector. Philanthropy is not justice, it is altruism unless you are connecting with folks, and deeply investing in deep leadership around these issues, folks who actually have a vision. So what I love Professor powell, is he pushes us to think about this notion and this lexicon of belonging. So everything is wrong. Well what is it going to take to make it right? So this institution is training folks, hopefully, who will be the best civil rights lawyers. And they'll work themselves out of jobs because we'll create institutions that don't tolerate bigoted assholes. We are training folks, right, to be amazing practitioners in social work, so we're not just looking at a black mother in the worst moment of her life, and going to break the most important covenant between a mother and a child, the most sacred thing that we're going to push systems to do right by that mother. This institution can do work to train the next generation and the current generation of anti-racist freedom fighters. You just don't have to work for an NGO to be all up in this fight for justice. Every single place that you enter and that you are at, we're in a fight every day, from the Starbucks to your, to your doctor's office. Who's getting treated with dignity and how are you standing up for folks who are literally being disrespected in your face? Funding policy work is amazing, funding organizing work is amazing. And at the same time when we see jails being closed, because they are, when we see what happened in the state assembly yesterday, two days ago when some amazing bills were passed that are trying to restore, not only rent control, but humanization of young people who are being separated from their parents. I mean we have folks in power now who are trying to do the right thing. Our Governor wants to end the juvenile justice practice as it currently exists in this country. But y'all gonna have to figure out how to get it done human rights folks, like let's figure it out. Belonging requires us to go beyond stopping the bleeding, to creating real conditions that equally humanize people. You talk about in the book we, like how do you actually become an anti-racist? You struggle and you tussle with your own description of who is worthy, and who is not. You make us do that work. And so we have a lot, this movement has a lot of examples of how we're getting it right. But we're getting it right by saying what we don't want. But it's as important to put as much fuel and resource to radically envisioning a Berkeley that is 13% black. That ain't even enough, to radically envisioning anti-discrimination policies that really make sense. To make sure that kids don't belong in cages for stealing cellphones. We have so much work to do but we have to figure out the pattern and practice to make it right. And both of your frames provide a superior roadmap for all of our activism, thank you.
john a. powell: So I hope I'm not talking out of school, but we we're in the green room in the back and we're getting ready. And Lateefah was saying I'm shy. She's still back there, this woman came out instead. There is a lot of good stuff happening, not enough but a lot, and we do need to tell those stories. Because it is easy to become despondent. And despondent actually the emotions of the right wing. Because when people don't participate, when people don't not let's share their power individually and collectively, then we don't actually step out and make changes. So we need to actually not only do that, but even though it's not complete, we need to celebrate when things go right. So let me give you a couple of examples. So you know here in California a few years ago, they reduced four felonies to misdemeanors, and it affected almost two million people who no longer had felony convictions, that's a big deal. Akonadi was involved in supporting that. And it's not perfect, very few things are. But it's a big deal. We worked with a group in Florida that in this last election cycle enfranchised 1.4 million people who had been released from prison. Disproportionate number of them being black and Latino, but we brought together the black, the Latino, the white community and we talked about, they talked about this larger we. That's the largest enfranchisement in American history since 1920 when women got the right to vote. The Republican legislature in Florida, in their infinite wisdom, they decided okay you just passed a constitutional amendment that everyone thought couldn't pass, because you needed 60% of the votes in a red state. They got 65% of the vote, a million more votes than anyone running for state office. So people came out, and black couldn't do it by themselves, Latinos couldn't do it by themselves, they had to come together. So then the Republican legislature in it's infinite wisdom of welcoming these people back into our collective body, said yes but you know what, you women in prison, you were running up some bills, because they charge people for being a prison. And so they said until you pay your fines, you still can't vote. And the fines come to 1.1 billion dollars. What's been suggested is that for about five or six million dollars they can take care of about 60% of the fines. I'm saying that because when you talk about chess. So even when we win they still make a move. And their move is very explicit. We don't want you to be part of the polity. We don't want you to vote. We not recognizing that you're a full citizen. So they're all this examples. Boston just passed a bill, it might have been Massachusetts, but no it's Boston, that every child born in Boston gets 1000 dollars placed into their bank account. By the time they're 18, that will have accrued to about 70,000 dollars, disproportionate black. So people like doing things. Tomorrow I'm giving a talk to 200 government officials for something called GARE, Government Alliance for Racial Equity. And I want to suggest that all of you think about this, because what we're doing with governments all around the country, Berkeley, San Francisco, LA, New York is helping to think affirmatively about what they should be doing to make belonging and equity real, not just removing barriers, what can they affirmatively do? And they're hungry, they're hungry, not perfect. They all work within institutional constraints. But they're trying to do stuff. So there's a lot of positive stuff out there. And your involvement in this, not just in your personal life, put in your neighbors life, and the people who live across town is really important.
