Ibram X. Kendi
is an assistant professor of African American history at the University of Florida. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
(Nation Books, 2016) offers a fast moving narrative of racist ideas beginning with the Puritan theologian and preacher Cotton Mather to the post-racial color-blind arguments in the age of Barack Obama. Through American history, racism has been justified by appeals to God's word, science, nature, or common sense. He demonstrates how good intentioned efforts to overcome racism have often helped to cement racist ideas. The ideas of segregation and assimilation have rationalized racism and have reproduced and spread in the face of challenge by antiracist arguments. Americans have unsuccessfully attempted to root out racism through notions of self-sacrifice, "uplift suasion," and educational persuasion. Kendi argues that overcoming racism, which hides classism and sexism, will require intelligent self-interest, not altruism. Americans, regardless of color, need to realize that when Black people are free of racism all will be free.
Lilian Calles Barger, www.lilianbarger.com, is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is entitled
The World Come of Age: Religion, Intellectuals and the Challenge of Human Liberation.