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Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

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Americans like to insist that we are living in a postracial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, racist ideas in this country have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American t Americans like to insist that we are living in a postracial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, racist ideas in this country have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit. In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti–Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W. E. B. Du Bois to legendary anti–prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro–civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America. As Kendi provocatively illustrates, racist thinking did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Racist ideas were created and popularized in an effort to defend deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and to rationalize the nation’s racial inequities in everything from wealth to health. While racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much–needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose them—and in the process, gives us reason to hope.


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Americans like to insist that we are living in a postracial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, racist ideas in this country have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American t Americans like to insist that we are living in a postracial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, racist ideas in this country have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit. In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti–Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W. E. B. Du Bois to legendary anti–prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro–civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America. As Kendi provocatively illustrates, racist thinking did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Racist ideas were created and popularized in an effort to defend deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and to rationalize the nation’s racial inequities in everything from wealth to health. While racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much–needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose them—and in the process, gives us reason to hope.

30 review for Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    The insights and understanding shared with us in this dazzling work of erudition and scholarship entirely make up for its enormous length. One wonders how it can be that such a book has not been written to date, the need for such a work obvious from the moment Kendi begins to trace the evolution of America’s history of racist ideas, from the pre-revolutionary settlers and the sermons of Cotton Mather right through Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. DuBois, and Angela Davis. By the The insights and understanding shared with us in this dazzling work of erudition and scholarship entirely make up for its enormous length. One wonders how it can be that such a book has not been written to date, the need for such a work obvious from the moment Kendi begins to trace the evolution of America’s history of racist ideas, from the pre-revolutionary settlers and the sermons of Cotton Mather right through Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. DuBois, and Angela Davis. By the end we have a framework to evaluate and calmly deconstruct the words of Clarence Thomas and Bill Clinton and the voices raised in Black Lives Matter. The work has a momentum that develops from a stately walking pace in slave times, gathering steam after the Civil War and World War I, until we experience a positive torrent of ideas, criticisms, actors, detractors in the 1990s, and 2000s when everyone has a megaphone and it seems no one is listening. Kendi strips all qualified “asks” away and insists that black people be accepted in the fullness of their humanity: good or bad, talented or not, criminal or not. This often surprising history reminds us how completely our opinions are shaped by political and economic realities rather than by the most logical or rational argument. In the 1600’s Cotton Mather was a product of his time: blacks were inferior in every way except for their physicality, but they should be baptized. Jefferson thought they weren’t as inferior as all that, but some blacks are more enlightened than others, and even those must rely on white people for their “safety and happiness.” The “time wasn’t right” to free the slaves. This was also the opinion of George Washington. William Lloyd Garrison believed fervently that blacks should not be slaves, but they were not the social equal of whites. “It is not practicable to give undeveloped Black men the vote.” This was the opinion of Abraham Lincoln as well, who wanted to free the slaves and send them back to Africa. W.E.B. DuBois was a well-educated black man who believed black men could be the equal of white men, but perhaps just some black men, not the great unwashed. And finally, Angela Davis thought black people shouldn’t copy or aspire to white life in any way, that black people, including black women, were absolutely the equal of whites in every way, if only they had equal opportunity. In every period Kendi discusses, the latest scientific theories would be put forth to “prove, undeniably” that black people were inferior to white people, in structure, in mind, in morals, in attitudes. Kendi discusses each with a dispassion bordering on amused curiosity. Each argument is eviscerated with cool observation before he moves on to the next attempt to convince white people that black people were worthy. By the end, he has taught us to evaluate each argument ourselves without falling into heated rhetoric or getting tangled in “should” and “oughts.” Kendi himself has concluded the only way black people would not be discriminated against in some way is if everyone recognize that blacks are at least as talented or flawed as whites and should be treated accordingly, that is to say, with the same amount of attention and acceptance of their potential talent, as for their potential for error. Anything less is racist. I became utterly rapt when Kendi enters the period of Angela Davis and the modern day us. This is recent memory, and anyone can get first-hand corroboration on what people were thinking just forty years ago, as well as investigate the thickets surrounding any race discussions today. We, all of us, but especially white people, were lied to about what black people were about in this period. Because we were segregated, it was hard to get a clear idea or perspective on what was happening in each community. Kendi calls Davis’ first book, Women, Culture, and Politics, published in 1989, an “instant classic.” Davis wrote many more books once she began teaching classes in the university system in California. She understood right from her youth in Birmingham, Alabama that uplift suasion (becoming acceptable to whites by copying their attitudes, look, & culture), or assimilation (actually becoming more white through intermarriage & cultural overlap) were not going to give black people rights or respect. Black people needed then, and need now, the protection of the law. Enforceable law. Kendi writes beautifully, in a totally engaging way, but the size of this tome may be a little intimidating. To assist uptake of his ideas, Kendi has provided a detailed Prologue and Epilogue. I recommend you read those, and then begin with the Angela Davis section. The momentum one attains in this whirlwind of ideas, popular figures, and known events will allow one to grasp his major theses. Then go back and allow Kendi to carefully outline his research and thinking as it developed. It's worth studying. This book won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    What’s this – 5 stars yet still marked as “to read”? Please explain yourself! I was talking today with a friend of mine who just joined Goodreads and he raised the question of books which are too difficult to review. These are usually non-fiction books which are so crammed with ideas that to review them properly you would need 5 closely typed pages, and it must be admitted, most GR users will be dozing off by the end of page one, even your dearest GR friends. (I did suggest that he include a gif What’s this – 5 stars yet still marked as “to read”? Please explain yourself! I was talking today with a friend of mine who just joined Goodreads and he raised the question of books which are too difficult to review. These are usually non-fiction books which are so crammed with ideas that to review them properly you would need 5 closely typed pages, and it must be admitted, most GR users will be dozing off by the end of page one, even your dearest GR friends. (I did suggest that he include a gif of a cute kitty after each paragraph to keep up interest, but I took his point.) I said well, what you need to do is just discuss the one or two ideas which were most interesting, you can’t cover everything. I got a copy of Stamped from the Beginning and I read 40 pages. I already know that a) It is a 5 star book b) It will take me a month and then some to read this giant monster of a book even though it is absolutely fascinating because it is as dense and cramful as the centre of one of those collapsing galactic star things. c) Any review I finally write will be way too long. Way, way too long.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andre