Alice Y. Ham: One thing that I was thrilled by in your book was the historian in me, you in your gender chapter. You bring in the Combahee River Collective Statement, and you acknowledge black lesbian feminists. That's not really the case when you talk about race. When you read books about race, you just read books about race, you don't read things about sexism, you don't read things about classism, you don't read thinks about homophobia. But your book brought all that up. You talk about how everyone is affected by racist ideas, not just people of color. You extend that to sexism as affecting people of all genders, not just women. And homophobia to people of all sexualities not just queer people. Could all of you talk about how everyone benefits when we are anti-racist, with an intersectional lens? And john perhaps you're arguing and belonging framework is useful to talk about here.
john a. powell: So thanks Alice. I think that's so obviously true. I mean first of all most of us are in, what's happening in California which you may know is that family formations in California are now formed again to place where the majority of families actually have someone of a different race in the family, or different race and ethnicity. It's already true in Hawaii. And it will soon be true in California. And everybody, if you look in your closets, have someone who's gay, has someone who's straight, has someone, everybody, everyone has someone in the family. Just show of hands, how many you have family members who are disabled? Raise your hands. Look around, the majority people raising, we're talking about not somebody out there, we're talking about our own families. And so how do we actually live that work in a meaningful way? It requires work, and sometime it's painful work. The other place I would extend it, is the Earth itself. And I think about Standing Rock. And I think about we have to not only claim, if we are gonna claim our full humanity, we have to claim our relationship with the Earth and with each other. I just flew back like I said, and I actually felt bad flying because I know that flying is not good for the Earth. It's not good for me either. But I think if we can actually change they way we think about self interest, because ourselves our social, ourselves are in relationship to each other. So when I claim my multiple selves, when I claim. Just one more footnote. My father's a Christian minister. He's not doing much preaching anymore but he's still a Christian Minister. And actually I grew up in a Christian household, sort of like you. And when I was 10 years old, maybe 11 I was reading a lot, reading about things happening all over the world. And I stumbled across some readings about China. And at the time they were about a billion Chinese. And the doctrine in my father's Church was that unless you were baptized and accept Jesus you're going to Hell. And so we're in church one Sunday morning. And they always end the church with this question? Does anyone have any questions, stand and ask your question. And it didn't occur to me that in the 11 years that I had been in that church, no one had stood. But I stood up. I remember, it was Brother Manuel that was preaching. And it was like And I said Brother Manuel, what's gonna happen to the Chinese? And he said what? This is Detroit. In the 1950's we hadn't seen many Chinese. I won't tell you the whole story, but the gist of it is they couldn't answer the question. And so what they left me with was the Chinese, because they had not accepted Jesus we're gonna go to Hell. And I believe that, I believe very much in Hell. I believe very much in Jesus and God. But I never went back to church after that. And it created this rift in my family the took years to heal, it's finally healed. And my brothers and sisters like, fool what are you doing talking about Chinese? So I think, and I'd like to think that that experience, and those like that, opened up something in me. And I have been to China now a few times. But the point is that if we can actually connect with those different aspects of ourselves, those different aspect of ourselves, then not only do we expand who we are, but we have a chance of actually creating a world in which we all belong.
