Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

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Ibram Kendi is an award winning author with “The New York Times” and a professor of history based in Florida. In 2016 he won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction for this work. It’s title promises a lot, with that word “definitive”, but it certainly lives up the that promise. It is an astonishing, towering opus running to over 500 pages. This topic is surely the most topical one facing the US at present. Kendi takes us back to the very roots of the race issue and the era of the Pilgrim fathers and takes us right through to the “Black Lives Matters” movement of today. To all this, Kendi brings rigour and logic but also, when appropriate, righteous anger. In essence, Kendi says there are three strands regarding Race in America: There are those who want Segregation, others who want assimilation( basically trying to make Black people more like White people), and finally , what Kendi refers to as Anti Racists, those who welcome diversity and respect differences.

Throughout, Kendi illustrates this sweeping history of Racist ideas by focusing of well know figures, to illustrate his points. A good example of this is Angela Davis, who was a somewhat revolutionary figure in 1960s and 70s. Kendi has the gift of making the complex accessible and this is especially useful for readers this side of the Atlantic who have a European perspective. I will leave you with a quote which sums up Kendi’s resolutely optimistic outlook for the future of his country: “There will come a time when Americans will realise that the only thing wrong with Black people is that they think something is wrong with Black people.”    

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

 

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