    The author posits that there are really 3 sides to the debate of racial disparities existing and persisting. The three sides are segregationists, assimilationists and antiracists. His definition of racism,i.e., the adoption of racist ideas is a simple one, and as such you will see some famous people that will surprise you to be labeled as racist at points in their career. W.E.B. DuBois is certainly a name most readers would never associate with being a "racist" during his long illustrious career The author posits that there are really 3 sides to the debate of racial disparities existing and persisting. The three sides are segregationists, assimilationists and antiracists. His definition of racism,i.e., the adoption of racist ideas is a simple one, and as such you will see some famous people that will surprise you to be labeled as racist at points in their career. W.E.B. DuBois is certainly a name most readers would never associate with being a "racist" during his long illustrious career. One thing that is most important in these kinds of arguments, is for everyone to be operating from the same definition. So to the author's credit he states his explanation of racist ideas early. Keep in mind, we are not talking about racism, but racist ideas and how these ideas have affected and infected not only Americans but world citizens. "My definition of a racist idea is a simple one: it is any concept that regards one racial group as inferior or superior to another racial group in any way. I define anti-Black racist ideas—the subject of this book—as any idea suggesting that Black people, or any group of Black people, are inferior in any way to another racial group." With that in mind,author Ibram Kendi compiles a comprehensive history of racist ideas, using historical "tour guides " to traffic readers through a landscape beginning in mid 1600 to present day. Kendi here makes a powerful statement with this book about how these racist ideas have led to continuing racist discrimination. "I held racist notions of Black inferiority before researching and writing this book. Racist ideas are ideas. Anyone can produce them or consume them, as Stamped from the Beginning’s interracial cast of producers and consumers show...Fooled by racist ideas, I did not fully realize that the only thing wrong with Black people is that we think something is wrong with Black people.I did not fully realize that the only thing extraordinary about White people is that they think something is extraordinary about White people." That's a potent admission for someone writing the "definitive" history of racist ideas. But I think it is important to this wonderful work by Kendi. As he goes about exposing these ideas, readers may be surprised to find themselves subscribing to ideas that, by Kendi's definition are clearly racist. As we move through the five eras, with our guides, you will be fascinated as these ideas and the consequences of them are brought to light. Thoughts that you have given little attention to, and have become part of your consciousness will hopefully be liberated. Something that black people generally do when they hear some terrible news item, one of the initial thoughts is hoping the perpetrators are not Black. Does that hope spring from our buying into the racist idea that Black people are pathological? And we will be judged by the actions of the perpetrators and therefore be seen as defective? Is this a racist idea? "Already, the American mind was accomplishing that indispensable intellectual activity of someone consumed with racist ideas: individualizing White negativity and generalizing Black negativity. Negative behavior by any Black person became proof of what was wrong with Black people, while negative behavior by any White person only proved what was wrong with that person." All the ways that racist ideas have worked hand in hand with discrimination are unearthed here. And it may come as a surprise to some that prominent Black leaders of their day held tightly to racist ideas, like uplift suasion. The concept that "was based on the idea that White people could be persuaded away from their racist ideas if they saw Black people improving their behavior, uplifting themselves from their low station in American society. The burden of race relations was placed squarely on the shoulders of Black Americans. Positive Black behavior, abolitionist strategists held, undermined racist ideas, and negative Black behavior confirmed them." Sounds a lot like today's concept of respectability politics, if we would just pull our pants up, stop listening to that damn music, not be so loud, etc. etc. If we would just present ourselves in a more respectable manner, we could then usher in that post-racial epoch that some say is already here. The journey through the racist idea history has to include the players and events of the time periods covered and Kendi does a good job of incorporating that history and integrating the ideas that girded those times. The book clocks in at 500 pages, but it is well worth your time and investment.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    *2016 National Book Award for Non-Fiction* Ibrahm Kendi's work is evident of a great deal of scholarly research. I felt that I had to commit myself to giving it at least the same treatment. Scientist that I am, I found myself leafing through his references, pulling out more morsels of truth. It wasn't enough to pour over the pages of this well written tome. Twenty two pages of outline notes later, I feel as if I still could revisit this work as there is still more intellectual meat to be consum *2016 National Book Award for Non-Fiction* Ibrahm Kendi's work is evident of a great deal of scholarly research. I felt that I had to commit myself to giving it at least the same treatment. Scientist that I am, I found myself leafing through his references, pulling out more morsels of truth. It wasn't enough to pour over the pages of this well written tome. Twenty two pages of outline notes later, I feel as if I still could revisit this work as there is still more intellectual meat to be consumed. In Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi examines racism as a three dimensional force with its roots extending as far back to Aristotle (384-322 BCE). To illustrate the forces that have shaped racism and discrimination in America, Kendi uses five tour guides: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. DuBois and Angela Davis. Do not be mistaken, Stamped From the Beginning is not a compilation of biographies; although each of these figures is treated with an analytical eye. Kendi walks us through their transformations and exposes their flaws through a lense of their time in American history, including the literature, media reports and political bouts of the day. To sum up the main idea of the book I feel only Kendi's words can do Kendi justice: “I was taught the popular folktale of racism: that ignorant and hateful people had produced racist ideas, and that these racist people had instituted racist policies. But when I learned the motives behind the production of many of America’s most influentially racist ideas, it became quite obvious that this folktale, though sensible, was not based on a firm footing of historical evidence. Ignorance/hate --> racist ideas --> discrimination: this causal relationship is largely ahistorical. It has actually been an inverse relationship – racial discrimination led to racist ideas which led to ignorance and hate. Racial discrimination --> racist ideas --> ignorance/hate: this is the causal relationship driving America’s history of race relations.” This book is a must have for home libraries.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lata

    Looking back through centuries of history, Ibram X. Kendi gradually takes us through the layers and layers of lies used to define and denigrate people from Africa. The self-serving and nasty attitudes masquerading as good Christianity of each new "learned" person, built upon the lies of earlier men (going back to the Middle Ages and to Ancient Greece), served to reinforce and harden bigoted ideas. And these were used to justify the kidnapping, separation of families, rape, torture, enslavement a Looking back through centuries of history, Ibram X. Kendi gradually takes us through the layers and layers of lies used to define and denigrate people from Africa. The self-serving and nasty attitudes masquerading as good Christianity of each new "learned" person, built upon the lies of earlier men (going back to the Middle Ages and to Ancient Greece), served to reinforce and harden bigoted ideas. And these were used to justify the kidnapping, separation of families, rape, torture, enslavement and murder of countless thousands of Blacks through the centuries. I cannot imagine how Kendi could have stomached to read through the words of these men, who were convinced blacks were beasts, and enacted a number of conflicting laws and rules to control and brutalize a people, all the while being terribly self-congratulatory about their management. As this book centres on America, Kendi focuses on specific, influential individuals over the years, from colonial times all the way to the presidency of Barack Obama. The influencers’ ideas for control were a mixture of racism, assimilation and segregation, all based on a rotten foundation. These ideas morphed slightly with each slight improvement in blacks' plight as time went on, to find new ways to humiliate and restrict and murder. Kendi also does not hesitate to show how the years of indoctrination of the fallacies about blacks has permeated the minds of blacks, resulting in a multitude of conflicted and conflicting perceptions of themselves as a people, and how they felt they should be treated by the whites. I found the duplicity, hypocrisy, misogyny, and the utter lack of compassion as a justification for brutalizing a people was prevalent in any number of men whose writings, portraits and monuments litter the US; Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln, Teddy and FDR, and the list just goes on and on, of men happy to increase their wealth, influence and power, helping themselves and their rich friends and supporters, while pitting poor whites against blacks. And though slavery was abolished years ago, the legacy of these racist, assimilationist and segregationist beliefs continues in the laws and policies and attitudes of today. While this book is big, it's fascinating and I found not difficult to get through. The writing style is not complicated, and the introduction helps the reader understand some of the bases for Ibram Kendi's conclusions. This book is definitely well worth reading if you want to understand how artificial the ideas are about racial superiority are, and how prevalent, dangerous and insidious they are.