Lateefah Simon: I felt that so deeply. My daughter, her grandma goes to one of those churches. She came back last week and asked me, Mom do dogs sin? And I was like no baby, dogs don't sin and neither do we, we're good. Don't listen to everything Grandma tell you. You know all that other stuff you're hearing. I was like dogs? That's against, it's ontological. She's smart, she's eight and living in this movement. But strangely enough when we talk about faith, Pastor Michael McBride, anybody know Pastor Michael McBride? He's right, literally down the way, his church is called The Way, and he's a radical theologian. And he talks about the gospel of freedom is big enough for us all, and that we center ourselves in it. If you can't see the amazing humanness, the gloriousness, the magic in God in a black trans woman, you have no place in a freedom movement. You gotta get there. If you can't see that sister as the most bold and courageous person, deserving of the most humanity, how you call yourself, forget progressive, how you call yourself human? Everyone's not there yet. But that's where we got a push folks, to see folks and all that they are, and how courageous that they are for standing in spaces that we would never have the courage to stand in. Our movement and we lift up Kimberle Crenshaw, she's brilliant, she's amazing but she always tells us. And I actually learned this at Mills, Professor Motts told me you must think not in the double consciousness. You must think in the quadruple consciousness that we come to these places with a story and an experience that's political, that has an economic framework, that has a historical, social, and spiritual framework. We cannot discount, we've been intersectional before Kimberle was alive, and thank God she came to give us a frame like a saint. But we don't have the luxury to dehumanize folks who are in the fight of their lives for their own humanity. When we do that, we become worse than the oppressor.
Ibram X. Kendi: So I think one of the things that I realized about how I defined the terms racist and anti-racist, I didn't even realize this until finishing the book. You know you finish something you're like oh man I wish I'd put that in there. And it was this, I realized that we commonly center, we commonly are very perpetrator centered in using and defining the term racist. And we're perpetrator, as opposed to victim centered. Let me give an example. If someone is preying on black women, people respond to it differently if the perpetrator is a black male than if it's a white male. If it's a white male it's understood as a racial issue. If it's a black male it's understood as a gender issue. Even though that those black women are both racialized and gendered. And so I think that what's critical for us to do, is for us to fundamentally focus on the victims. What is being said about this group? What is being done about this group? And that then determines whether the person is racist. It doesn't really matter. And so me, when I entered graduate school, as I talk about in the book, I believed that black people couldn't be racist. I believed that I was not racist. But I thought that there was something deeply wrong with black women. And not women, not white women, but black women. And on the same token, when I entered into graduate school I thought that there was something deeply wrong with black queer community. Not queer people, even though I did think there was something wrong queer people too. But I specifically thought that there was something wrong with black queer people. And again, because I was a black male, I didn't even understand how I could essentially be racist. Even though I'm not saying there's something wrong with women, I'm saying something wrong with black women. Even though I wasn't thinking about something being wrong with queer people, I was thinking there was something wrong with black queer people. And so for me, since I was so perpetrator centered, and because I had consumed ideas by white people about black women, as black men and other groups have done since the beginning of this country. I didn't even see the way in which I had been duped. I had been made into a fool. I had been essentially disconnected from the very people who made me. And it wasn't until these two queer black women, who pretty much dominated. And I use dominated in a positive sense. And what I mean by dominated, like the discourse, the graduate student discourse. They were just not going to allow somebody like me to say anything. And the fortunate thing is I noticed that before I said anything. Because I saw what they said to other folk when they came at them and denigrated black women, when they denigrated black lesbians, when they denigrated black transgender women. And they came for those people. And when I say came, they didn't come for them in this sort of aggressive mean way, even though it felt that way to the person, and it felt that way to me, I felt like I was being attacked when they were talking like this. And so for me watching that, watching and witnessing that, I did not want to be on the other side of that, I just didn't. And for those of you who may know Kaila Story and Yaba Blay, the two women I'm talking about, you'll know why. And so for me I decided that I wanted to actually learn, and read up all of those black feminist writers, all those black queer writers they were talking about, they were citing. And so, I mean they changed my life. Because there's no way, even though I imagine grad school and I'm here for the people. I'm a radical, and I'm about black liberation. No I wasn't about black liberation. I was about black male liberation. I was about black heterosexual liberation. And that's not the black community. And I had to be confronted with that fact. I had to be confronted with anytime we say there's anything wrong with a particular racial group we're being racist, and then we're not seeing, for instance, disparities between black men and black women. Just like we're not seeing disparities between black women and white women. Because we're imagining that those disparities are normal. Because there's something wrong with black women. And so we're only ending up just fighting disparities or inequities between people in general, or between male groups. And so for me, like I said they changed my life. And they they provided me with an intersectional perspective, and I would argue that you cannot truly be an anti-racist if you're not a feminist. This isn't necessarily my area. I don't feel as comfortable saying this. But I would surmise you can't be a feminist unless you're an anti-racist. And to truly sort of be about gay liberation, about the liberation of transgender black women who are literally experiencing a genocide right now. We have to recognize that anytime we're blaming those transgender women for their own deaths, that's no different than people blaming Michael Brown for his own death. Even though people separate the two, there's no separation. And then we don't see that many of the people who are actually killing these black transgender women are other black people. And we don't understand the way in which they're targeting black transgender women, not white transgender women. And how this is as much a racial issue as it is an issue of transphobia, because it's their intersection. And so I, of course, recognized that. And that's why the book, follow an intersectional theory. And there was no way I was gonna be able to write this book, and even strive to be anti-racist without speaking about it from an intersectional perspective.
