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How to be an ANTI-RACIST, Ibram X. Kendi

Quotes from Ibram X. Keni's new bookHow to Be an Anti Racist

"What's the problem with being "not racist"? It is a claim that signifies neutrality...The opposite of "racist" isn't "not racist." It is "anti-racist." What's the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an antiracist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist...It is descriptive, and the only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it- and then dismantle it. The attempt to turn this usefully descriptive term into an almost unusable slur is, of course, designed to do the oppsoite: to free us into inaction." (Keni, 2019, 9)

"To be antiracist is to set lucid definitions of racism/antiracism, racist/antiracist policies, racist/antiracist ideas, racist/antiracist people. To be a racist is to constantly redefine racist in a way that exonerates one's changing policies, ideas, and personhood." (Keni, 2019, 17)

"Racial inequality is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing. Here's an example of racial inequality: 71 percent of White families lived in owner-occupied homes in 2014, compared to 45 percent of Latinx families and 41 percent of Black families. Racial equty is when two or more racial groups are standing on a relatively equal footing. An example of racial equity would be if there were relatively equitable percentages of all three racial groups living in owner-occupied homes in the forites, seventies, or, better, nineties." (Keni, 2019, 18)

"A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups. An antiracist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial equity between racial groups...Racist policies have been described by other terms: "institutional racism," "structural racism," and "systemic racism," for instance. But those are vaguer terms than "racist policy." When I use them I find myself having to immediately explain what they mean. "Racist policy" is more tangible and exacting, and more likely to be immediately understood by people, including its victims, who may not hae hte benefit of extensive fluency in racial terms...Racism itself is institutional, structural, and systemic." (Keni, 2019, 18)

We must begin to speak, communicate clearly in order to move dialogue out of the weeds and into the air. 

How can communities, teams, organizations, leaders begin to be straight forward about racist policies that effect the marginalized in our communities day in and day out?

To speak openly is a beginning step to change. 

Where do we want change to go? What are we afraid of?

Let us speak about reparations???


Video of Ibram X. Kendi introducing the main themes behind his new book:

Purchase Ibram X. Kendi's book!


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  • Study: Racism shortens lives and hurts health of blacks by promotin..., by Dr. April Thames, Associate Professor, Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

    I've seen plenty of papers over the years talking about how toxic stress shortens life and leads to more/worse disease, and thus being on the receiving end of race-based aggression/rage/hate all your life would naturally have a detrimental physical effect. Part of the SDoHW. Perhaps Dr. Thames would join us in a discussion.

    Study: Racism shortens lives and hurts health of blacks by promoting genes that lead to inflammatio…
    The recent death of Elijah Cummings at age 68 underscores a disturbing statistic: black men die, on average, five years younger than white men. A stu…
  • The National Education Association realeased a broader more incompasssing discussion surronding this topic.

    "Racial justice is the systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and
    outcomes for all. Racial justice — or racial equity — goes beyond “anti-racism.” It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain
    racial equity through proactive and preventative measures."
  • I'd like us to plan an online convening to talk more about this topic during one of our upcoming calls.  Anyone interested in helping plan? 

    • I'd be happy to help think about how this conversation can evolve.

      • awesome. I have some thinkers in mind who would be amazing....hopefully theyll be open to it/available 

  • Anti-racist work is fundamental to interoperability--when we reach full i/o, our inherently racist systems are moved toward equity. Really excited SOCI is engaged in anti-racist action!

    • In what way do you think that interoperability, in and of itself, move us toward equity?

      I actually suspect the opposite: that interoperability might actually (unintentionally) amplify racist patterns and exacerbate racist outcomes. 

      See Virginia Eubanks' recent work for troubling examples of this. 

      If we're taking Kendi's message seriously, we need to think about how to protect communities against the potential harms that can come from promoting interoperability in a racist world. I posted a thread here about this

      It's not to say we shouldn't promote interoperability, but I think anticipating the potentially harmful outcomes that can come from it, and designing specifically to mitigate those outcomes, is as important as imagining potential good outcomes. And if we are taking Kendi seriously, it's probably more important. 

      • I look forward to reading your thread and the other resource you provided--thank you. I may be off-base on this as I'm new to interoperability. My thinking was that i/o allows the sharing of data and information that, without i/o, only the wealthy could manage. They could "buy" interoperability: Could purchase a health care manager that ensured health records were exchanged, could buy educational consultants that ensured their child's educational and related records were appropriately shared. Low-income people rarely have continuity of care, often must make due with fragmented service, etc.--and as we know, in America, many folks who are low-income are also people of color.