  6. 4 out of 5

    SibylM

    Every American should read this book. A true tour de force, an absolute scorched-earth history and reassessment of racism in the United States. I read a lot of American history and I read a lot, talk about a lot, try to learn a lot about the role of racism in American history and the present, and I was absolutely floored by what this book showed me that I did not know and had not considered. Moreover I was impressed with the author's interweaving of issues such as sexism and heterosexism. Very e Every American should read this book. A true tour de force, an absolute scorched-earth history and reassessment of racism in the United States. I read a lot of American history and I read a lot, talk about a lot, try to learn a lot about the role of racism in American history and the present, and I was absolutely floored by what this book showed me that I did not know and had not considered. Moreover I was impressed with the author's interweaving of issues such as sexism and heterosexism. Very engrossing and a real page turned as well as being so brilliant and thoughtful.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    The popular and glorious version of history saying that abolitionists and civil rights activists have steadily educated and persuaded away American racist ideas and policies sounds great. But it has never been the complete story, or even the main story. Politicians passed the civil and voting rights measures in the 1860s and the 1960s primarily out of political and economic self-interest—not an educational or moral awakening. And these laws did not spell the doom of racist policies. The racist The popular and glorious version of history saying that abolitionists and civil rights activists have steadily educated and persuaded away American racist ideas and policies sounds great. But it has never been the complete story, or even the main story. Politicians passed the civil and voting rights measures in the 1860s and the 1960s primarily out of political and economic self-interest—not an educational or moral awakening. And these laws did not spell the doom of racist policies. The racist policies simply evolved. There has been a not-so-glorious progression of racism, and educational persuasion has failed to stop it, and Americans have failed to recognize it This can be a hard book to read because it lays bare the harsh truth of racism in America. It deeply explores the American experience with anti-black racism and strips away some of the comforting illusions we maintain about it. I was taught the popular folktale of racism: that ignorant and hateful people had produced racist ideas, and that these racist people had instituted racist policies. But when I learned the motives behind the production of many of America’s most influentially racist ideas, it became quite obvious that this folktale, though sensible, was not based on a firm footing of historical evidence. Ignorance/hate -> racist ideas -> discrimination: this causal relationship is largely ahistorical. It has actually been the inverse relationship—racial discrimination led to racist ideas which led to ignorance and hate Instead of racism crawling out of a fetid pool of ignorance it is instead the slick product of insidious greed. Proslavery legislators repressed the very captives they said were docile, and restricted the education of the very people they argued could not be educated. Racist ideas, clearly, did not generate these slave codes. Enslaving interests generated these slave codes. Racist ideas were produced to preserve the enslaving interests. Kendi identified three main forces that contested with each other during the couse of human history: The history of racist ideas that follows is the history of these three distinct voices—segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists—and how they each have rationalized racial disparities, arguing why Whites have remained on the living and winning end, while Blacks remained on the losing and dying end. Somewhat surprisingly, to me at least, was that Kendi had a pretty major beef with assimilationists (who sought to integrate black populations into the wider America, ie: white, culture), who would often be on the side anti-racists. But Kendi makes an excellent point that many of the goals the assimilationists sought were either counter productive towards the goals of equality or were aggressively ineffective. The base operating assumption of the assimilationists was that racism, and the subsequent racist policies, was a product of ignorance on the part of many people. If they just saw how smart and civilized and cultivated blacks could be their mind would change. This strategy of what can be termed uplift suasion was based on the idea that white people could be persuaded away from their racists ideas if they saw Black people improving their behavior, uplifting themselves from their low station in American society . the burden of race relations was placed squarely on the shoulders of Black Americans. Positive Black behavior, abolitionist strategists held, undermined racist ideas, and negative Black behavior confirmed them. But racist ideas are not so simply undermined. Where there is money and social advantage to be made by oppressing a group of people new justifications will be generated to preserve the status quo. The case of uplift suasion was no different. These extraordinary Negros supposedly defied the laws of nature or nurture that standardized Black decadence. They were not ordinarily inferior like the “majority.” This mind game allowed racists to maintain their racist ideas in the midst of individual Africans defying its precepts. It doomed from the start the strategy of exhibiting excelling Blacks to change racist minds. But this strategy of persuasion endured. And persist it did, arguably even to contemporary times. How often has it been said of a member of another racial group "Oh, I like [insert name here], he's one of the good ones." implying a member of that group that is worthy of respect and friendship is the outlier, the extraordinary member of an otherwise "bad" group. Uplift suasion is the brick wall assimilationists kept banging their head against for hundreds of years will little to show for their efforts. Not only that but, at its root, it was racist. The strategy remained deeply racist. Black people, apparently, were responsible for changing racist White minds. White people, apparently, were not responsible for their own racist mentalities. If White people were racist and discriminated against Blacks, then Black people were to blame, because they had not commanded Whites’ respect. Uplift suasion had been deployed for more than a century, and its effect in 1903? American racism may have never been worse. But neither its undergirding racist ideas, nor its historical failure, nor the extraordinary Negro construction ensuring its continued failure had lessened the faith of reformers. So yeah, I very much see where Kendi would have a beef with assimilationist efforts in this vein. Kendi also took time to point out some pretty glaring hypocrisies that arose in the white community over the history of America. For instance many abolitionists consider John Brown to be a sort of hero in the anti-slavery movement of the 19th century even though he failed hard just like every over anti-slavery revolt: But in the weeks after the conflict, he joined with abolitionists in transforming John Brown in the eyes of antislavery northerners from a madman to a “martyr.” Countless Americans came to admire his David-like courage to strike at the mighty and hated Goliath-like slave power. The disdain for violent Black revolutionaries lurked in the shadow of the praises for John Brown, however. Black slave rebels never became martyrs and remained madmen and madwomen. Never before had the leader of a major slave uprising been so praised. This is a pretty clear double standard that when blacks rise up they are violent and savage (even though they were fighting to be free) but when a white man leads them the resistance is noble and worthy of martyrdom. From their arrival around 1619, African people had illegally resisted legal slavery. They had thus been stamped from the beginning as criminals. In all of the fifty suspected or actual slave revolts reported in newspapers during the American colonial era, resisting Africans were nearly always cast as violent criminals, not people reacting to enslavers’ regular brutality, or pressing for the most basic human desire: freedom. In a more modern example of white hypocrisy Kendi identifies that many of the arguments against government welfare that would benefit blacks was often couched in terms that infantilized the people (i.e.: black citizens) who would receive it and that just wasn't morally or spiritually acceptable. Welfare "transforms the individual from a dignified, industrious, self-reliant spiritual being into a dependent animal creature without his knowing it," Goldwater wrote without a shred of evidence. Many proud, dignified, industrious, self-reliant members of the White middle class, who had derived their wealth from the welfare of inheritance, the New Deal, or the GI Bill, accepted Goldwater's dictum as truth, despite the fact that parental or governmental assistance has transformed them or their parents into dependent animal creatures. After looking at White mothers on welfare as "deserving" for decades, there Goldwater conservatives saw the growing number of Black mothers on welfare as "undeserving" - as dependent animal creatures. At its core anti-black racism was never and is never about any sort of rational, codified ideas. It is about power and it is more than willing and able to alter its justifications to adjust to the needs of the time. Be that by acknowledging that SOME Black Americans could be extraordinary while consigning the balance of them to the realm of savage animals to declaring A war on (some classes of people who use some) drugs or claiming "economic anxiety" when voting for out-and-out racist politicians and policies. Systemic, institutionalized racism cannot be negotiated with, it can only be confronted and smashed. And even then we must remain vigilant should this insidious weed take root again and spread under a new banner or slogan. It will likely always be with us and it is our duty as civilized peoples to stand in solidarity with our fellow citizens against this pernicious weed. What makes this book so compelling is the detail and historical depth that Kendi digs into to support his thesis. It isn't just a matter of looking at famous people of the respective eras (even if each section is named after one of them), but the overall social currents, the seemingly small things that end up metastasizing into some terrible practices and ideas later on. Because the story of anti-black racism in America isn't about a few "Great Men" charting the historical path of a nation but about society as a whole and how it treats blacks both in terms of politics and popular culture. Kendi explores all these nooks and crannies, showing how they all merge together to form a cohesive racist force within society. Kendi provides a continuous examination of racist ideas and not a skipping around from one historical figure to the next which would leave historical gaps in the story and lose some important details and contexts. I strongly recommend all Americans (and really all people since racism knows no national boundaries) read this book. While I know simple knowledge does not remove the specter of racist ideas, it is an important first step to arm the citizenry with all the facts and a powerful lens to view them through. If you are really interested in learning about the darker side of American racial history this book is a must read and will likely be relevant for too many years to come.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Reggie