Alice Y. Hom: Thank you. I have a stack of questions from the audience, so I'm gonna go to that. And the very first one is not a question, well it's a question, but it it asks about Native acknowledgement and indigenous people. And we just have to acknowledge we made a mistake. We did not give a land acknowledgement at the beginning. We did not say that UC Berkeley was built on stolen land. We did not say that it was built on racial violence or white supremacy, and enslavement began in 1492. So we were wrong, we are on Ohlone land. I'm sorry that we didn't do this. And I'm sorry that the person who wrote it had to do that and make us remember again. So that's a part of our growth and learning once again. I think because we're at UC Berkeley there's a lot of questions about education. Let me, not that you're only ones who think about education because I think you think about education a lot too. What are your thoughts about public schools in black neighborhoods where black parents don't send their kids to, I think this is what it means, where parents don't want to send their kids? I'm just gonna read a whole bunch. A rising freshman who wants advice on how to spread anti-racist ideas. And how can we hold higher education to anti-racist thinking? Why don't we just do that for now?
Ibram X. Kendi: I'll start, I don't have any of the answers. I have some thoughts, and I only have one thought. This question, I love this question because whoever posed the question also has to read this book. And also john's work as well. But what's important, so you don't blame that black parent for the disinvestment of schools in their communities. We will overthrow Prop 13 in our lifetime. We will fund schools in our lifetime. We will train black and brown teachers in our lifetime. We will pay them three times the amount that they are getting paid now to incentivize them to be in schools and teach children that look like them. We know statistically and it's so important, not just how they go to college, but the fact that you see yourself in someone who is educating you. As a black parent I have two babies. And I have read so much about that very question. Don't ask me about where I'm sending my kids. Ask the white parent who, listen, hold on. The nature of being a good parent is how far out of proximity you are to black children. Don't ask me about not wanting to send my child to a divested school with not good plumbing, because of laws that have been deeply ingrained in this here county. You ask the white parent who's going to do everything possible to be in a school void of black young bodies. And I deal with that question every single day. Your proximity to being a good parent is how far you are away from black families and black children. We have to really push back on this notion that black parents aren't doing their jobs. I see them every day including my own on the bus with backpacks. I seen the schools, they have police with loaded guns in third grade classrooms, more cops than counselors. You would never see a police officer in a Piedmont Middle School, you would never see that. As long as we dehumanize black mothers for doing everything that they can in one of the craziest places to live in this country, in the world. They're holding on, their humanity it's central to all of your liberation, to all of our liberation. So I want, that's personal, us to readjust our frame blaming the black mother, and not challenging the school board who refuses to equalize the schools. Let's check ourselves.
Alice Y. Hom: I want to try to get through as many questions from the audience as possible. This is a question about capitalism. Do you believe that capitalism is fundamentally racist, or is it possible to have anti-racist capitalist policies? There's a chapter on this so, but in a thumbnail.
Ibram X. Kendi: Sure. In How to be, I describe racism and capitalism as the conjoined twins, so the same body, two different faces, two different personalities. And to this question of can you have anti-racist capitalist policies. So what could happen is we could reduce or eliminate inequities between white elites and black elites, between the black poor and the white poor, and between white working people, and black working people, and Latinx working people, and Asian and Native working people. But then you would still have these classes, in other words you'd still have black elites and the black poor. And the black elites would be justifying their class position based on racist ideas about the black poor. I don't think people recognize that. The way in which people, even white elites imagine that they are healthy, they are good, and poor people are trash. Poor white people are trash. I don't think we even imagine the way in which ideas to justify class position are fundamentally racialized. So if we eliminate, for instance, disparities as stated between the races in the classes, we're not going to eliminate the classes themselves, which of course are a function of capitalism. And so I don't know how someone can truly be anti-racist and a supporter of capitalism.
