Ibrahm X. Kendi on How the Church Can Be Anti-Racist

Ibram X. Kendi

In the three years since Ibrahm X. Kendi released his New York Times’ bestseller, Stamped from the Beginning, much has changed in his life. He became the youngest National Book Award Winner at the age of 34. He was offered tenure at American University. His parents retired as preachers in the AME Church. He was diagnosed with Stage Four colon cancer.

While recovering from cancer, the 37-year old also managed another feat. Kendi wrote his second book, How to Be an Anti-Racist. Kendi is the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center and professor of history and international relations at American University.

Before explaining how to be anti-racist in the book, Kendi defines the words that are essential to his book. A person or policy is racist when it supports the idea that people are unequal. So yes, black people can be racist. One can only be anti-racist.

Simply not being racist is not an option. There is no in-between. For Kendi, racism is a powerful collection of racist ideas and policies that lead to racial inequity. He means racial inequity and not racial inequality. Racial inequity is the discriminatory legal system that imprisons black men and includes the biases in education that affect black children and the ramifications of poor healthcare. An anti-racist person works to undermine and eradicate these racist policies and ideas.

This means black churches like the AME Church can be racist. For Kendi, the “civilized theology” often espoused in middle-class black churches meets his definition of racism. Civilized theology is the idea that the function of the church is to bring wayward people into the church to save and civilize them. Those wayward people tend to be working-class and poor black people. According to Kendi, the church is saying that behavior-deficiency is causing their plight. “The reason why this is racist is because it suggests that there is something wrong groups of people,” said Kendi, who revealed that he is not a member of any church. “Racism is anytime we perceive the problem as the people instead of addressing the problems of the people,” he asserts.

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Source: The Christian Recorder