    I've only be reading recreationally since 2015, but in that short time frame, this is the best book I've ever read! No questions asked! It changed my life and how I view the world. I read this in January of 2017, so a reread needs to happen in the coming years, but this is the real deal y'all... Run don't walk to read this game-changing, mind-altering masterpiece.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Udeni

    "Stamped from the Beginning" is an ambitious and (necessarily) lengthy history of racist ideas towards black Amercians. Despite its length (over 500 pages), it is a compelling read, brimming over with surprising facts, laser-sharp analysis, and a clear argument. Kendi argues that racist policies are promoted through racist ideas by powerful men who wish to maintain control of their wealth. Discrimination is not caused by ignorance and hate. Racial discrimination leads to racist ideas, which lead "Stamped from the Beginning" is an ambitious and (necessarily) lengthy history of racist ideas towards black Amercians. Despite its length (over 500 pages), it is a compelling read, brimming over with surprising facts, laser-sharp analysis, and a clear argument. Kendi argues that racist policies are promoted through racist ideas by powerful men who wish to maintain control of their wealth. Discrimination is not caused by ignorance and hate. Racial discrimination leads to racist ideas, which lead to ignorance and hate. The book starts with the origins of racist ideology, imported from 15th century Europe, through early British settlements, slavery, abolition, Jim Crow, and ending in the 20th century with Barack Obama's presidency. A simple structure makes the book readable: five main thinkers form the underpinning to each book section. Cotton Mather (1663-1728) provided a theological justification of slavery. He argued that black people were physically inferior and deserved to be slaves, but that white owners could ensure their spiritual salvation by converting them to Christianity. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) added a further justification: because black people were not descended from Adam and Eve, they were intellectually and physically a different species, entirely incompatible with white people. This is while Jefferson was hypocritically advertising for highly skilled slaves for his plantation, and bought a 14-year old black child, Sally Hemmings, as a mistress. William Garrison (1805-1879) developed the "assimilationist" idea that is still in force today: that blacks had become savage through slavery and that, by educating themsleves and behaving like white people, a talented minority of black people could eventually join civilised society. To W.E.B Du Bois (1868-1963) is attributed the mainstreaming of the anti-racist idea that racial groups are equal. Racial disparities are the result of racial discrimination and are perpetuated by the powerful who want to divide and rule. It is a relief to finally come to Angela Davis (1943-present), who denounced those promoting the "post-racial" fairytale while instituting a criminal justice system that has resulted in the mass incarceration of black people. The book ends, frustratingly, before Trump's election, but here is an excellent interview with Kendi on the Trump phenomenon here. http://mainebeacon.com/ben-chin-inter... I found much of the book to be a tough read. For much of history, I would have been considered stupid, ugly, over-sexualised, inferior because of the colour of my skin. I have no idea how Kendi has found the courage to steep himself in racist ideology for so long. I am grateful that he has, though. This is an essential book, which, in the Epilogue, provides necessary and practical advice for anti-racists everywhere. This book thoroughly deserved the National Book Award of 2016 for non-fiction. It also has sold out in UK bookstores and is unavailable on Kindle in th UK. A reprint is due urgently, please!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rincey

    Probably closer to 3.5 stars, but this is worth rounding up

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    This book goes wide (not deep) on a very important topic, and should be required reading for everyone. That phrase gets thrown around a lot when talking about "important books", but I'm seriously for serious here. Kendi has written THE comprehensive book about the history of racism in America, tracing it all the way from its roots in the 16th century through modern day, and he covers it from top to bottom, hitting on every major point you can probably think of along the way. It's an invaluable r This book goes wide (not deep) on a very important topic, and should be required reading for everyone. That phrase gets thrown around a lot when talking about "important books", but I'm seriously for serious here. Kendi has written THE comprehensive book about the history of racism in America, tracing it all the way from its roots in the 16th century through modern day, and he covers it from top to bottom, hitting on every major point you can probably think of along the way. It's an invaluable resource not just for scholarly purposes, but for real life ones as well. I actually finished this back in October and didn't write a review at the time because I told myself I was going to go back through my audiobook and type up or find all the quotes I bookmarked. I held onto this lofty ambition until about ten minutes ago, when I realized I had probably bookmarked about a quarter of the book and this was not a realistic goal at all. I don't even have time to go back through and re-listen to pull out a couple of quotes to highlight the flavor. This book and its quotableness overwhelms me. At the same time, I'm kind of glad about this. The whole point of this book is to look at racism through the lens of historical context. It traces the roots of modern anti-black racist thought all the way to their origins, and it does so by living in the details. Details do not make for snappy pull quotes, and snappy pull quotes do not make for good arguments. And actually, what I just said is also misleading. Kendi doesn't go searching through history to find examples to prove his points after already determining them. What he actually does is start from the beginning and lay out the history of racist ideas such that when you get to modern times, you can easily see the roots for yourself. It's a much better strategy. It's a story that almost tells itself. He's careful right from the beginning to point out that his book is not meant for everyone, and the point of it is not to convert racists to non-racist ways of thinking. His audience is made up instead of everyone else, self-identified non-racists, and once he's got you (us), he then sets out to prove that even the most strident non-racist person holds racist ideas. It's the main thesis of this book that no one can escape the racist ideas that permeate their culture. Even the most famous abolitionist or civil rights activist can (and does) hold racist ideas. Kendi admits that in the process of writing the book, he found to his surprise that he held quite a few himself and it was a struggle to reorient his thinking. I didn't 100% agree with everything he said in this book, but the main thing that is worth considering in terms of criticism is that the format does hamper slightly his ability to make certain points (perhaps why some points felt like a stretch to me; maybe they wouldn't have given more space). By its nature, this is a book that zooms through four hundred plus years of history, so there just isn't room practically speaking for him to flesh out every point, and moreover, he's not trying to. The point isn't to prove individual ideas, but to lay out as a whole picture in broad strokes the history of racist ideas. It's up to other authors to delve more deeply into specific instances and points. I highly recommend this book. Even if you don't normally read non-fiction or history. It was interesting and extremely thought-provoking, not to mention highly relevant. [4.5 stars rounded up for its staggering relevance to practically everything]