Alice Y. Hom: Any comments about the capitalism that you two want to speak to?
john a. powell: I'll make a couple of comments. So two things, I think race and racism, like capital and capitalism is actually multiple concepts, it's not a single concept. And Professor Kendi's admonition that we should try to be careful with that language. You have very different expressions of capitalism around the world. And what we actually are most familiar with is US, or Anglo-American capitalism. We actually don't know enough about other forms of capitalism to actually answer that question in a serious way. And I also say that that's somewhat true even in terms of race. Malcolm X said race is like a Cadillac, it's a new one every year. Other people that compare racism to cancer. And as you know cancer is not a disease, there are hundreds of different diseases which we all call cancer. And it's not a small thing because the intervention and treatment is actually different with those different things. So I think that a broad stroke I would agree, but I also think we have to be careful, and not just have groupthink. When you read Professor Kendi's book he actually talks about interrogating his own beliefs, and challenging his own beliefs. And I think frankly sometimes we actually don't do that. So I would say, we don't know. In the United States probably not, because in the United States capitalism as it grew up, developed in the United States was completely bound up with racism, completely bound up. That wasn't exactly the same all over the rest of the world. But the US form of capitalism is different than the Swedish form of capitalism, is different than the Canadian form of capitalism, is different than the Japanese form of capitalism. So when we talk about capitalism, are you talking about the US expression of it or something else?
Alice Y. Hom: There are a couple of questions about policy. How do we organize to break key specific institutional barriers to racial justice, like gun violence? And then they've some bullet points, specific policies, raising consciousness. There's another question, how do we fight the racist laws like gerrymandering, redlining, war on drugs, et cetera? How do we stop special interest racist groups such as the NRA from influencing our democracy? So that's a lot right there, so maybe. Pick the one that you would like to talk to.
Lateefah Simon: There's a lot of good movement on every single one of those issues happening regionally, statewide, and nationally. I encourage folks. Everyone wants to start their own organization. There's a real good work going on right now literally in every single, every single issue that you've laid out, there are folks who are thinking, and moving, and sacrificing to push policy. We know that policy only actually works when you have a ground base of movement on the ground, holding those folks accountable once those policies are passed. I believe so deeply that we'll get there again. Like King did say maybe not in our lifetime. But we're moving, we are moving. And there are good good folks who are in leadership positions who you have put into office. And there are folks who are awful, and you must get them out, that's number one. Number two, find the organizations that are moving, that are moving, that are moving. You can find them on this campus. People are working in these spaces and power can be disassembled exactly how it was built.
john a. powell: I agree, just two things. I think my class might be here because I'm supposed to be in class. And in case you hadn't noticed, I am. Two things, we actually in the class last week we studied voting rights. And some of you may not know this history. But there was a period of time where the courts would strike down something that these racist days we're doing, like a poll tax, literacy tests, white only primaries. And every time they'd strike something down the legislation would come back with something else. And they could never keep up. And in some ways that's how I think about many policies. And so what the Voting Rights Act did was basically say you can't change a policy unless you get pre-clearance. You have to come and show us that your policy is not gonna have a negative effect on black votes. We called it pre-clearance, what the Supreme Court just struck down. But my point is that they were saying look we know you can game us, so we could change the way we fund schools. We could change this, we could change that, and you gotta come back with something else. So how to get ahead of it, so think more affirmatively. And really what we're saying is that, if we make the policy process, the political process one. I'll just say one other thing which is I just, I don't think anyone's gonna do this. There's a case now about affirmative action at Harvard. Has anyone heard this? Okay, and the people who funded it heard the same, frankly white supremacists who funded Amy Fisher and a series of cases down in Texas. This time though they funded some Asians, And so that's like Asians, those blacks and Latinos. And we don't know what's gonna happen. But you don't want to Supreme Court to mess with this case. What I've been wondering is look, this is Harvard. What they're saying is that they're turning away qualified Asians, in favor of maybe blacks who are qualified but maybe not quite as qualified. And they are turning away qualified Asians, but they're also turn away qualified blacks. And so I wonder if you have a system where you say there's 100,000 students who are qualified to go to Berkeley, and we only have slots for five or 10, we're creating an artificial scarcity. And then those five or 10 feel great, and the rest of people are fighting those five or 10. Instead of saying why isn't it the responsibility of Berkeley, of Harvard, of UCLA to actually build enough school and slots so that all the students who are qualified can go? I think in the last 20 years we've built one additional campus at Berkeley, even though the California populace has exploded. And we've built nine prisons. So why doesn't someone say, why do we have this false scarcity? This is not a contest between us and Asians, or us and blacks and Latinos, this is scarcity. And then they're watching us fight. So I think we can actually do this much better if we think about it proactively, if we think about what kind of society we want, and if we actually put some prophylactics on those who say you can't change the policy unless you can show, you can't tear down a building unless you show that the spotted owl is gonna be safe. But you can tear down a community without any look at seeing if the black and latino community is gonna be safe.