        I definitely share your view that anticipating what might go wrong as well as what benefits a new system might provide is critical to any change. I'm sure those conversations are taking place; I feel strongly we should talk specifically about race equity in the context of i/o and should involve people directly affected by such systems. I'm white and well-intentioned, but we need to hear from people of color and especially people of color who are working within the i/o field to mitigate its negative effects on people of color. 

        Looking forward to continuing this conversation around racial equity!

        • I think what you're suggesting (in terms of health information being easier to access for low-income people, and interoperability leading to better care coordination) is certainly plausible, and that's why I'm doing this work! However, interoperability is also certainly not sufficient (and I'm not even sure if it's strictly necessary in all cases) to achieve those outcomes. 

          So instead of thinking about what *could* happen assuming other circumstances outside of the scope of the conversation, think about what will happen assuming the narrow objectives of interoperability are attained: more data about vulnerable people flowing more easily among systems used by institutions that make various kinds of interventions in people's lives (as individuals or groups). Given that, today, such institutions often yield racist outcomes (breaking up families, systematic marginalization, etc) then more data flowing through these systems without other measures to govern the use of that data can reasonably be expected to amplify racist outcomes. 

          To your last point, which i think is really correct and critical: when I've been in conversations about health information exchange with people of color – especially women, and especially women of color who work as social workers and care providers – and they hear about the prospect of their clients' data being easier to access by, say, the police or child welfare or what have you, they do not tend to assume that equitable outcomes will ensue. Quite the opposite.

          Yet they're not the ones on stage in the conferences, or spending their time in these working groups. So no i don't think we should assume "those conversations" are taking place! (Where would they be taking place, if not here?)

          • The fact is that the entire capitalist culture of the U.S is based on our history of slavery. A history that has persists and will continue to as long as - material planned obsolescence, health insurance (instead of health care and wellness), red lining, union breaking work structures and the widespread denial of what the U.S is built on. 

            I have no idea how every system of the U.S will change. They are not build to prevention and wellness, they are built for profiting off the poor, people of color, migrants etc. How can we change the foundation of our culture towards that with a vision and reality of equity and humanity?

            Matthew Desmond clearly writes about today's capitalist structures and their ties to slavery in the U.S.

            The cotton plantation was America’s first big business, and the nation’s first corporate Big Brother was the overseer. And behind every cold calculation, every rational fine-tuning of the system, violence lurked. Plantation owners used a combination of incentives and punishments to squeeze as much as possible out of enslaved workers”. 

            Data management, tracking and surveillance that exists today stems from systems of plantation data tracking.

            Meticulous bookkeepers and overseers were just as important to the productivity of a slave-labor camp as field hands. Plantation entrepreneurs developed spreadsheets, like Thomas Affleck’s “Plantation Record and Account Book,” which ran into eight editions circulated until the Civil War. Affleck’s book was a one-stop-shop accounting manual, complete with rows and columns that tracked per-worker productivity. This book “was really at the cutting edge of the informational technologies available to businesses during this period,” ...they also developed ways to calculate depreciation, a breakthrough in modern management procedures, by assessing the market value of enslaved workers over their life spans. Values generally peaked between the prime ages of 20 and 40 but were individually adjusted up or down based on sex, strength and temperament: people reduced to data points...This level of data analysis also allowed planters to anticipate rebellion. Tools were accounted for on a regular basis to make sure a large number of axes or other potential weapons didn’t suddenly go missing.”

            The systems are already made to hurt those that are not the 1% elite. The design of separate systems that do not communicate across domains will only continue to strain those that are the most disenfranchised in society. Technology and interoperability can be designed to perpetuate deep historical inequalities, or perhaps can be used to begin an honest restructuring towards a more just society...Perhaps this is completely naive thinking. 

            Matthew Desmong wraps up his article with this,

            “It is the culture of acquiring wealth without work, growing at all costs and abusing the powerless. It is the culture that brought us the Panic of 1837, the stock-market crash of 1929 and the recession of 2008. It is the culture that has produced staggering inequality and undignified working conditions. If today America promotes a particular kind of low-road capitalism — a union-busting capitalism of poverty wages, gig jobs and normalized insecurity; a winner-take-all capitalism of stunning disparities not only permitting but awarding financial rule-bending; a racist capitalism that ignores the fact that slavery didn’t just deny black freedom but built white fortunes, originating the black-white wealth gap that annually grows wider — one reason is that American capitalism was founded on the lowest road there is.”


            PLEASE read the full article @

            How America’s Vast Racial Wealth Gap Grew: By Plunder
            It wasn’t just slavery but segregation, redlining, evictions, exclusion — and outright theft.
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