  12. 5 out of 5

    Raymond

    Ibram Kendi's Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America is a monumental book. It covers over 300 years of racist beliefs about Black people from 1635 to the present day. Kendi tells this history in a smart way by dividing it up into five parts. Each part has a central figure who has expressed through their lifetimes racist, assimilationist and antiracist views (Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. DuBois, and Angela Davis). The five Ibram Kendi's Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America is a monumental book. It covers over 300 years of racist beliefs about Black people from 1635 to the present day. Kendi tells this history in a smart way by dividing it up into five parts. Each part has a central figure who has expressed through their lifetimes racist, assimilationist and antiracist views (Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. DuBois, and Angela Davis). The five parts are not biographies of these central figures but the author places them in the larger context of where America was on racial issues throughout history. On a personal note this book challenged and changed me. I began this book in December 2016. A few days after I started reading, Carl Paladino, a NY politician, made some racist remarks about former President Obama and First Lady Obama. It bothered me alot because the specific things he said about Michelle Obama were the exact same things said about black women in the 1600s and 1700s that Kendi highlights in his book. It's a prime example that some things change but racist ideas persist. As the book progressed through the centuries my own thoughts were challenged. Before I read this book I would consider myself as someone who has both assimilationist and antiracist views. Little did I know that it is not good to be an assimilationist. Kendi states that assimilationists have good intentions but they still have racist views that black people are inferior. Overall, I would highly recommend this book. It is a very well researched and readable work.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I read this because I am teaching The Fire Next Time. It's one of those books that I find hard to review. I think everyone in America should read it, and if I had a magic wand or the power of the Force, I would make everyone read it. But writing that sounds flippant despite it being true. What Kendi (with the aid of his wife he thanks quite a bit) does is trace the development of Racist ideas in America. He does this in part by challenging the standard definations of some words and terms. This is I read this because I am teaching The Fire Next Time. It's one of those books that I find hard to review. I think everyone in America should read it, and if I had a magic wand or the power of the Force, I would make everyone read it. But writing that sounds flippant despite it being true. What Kendi (with the aid of his wife he thanks quite a bit) does is trace the development of Racist ideas in America. He does this in part by challenging the standard definations of some words and terms. This is done early on in the book, so you know extactly what Kendi means when he uses words like antiracist, racist, and assilmation later. It's true that some people (gives certain Orange being and family the stink eye) will say that the book doesn't deal with racism towards white people - but really? Honesty, if you read the book, that question is answered. (Though in fairness, Kendi limits, or seems to do, the defination of racism as towards black. Racism towards Native Americans and Asians is mentioned but only in how racism towards or by such groups is connected to racism towards Blacks. But this limiting matches what Kendi sets out in the introduction). Kendi traces racism though various major public figures in America, even pre-Independence. Jefferson of course is here, but so are Angela Davis, DuBois, Mater, and Garrison. In some ways, the weakest section is Davis, almost like this section could be a whole book in and of itsself, mostly because at that point it almost feels like Kendi is hitting a check list. Yet the first four sections are engrossing and stacked with facts. So, is the last section despite it's checklist feel. In the interest of fairness, I am from Philly, and Kendi's brief, very brief, mention of the Mumia case is enough to get anyone in Philly a bit annoyed for a wide variety of reasons. (I am of the he is guilty but the system/time was extremely racist group. Honesty, there are better anti-death cases out there. Does Mumia get the attention because he is well read and a good speaker? Is that class or the extradorinary Negro racism that Kendi talks about). It was puzzling because Kendi calls Mumia is a political prison, but Kendi doesn't mention Move and the bombing of that group (done by the police, and which ended in the destruction of a neighborhood), an event that surely seems far more political and raicst. But this book gives the reader so much information and so much to think about. It really should be required reading for everyone in America. Quite frankly, if you are teaching about Civil Rights, Slavery, or African-American culture/literature, you should read this book before teaching the subject matter.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Susan O

    So far this is the best book I've read all year. It is very important and I recommend it to everyone. Kendi expanded my ideas of what racism is and how pervasive and insidious it is. Although Kendi's history is based on five major historical figures, his emphasis is on racist thought, wherever it appears. And the places and people who exhibit that thought might surprise you. The ideas and principles are also applicable to other groups/characteristics as well such as immigrants and various religi So far this is the best book I've read all year. It is very important and I recommend it to everyone. Kendi expanded my ideas of what racism is and how pervasive and insidious it is. Although Kendi's history is based on five major historical figures, his emphasis is on racist thought, wherever it appears. And the places and people who exhibit that thought might surprise you. The ideas and principles are also applicable to other groups/characteristics as well such as immigrants and various religious groups. I rarely say this, but please read this book. Kendi is also an excellent writer, so it is a pleasure to read as well.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Literary Chic

    A very enlightening and probably controversial book. The author presented many arguments and a thorough history of America’s racism. The work was very well done. My only argument was there were a few facts set forth for which the author did not give proofs or footnotes. While he did an excellent job presenting his work and I tend to agree with the majority of what he said, a proofed statistic would have made his argument stronger in places. If you are a reader who believes we live in a post racial A very enlightening and probably controversial book. The author presented many arguments and a thorough history of America’s racism. The work was very well done. My only argument was there were a few facts set forth for which the author did not give proofs or footnotes. While he did an excellent job presenting his work and I tend to agree with the majority of what he said, a proofed statistic would have made his argument stronger in places. If you are a reader who believes we live in a post racial America, then this book is definitely not for you. If you feel that racism is alive and well, then I feel this book with give you information and point out behaviors that frankly I hadn’t even thought of as racist, but will avoid after this reading.