Alice Y. Hom: This round is going to, they're connected, and it's gonna be the last one from the audience. One is anti-racist exhaustion. I'm tired of being politically diplomatic, it's exhausting. Being anti-racist is to be alone. What is the best way to garner support and mitigate risk? Another question is healing. How do we begin to heal when so much of America doesn't even want to engage in a conversation? And the next one I think it's kind of connected. It's called a feared mistake. Can you talk about the roles of mistake? People so often do not take action given fear of mistake on not being perfectly anti-racist.
Ibram X. Kendi: So I think in my talk one of the things I was trying to emphasize is that an anti-racist is recognizing that they're going to constantly make mistakes. The difference though is an anti-racist will admit the mistakes, and she can try of course to not do them again, all the while knowing they're human. So they'll probably make that mistake again. While a racist will of course deny that they made the mistake to begin with, and thereby continuously make it, and then continually deny that they're making it. And so I think that mistakes are normal, we're human. The question is always, when we make those mistakes how do we respond? And that's not just a question of being an anti-racist or racist. That's a question for Humanity, for with anything. When we make a mistake how do we respond? And those who are constantly growing and striving to be a better form of themselves are constantly recognizing and admitting their mistakes, and constantly seeking to be better for them. And so I think that we should take the pressure off of our backs to essentially be perfect. But we should simultaneously do that for other people. And so an anti-racist doesn't just recognize that they're gonna make mistakes. They're gonna allow other people to make mistakes. And again the question is not whether they made the mistake. The question is what they do after the mistake that's gonna then determine how we see them. And so for me, because of the work I do people regularly say things that are racist to me. And I don't get upset, or angry at that. But when I point that out, and then the person denies that what they just said was racist, okay then, depending on, and so it's a different type of thing. And I think we have to allow people to make mistakes. And then with some people, I allow them to make multiple mistakes. And part of it is, is it the type of person who we are seeking to sort of help? And what I mean by help, help nurture in the way others have nurtured us. And if it's that type of person, and we've made that decision, then that means we have to allow that person to constantly make mistakes. And I think that's part of being an anti-racist. And what that means is we cannot get exhausted at the regularity of our mistakes, and the mistakes of people around us, because we should take that for granted, we should expect it. We should expect, one of the things that I'm surprised about with people is with people who claim that they are woke. People who claim that, yeah you know, we're living in a world of global white supremacy. I mean I didn't mean to use that tone. But everybody knows what I'm saying, somebody who recognizes and talks about the persistence and the pervasiveness of racism. They say they see this and recognize this. But then when racism shows itself they're shocked. They're like oh my God, what the heck, there's a racist. Oh my God I'm so hurt, I feel so offended, this is hard. I mean I'm not trying to make fun of anyone. But seriously, either we recognize that racism is persistent, and pervasive, and predominant, and in doing so when it shows itself we are not surprised, we are not hurt. We, of course, see a sense of mission for us to challenge that. And so I think that that's what it truly, when you we truly believe that this nation is, that we truly have metastatic cancer, when we see those symptoms within ourselves, within the nation, we're not going to be surprised. And I think that we have to get to that point. And that's why I'm deeply in this work, and I can still smile, because I recognize that I'm gonna see ugly racism every day. And it's not gonna take away my joy.
