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:

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  • Hi there – so, I listened in on the technical workgroup call last week, and had a chance to raise some of these issues. I wonder what others thought about the resulting discussion.
    Specifically, in response to Paul Wormeli’s description of the potential for interoperability among domains of “public safety” (i.e. police), Justice, and health/human services, I asked whether there are any principles for delineating between desirable scenarios for interoperability vs potentially harmful scenarios for interoperability. 
    Someone else should feel free to clarify if i’ve gotten this wrong, but I believe the gist of Mr Wormeli's response was that designers should be clear on their purpose, and specific in their intentions about what kinds of uses should or shouldn't be permitted. 
    Yet we know, even just from literature shared in this thread – and also from a bit of common-sense reflection on the nature of complex interconnected systems – that designers' intentions are of limited utility when it comes to evaluating the potential effects of a given intervention. It might not matter all that much at all, in the end, what the purpose of a given action is, if it enables systems that were themselves designed with different purposes to suddenly become interoperable in ways that stakeholders don’t fully understand or have control over. 
    For example, at least to some extent, police are at least to some extents exempt from HIPAA restrictions to which most HHS systems are designed. Shouldn’t we anticipate some instances in which more interoperability enables otherwise-protected PHI to be made more accessible to police? And given known patterns of unlawful police behavior, shouldn’t this be of primary concern in any conversation about this kind of interoperability, no matter what the intentions? 
    I followed up with another question, asking about the potential for harm to come not just from unlawful actions, but unanticipated and lawful actions that yield unfair and discriminatory outcomes. 
    Mr Wormeli responded that there is indeed a lack of trust among community-based organizations and civic institutions about data sharing, especially with police and court systems. It was implied that this trust is based in unwarranted fear and/or ignorance – although it seems to me one might just as readily consider such mistrust to be based in very warranted concern and responsibility. 
    The last comment in our exchange was to acknowledge that data protection policies have not caught up with the advancement in technology in the decades since most legal precedents for privacy and digital data were established. 
    All of this together – 1) the lack of principles or methods (beyond ‘designer intention’) for delineating between desirable and undesirable interoperability scenarios, 2) the demonstrable mistrust among community organizations and civic institutions at the prospect of data sharing, and 3) the known insufficiency of our policies to address these concerns – seem to add up to a strong case that the benefit of the doubt should be held against the value of interoperability among health/human services and safety/justice institutions. It suggests these conversations about interoperability should begin from questions of solidarity and concern, rather than experimentation and optimism.
    Summary of the HIPAA Security Rule
    Summary of the HIPAA Security Rule
  • 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 

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    • 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. 

      • This reply was deleted.
        • 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?)

          • I know it is dangerous territory to talk about DNA, intergenerational trauma and race. But maybe it is a helpful place in understanding the deep inequities that different populations experience and the possible impact on long term health.

            • The study explored how racism and perceived discrimination affected people on the cellular level by analyzing survey responses and examining blood samples, two-thirds of which were from black participants. The researchers measured leukocytes in the blood, finding pro-inflammatory and antiviral patterns to be more prevalent in black participants.
            • “The idea that these genes are being expressed in an abnormal way may explain why these chronically stressed groups are more likely to get sick and more likely to get diseases,” Thames told The Nation’s Health


            Study: Evidence of racism’s effects can be found at cellular level
            Experiencing racism can hurt people at the cellular level, a new study shows.
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