  16. 4 out of 5

    John Bohnert

    This book shows just how racist America is and has been throughout its history.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bettie☯

    A review in The Guardian: Even abolitionists don’t emerge unscathed from a fearless, brilliant history of racist thinking spanning 500 years

  18. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    This book is phenomenal. It was certainly a challenge for me to read - not only because I am not very familiar with the history covered in the first 3/5 of this book - but because this book unflinchingly covers five-plus centuries of ugly and insidious racist ideas. Racism is not new, but it is not enjoyable seeing how entrenched it is in every aspect of our society, and seeing how racism is replicated in different historical settings. The book reminded me of Audre Lorde's quote: "There are no n This book is phenomenal. It was certainly a challenge for me to read - not only because I am not very familiar with the history covered in the first 3/5 of this book - but because this book unflinchingly covers five-plus centuries of ugly and insidious racist ideas. Racism is not new, but it is not enjoyable seeing how entrenched it is in every aspect of our society, and seeing how racism is replicated in different historical settings. The book reminded me of Audre Lorde's quote: "There are no new ideas, only new ways of making them felt." Ibram Kendi looks not only at segregationist racist ideas, but also at assimilationist racist ideas - the idea that in order to end racism, black people need to be more like white people. He argues that racist policies came first, and racist ideas were put in place to support them. He demonstrates that you cannot educate away racism, and that racism won't end with the elevation of successful Black folks (uplift suasion). The book ultimately concludes "There will come a time when Americans will realize that the only things wrong with Black people is that they think there is something wrong with Black people." It was a bit of a bright note after reading about centuries of racism. This is a tough read, it was long and hard to get through (particularly at the beginning for me) but I wholeheartedly recommend it for stretching your mind and envisioning the steps we must take towards a brighter antiracist future.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Roger DeBlanck

    Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning (2016) is a landmark work that serves the vital purpose of exposing the depth and extent of racist ideas throughout the course of America’s existence. In carrying out this riveting study, Kendi defines the three contentious belief systems relative to the ongoing history of racist ideas. The segregationists believe Blacks possess a biological inferiority. The antiracists understand that Blacks are equal and the same as any group of people. And the assim Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning (2016) is a landmark work that serves the vital purpose of exposing the depth and extent of racist ideas throughout the course of America’s existence. In carrying out this riveting study, Kendi defines the three contentious belief systems relative to the ongoing history of racist ideas. The segregationists believe Blacks possess a biological inferiority. The antiracists understand that Blacks are equal and the same as any group of people. And the assimilationists try to straddle the middle ground, claiming both the segregationists and antiracists contribute to the prevailing racial disparities. With these definitions intact, Kendi examines the history of racism in America through the lives of five instrumental figures: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. DuBois, and Angela Davis. Kendi leads us through every juncture in America’s racial plight, and he shows how we have incorrectly viewed oppressors as having originally possessed an ignorance and hatred for Blacks, which then produced the racist ideas leading to discrimination. However, historical evidence proves otherwise: the racial discrimination instituted by the first oppressors forced them to create more and more racist ideas in order to perpetuate oppression. Kendi makes clear how economic, political, and cultural self-interests continue to drive discrimination and how hate and ignorance have become the catalysts of racist ideas. Tracing back to America’s first settlers, Kendi explains how the Puritans embraced theories of human hierarchy. This suited them with superior qualities to be masters over every other inferior race, especially the destitute, dark-skinned slaves of hot climates. For the Puritans, the hierarchy and climate theories gained traction from Christianity. God’s word ordained human enslavement of inferior groups, in particular the cursed black children of Ham. The only question for Cotton Mather and every successive generation was whether Blacks had souls enabling them to assimilate towards a normal White standard of civility. In drawing a clear picture of the way Whites viewed Blacks during Mather’s era, Kendi shows how this foundational system of beliefs led to enslavement and the subsequent development of racist laws, codes, and practices to substantiate the oppression of Blacks throughout American history. The revolutionary era of Thomas Jefferson resorted to the belief that Blacks were inferior due to their lack of intellect, even though enslavers witnessed the intelligence of Blacks running their plantations. While the Constitution was drafted, the delegates insisted that the issue of slavery must be abandoned in order to draw up the world’s foremost document of freedom. The result of his deliberate act, as Kendi points out, was that the Three-Fifths Clause of representation made sure the Constitution included the racist idea that Blacks were subhuman to Whites. This dehumanization of Blacks became normal practice throughout American history. With Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana territory, the potential for more cropland made the institution of slavery an issue of economics and money. The Slave Trade Act of 1807 did nothing to dissuade states from enacting laws, practices, and codes that degraded slaves as animals. The Missouri Compromise frightened Jefferson, for he saw the land from the Louisiana Purchase as an eventual region for Blacks. He advocated colonizing Blacks by either returning them to Africa or segregating them somewhere other than the colonial states. Moving on meticulously through history, Kendi addresses the sobering reality of a racist-driven society dependent on slavery in post-revolutionary America. It was William Lloyd Garrison who devoted his life to the call for immediate abolition and emancipation, but he and antiracists faced an inordinate force of racist ideas in the 1830s. Kendi immerses us in the landscape of antebellum America, where Blacks were seen as dangerous beasts, threatening criminals, sources of comedy, and outright freaks. Kendi cites the countless literary works, newspaper articles, political voices, and state laws that constantly reinforced the idea of Blacks as inferior to Whites. Even the phenomena of Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin popularized the bias of spiritually gifted Black people, making them seem naturally submissive. By adopting polygenesis beliefs, scientific writings tried to prove that Blacks were different from Whites. Shockingly, the Supreme Court condoned racism by rejecting the freedom suit of Dred Scott and ruling the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional. The Court also questioned northern abolition efforts, denied Congress the power to stop slavery in new territories, and stated that Blacks could not be citizens. When secession began with South Carolina in 1860, southerners demanded to leave the union because abolitionists were inciting slaves to revolt. Kendi takes us into the disturbing mindset of the Confederates who believed Negroes were unequal to White men. Even as Lincoln vowed never to allow slavery to extend, he believed Black people could never be equal to Whites. He argued for their eventual colonization, and he criticized their selfishness if they refused to leave once they were free. Garrison and antiracists stood against Lincoln’s racist ideas. The Civil War only amplified the debate whether Blacks were brutes and whether they possessed humanness. Lincoln followed Jefferson in advocating the cause of Black freedom, while simultaneously supporting the very racist policies that ensured the degradation of Black people as a group. With great detail and analysis, Kendi examines how the war produced hordes of fears, which fueled racism, about the future of free Black people as unable to handle freedom. Garrison knew and fought against the evil of slavery, but he did not grasp the importance of combating the evil of racism and the government’s need to stop it. As Blacks elevated themselves during Reconstruction, Kendi makes clear that their place in society was not improved. To the contrary, uplift suasion fueled more frightening racist ideas and the rise of terror groups like the Klu Klux Klan. The press and media made every effort to depict Blacks as self-destructive, stupid, corrupt, lazy, and as the face of crime. W.E.B DuBois understood how no matter what he or other Blacks achieved, discriminators would cling to Social Darwinism and its theory that Blacks were weak and unable to survive without their masters. The Supreme Court further regressed with its ruling that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was unconstitutional and that Blacks gained unfair benefits from the law. All the while, newspapers and the press propagated the New South as a nice place where a free, segregated society thrived and where segregation ensured racial equality. But the endless unequal laws made it impossible for the idea of inferiority to be eradicated. The academic revolutions compounded the problem by claiming that the White South had become victimized by corrupt Black politicians and brutish freed Blacks. If Whites were racist, Black behavior was to blame. The beginning of the 20th century saw the eugenics movement continue to push racist ideas that divided people based on Nordic blood. By the 1930s DuBois’s experiences proved how impossible it was to persuade Whites to abandon their racist views. He called for Black solidarity to celebrate the talents of his race. DuBois was energized after World War II by the thought that victory against fascism abroad boded well for victory at home against racism. What Kendi does with superb insight is show how the history of racist ideas only intensified after every momentous event in American history. With the rise of the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy had a hard time convincing other nations to install capitalism over communism when the world could see the horrors inflicted on Blacks due to racism and discrimination. Was this the product of U.S. freedom? And from every Supreme Court decision, including Brown v. Board of Education, to every legislation passed by Congress, racists fought back against progress. In bringing American history into the Civil Rights era, Kendi focuses on the tireless activism of Angela Davis. She knew some of the victims of the horrific church bombing in Birmingham on Sept. 15, 1963. That event changed her forever and set her on a road to lifelong action. She was well aware how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 focused on intent, not outcome. It ignored the fact that Whites had a head start in labor, it presumed discrimination no longer existed, it assumed equality was well established, and it resigned to the idea that the lack of advancement for Blacks was their fault. The basis of the Black Power movement in the 1960s called for disempowered Blacks to lead their own communities, but racists cried out that Blacks wanted to assert violent supremacy over Whites. Kendi counteracts the racists by showing how Black Power reflected the fact that laws, rights, persuasion, and other tactics had failed for centuries to bring about results for true equality. From Nixon to Clinton, the political response from legislators was the "law and order" motto for defending Whites by targeting and imprisoning Blacks. One of the many strengths of Kendi’s study is his exposing the decades of presidential policies that have slashed funding and programs for the poor. During that time, membership in racist organizations such as the Klan and Nazi groups has risen. Kendi outlines the facts of how nearly every presidential policy—from both of Reagan’s wars on narcotics and crime to Clinton’s focus on violent crime to Bush’s act of No Child Left Behind—has failed to address the real problems of poverty, unemployment, underemployment, drunk driving, wage inequality, and equal opportunity for Blacks and other poor people. Instead, poor Black communities have seen a rise in police surveillance. Kendi presents the research that shows how this has led to more unwarranted arrests. And where more arrests are made, the public concludes more crime is occurring. This justifies the continuance for more police to conduct more arrests for areas supposedly rife with crime. All this feeds into the racist idea of how Blacks are flawed and criminal. Even as Obama has made overtures about the rampant persistence of racist theories and discrimination, America does not heed the facts. Discrimination continues to result in inferior opportunities for Blacks. Kendi helps us understand the sad truth that racist ideas continue the cycle of fueling discrimination, but there has, of course, never been any basis for the creation and perpetuation of these devastating ideas. Kendi is the type of inspiring, compassionate, and open-minded writer who understands there is nothing wrong with any group of people. No group should ever feel they need to prove themselves in order to make their lives matter. Everyone has always been equal, and it is only the way we treat others that determines our humanity. The heart-wrenching fashion in which Kendi captures history produced in me a range of emotions: ashamed of the past, angry at the present, and most importantly empowered with the ability to make a difference in the future. Kendi’s book speaks to America’s conscience in calling upon us to eradicate the racist ideas fueling disparity and discrimination. The measure of humanity is the challenge to acknowledge what is wrong in the world and make every effort to set it right. Kendi’s book empowers us to do so. Knowledge and conscience must confront ignorance and intolerance, and Stamped from the Beginning is the most essential history book since Reza Aslan’s masterpiece No god but God (2005). Whereas Aslan delivers the facts about the peace that is the true cornerstone of Islam, Kendi’s book is just as vital in exposing the truth about racist ideas in efforts to make us see what we are dealing with as we strive to make necessary changes in America.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    This was an INCREDIBLY helpful intellectual history of racist ideas in the US. I found this so helpful in locating various ideas and people in the firmament of racial, political, religious, and social history. Honestly, this might qualify as one of the rare books I would recommend us about anyone read. Heartbreaking, yes, but also clarifying, and it is inspiring me to go back to the source texts referenced throughout