Lateefah Simon: So Dr. Kendi I need to take that master class. Because what I find is I am so exhausted. Maybe I just need a nap, but I, you just get. Did you just say that to me again? Or did you ask to touch my baby's hair? I mean like this is every day, it's every day from sort of that micro to the macro. And I think the question coming from the audience, why you give us such medicine today. It is a reflection that as long as we are committing ourselves to living this life on this land we're going to confront racism every single day. And the sophistication in our reaction, our study. But also I also hear you say if we're really committed to something so much bigger than ourselves, we have to surround ourselves with people who love us, and who are going to allow us to learn. And we need to be committed to a learning community, where teaching and learning are expected. And instead of buying somebody a drink, maybe we need to be buying people books, and vice versa. We need to be, I hear that and I thank you for that. Because the exhaustion lies often times. My boss, Quinn Delaney, she talks all the time about running and the practice of it, and how hard it is. But crossing the finish line requires pattern, practice, love, forgiveness. And I think that this marathon of giving to a place of healing and belonging requires, not the purest thinking, but communities that we decide to be in that are about us being our best selves, that about that are about us making some of the worst mistakes, and accepting us, and believing deeply in redemption. On college campuses, and oftentimes in intellectual communities, the folks who are oftentimes in leadership of these progressive circles, have not yet found their own love. And they're struggling. And they're struggling, and that is where that cancer culture comes from real leaders who are going to send their people to good places, love, forgive, and teach that we have to get there. So thank you for that.
Ibram X. Kendi: And if I can just say really quick. One thing about, I mentioned Yaba and Kaila earlier. And I mentioned how when I entered graduate school that I was a racist, sexist, homophobe. And they were two queer black women who did not stand for that, but they still took me under their wing. They befriended me. And they befriended me because they saw something in me I didn't see in myself. And they decided that they were going to be loving to me. And that they were gonna allow me to make mistakes. And they were gonna allow me to grow. And so I owe them everything that I am as a result of their ability to take in someone like me into their loving arms. And I think that's what we have to do.
john a. powell: And just one thing that I want. I know we're out of time now, but I think this is so important. The ability to make mistakes, to be held in love. And I think the culture that we're in right now, we oftentimes think it's better to call someone out than to call them in. And we actually score points, especially on Twitter and Facebook. And so we make it very dangerous to say something. Because even if we are trying, often times there's a community that's like waiting for you to make a slip. And there's a gotcha. And I'm not saying we give people a pass. But if people are working, work with them. So that's one thing, how do we actually create a space where we're gonna hold each other accountable but we're gonna hold each, other we're gonna love each other, we're gonna care about each other. You belong in this community and part of the thing, you will make mistakes but you also will grow. Now if you make the same mistake today that you made yesterday, and the day before that, then that's a different question. So make new mistakes. But the last thing I want to say on this is that even when people make mistakes, and even if they’re people that you love and care about, I guess when I was just, and Professor Kendi you did this in your book and so I want to push this on this. It's the ability to actually be hurt. If someone disappoints, it's hurt. It could be little things, like my cousin didn't call me on my birthday. I'm fine, but there's a little twinge, that's okay. So the ability to be vulnerable is okay. And the very last thing is to find and tell those spaces of joy. So sometimes we do this work, we forget to actually do the joyous thing and then celebrate it. Instead we get together it's like, you know what happened to me yesterday? Oh did that happen to you? Something worse happened to me. And then we're just going like, oh man. Instead of saying, you know something really wonderful happen to me today. And again you talked about this in your book, is that if you go over a day, if you go over life, there bad things that have happened. But there are a lot of beautiful things that are happening. So to lift those up, to lean in those, to be deliberate about that, and to celebrate, to celebrate our joys even while we're in the struggle.
Alice Y. Hom: Thank you. I think that's the perfect way to end our community, connection, love, joy. Let's thank our panelists one more time. Also to Borealis Philanthropy, the Haas Institute for Fair and Inclusive Society, and Northern California Grantmakers. We thank you for attending, you're our next hope. So thank you very much for being here. Book sales, if they haven't been sold out, they should still be happening outside in the lobby, thank you.