  21. 5 out of 5

    cat

    This book, you all. Please read it. Settle in with it and be challenged. Prepare for the long game with this one - almost 600 pages and not one of them unnecessary in laying out the history of racism in America. I am going to say that this book is hands down the hardest book that I have read. It actually took me 4 separate times of borrowing it from the library to finish it -- partly because there is SO MUCH INFORMATION, most of which was new to me. Even when it was not new, the context and the This book, you all. Please read it. Settle in with it and be challenged. Prepare for the long game with this one - almost 600 pages and not one of them unnecessary in laying out the history of racism in America. I am going to say that this book is hands down the hardest book that I have read. It actually took me 4 separate times of borrowing it from the library to finish it -- partly because there is SO MUCH INFORMATION, most of which was new to me. Even when it was not new, the context and the connections between historical events and people that Kendi provided cast the information in a new light. A new light that I am so grateful to have had my eyes opened to - one that is absent many of our cultural conversations of race and racism. As the book description from the National Book Foundation says. "In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Ibram X. Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois to legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro-civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America." For me, it is the following, from the Washington Post review, that really lays out the importance of this book and its premise: "It is comforting, in a way, to believe that ignorance and hatred produce racist ideas and, in turn, racist actions; if so, greater education and understanding could break the cycle. But this progression is “largely ahistorical,” Kendi writes. Discriminatory actions, wrought by self-interest, come first. Then racist ideas are developed to justify them, and they spread. Hate and ignorance are symptoms, he argues, not causes. By the late 20th century, prejudice was less overt — “law and order” or “war on drugs” or “tough on crime” became the preferred organizing principles — but the arc of history bent in the same direction. The battles over race in America would be fierce but simple if they pitted only racists against anti-racists, segregation against freedom. However, Kendi also calls out the assimilationists — those who seek to combat racial disparity but find blame in both the oppressed and the oppressors and, in the author’s view, are complicit in racism’s endurance and evolution." Best, and most challenging, book that I have read this year. Let me know if you read it, friends. There is SO MUCH that I would love to discuss. “The principal function of racist ideas in American history has been the suppression of resistance to racial discrimination and its resulting racial disparities. The beneficiaries of slavery, segregation, and mass incarceration have produced racist ideas of Black people being best suited for or deserving of the confines of slavery, segregation, or the jail cell. Consumers of these racist ideas have been led to believe there is something wrong with Black people, and not the policies that have enslaved, oppressed, and confined so many Black people.” ― Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chris Blocker

    This is perhaps the most powerful and well-built book I've come across on the subject of xenophobia/racism. Not only is Ibram X. Kendi well versed on the subject, but he presents it in a very unbiased and honest manner. Tracing the history back to the first enslavement of Africans by the Portuguese in the 1400s, Kendi works through nearly 600 years with significant care and detail. He separates the historical figures from the legends and analyzes each by the same criteria: segregationist, assimi This is perhaps the most powerful and well-built book I've come across on the subject of xenophobia/racism. Not only is Ibram X. Kendi well versed on the subject, but he presents it in a very unbiased and honest manner. Tracing the history back to the first enslavement of Africans by the Portuguese in the 1400s, Kendi works through nearly 600 years with significant care and detail. He separates the historical figures from the legends and analyzes each by the same criteria: segregationist, assimilationist, and anti-racist. He doesn't shy away from pointing out the flaws of those who've been branded heroes, and the positives of the villains. Neither does Kendi fall into the trap of making his theory about race itself. As he illustrates repeatedly, figures from all racial groups and social classes have fallen into each of the three categories. And so, with the facts presented as they are here, the argument should be ended, once and for all. (But we know that will not happen so easily.) Over and again, I was impressed with the author's very insightful, very thorough, and very rational presentation of the history. I agree strongly with nearly every point he made. Despite what we've been taught, so many of the decisions shaping our every day lives have been decided by racism. I like that Kendi strongly argues a point I've weakly made many times, ie the truest antiracists are not the champions of Civil Rights we celebrate today; the champions were more often assimilationists (sometimes even segregationist, as was the case with Lincoln). Their assimilationists views are the reason these figures are allowed to be celebrated in a society that still reeks of racism. The one and only point of contention I had with Kendi's overall argument was his notion that people were in no way damaged because of the history of slavery and racism. If Kendi's whole point was that racism does not create a biological inferiority in blacks, by all means, that's without argument. But Kendi argues that to suggest an ailing psychology is racist. Living in fear is traumatic. I myself have suffered many injustices and been the brunt of much racist anger, the majority of which happened nearly twenty years ago, and I still have nightmares. I'm damaged, yet I had the freedom to hide when push came to shove. Others are not so fortunate. It's not merely about “inferior opportunities and bank accounts,” as Kendi suggests; it's also about the terror induced by a flash of red and blue lights in the rear-view mirror. It seems almost ludicrous to suggest there isn't some psychological consequence to centuries of abuse. And yet Kendi argues that very suggestion is wrong and racist. What is the harm in acknowledging the trauma of being treated inferior? Acknowledging that one has been a victim does not mean one is owning a state of inferiority. Any person of any social class or ethnicity or gender who has to struggle and struggle and struggle to get ahead while living in fear is going to be psychologically run-down, not merely “psychologically different” as Kendi suggests. Stamped from the Beginning is a book I highly recommend for anyone who considers themselves to be an advocate for social justice. Too often, we applaud ideas that are inherently racist without recognizing them as such. Kendi examines all these ideas that have shaped us and gives a new perspective to view them with. And perhaps, having so thoroughly explored the subject, Kendi is right. Perhaps I'm wrong about the psychological impact of racism. No matter, because the discussion is alive and no one can say the history of racist ideas in America has not been thoroughly mapped. This is it. And it should not be ignored.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    This is a thorough review of racist attitudes in the United States from the time of the Puritan settlers to the administration of President Obama. The book is organized around 5 historical persons who somehow exemplify the racial attitudes of an era. For me, these figures did not help to organize my thoughts around the subject. Entire chapters in a section might only mention that person in passing while the attitudes or policies discussed were simply one more approach to the question, not that o This is a thorough review of racist attitudes in the United States from the time of the Puritan settlers to the administration of President Obama. The book is organized around 5 historical persons who somehow exemplify the racial attitudes of an era. For me, these figures did not help to organize my thoughts around the subject. Entire chapters in a section might only mention that person in passing while the attitudes or policies discussed were simply one more approach to the question, not that of the focal figure nor a reaction to that person’s thoughts. But this is a minor quibble. For the most part, I found this to be very complete. From the title, it is clear that the author will argue that racism has always been and continues to be prominent in the US. I agreed with this thesis going into the book and was familiar with much of the historical information prior to reading it. Nonetheless, there was still much for me to learn and new insights to glean. For a reader unfamiliar with the topic, this book might be overwhelming.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Peter Mcloughlin

    History of ideas. Namely, the ideas surrounding race and racism in colonial America to the present. These ideas developed around economic needs of exploitation. Racist ideas developed as a handmaiden to political economy and have served as a justification for convenient economic relations for wealthy slaveowners, factory bosses, politicians and interest groups. There is always a debate on which drives history ideas or material conditions. In the case of racist ideas take second fiddle to economi History of ideas. Namely, the ideas surrounding race and racism in colonial America to the present. These ideas developed around economic needs of exploitation. Racist ideas developed as a handmaiden to political economy and have served as a justification for convenient economic relations for wealthy slaveowners, factory bosses, politicians and interest groups. There is always a debate on which drives history ideas or material conditions. In the case of racist ideas take second fiddle to economic opportunism. Racism has always been a way for the powerful to justify power relations in society for their own selfish benefit. This book covers the history of these evolving ideas of Segregation, Assimilation and antiracism in history as ways power was exercised and the way people oppressed by these ideas fought back ideologically. This struggle is in the DNA of America and it is our original sin.

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Rush

    Whew, that was quite a book. “A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America”, a history of ideas and necessarily a history of people as they lived for or fought against those ideas. Kendi's title comes from a speech given to Congress in 1860 by Jefferson Davis where he justifies slavery because that is the way it has always been. But he may also be a nod to the idea that racist ideas were stamped from the beginning of our country. It is divided into 5 sections using iconic Americans as springbo Whew, that was quite a book. “A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America”, a history of ideas and necessarily a history of people as they lived for or fought against those ideas. Kendi's title comes from a speech given to Congress in 1860 by Jefferson Davis where he justifies slavery because that is the way it has always been. But he may also be a nod to the idea that racist ideas were stamped from the beginning of our country. It is divided into 5 sections using iconic Americans as springboards for discussion, Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Angela Davis. Some of these people get more personal coverage than others, but I think in general the plan works to tell the story of racist ideas and how they influence, and hurt, people. One of his starting points is the traditional thinking that ignorance and hate led to racist ideas that blossomed into outright discrimination. BUT he says it is actually the reverse, so Racial discrimination (as in slavery brought on by economic needs of the colonies) required racist ideas to support the discrimination and once that mindset was in place it naturally led to hate and ignorance. That sounds believable. I wonder if Kendi thought about the Stanford prison experiment from August 14–20, 1971 where random people volunteered to be either guards or prisoners and by the end of it a horrible dynamic quickly developed and showed how easily power perverts normal human interaction. So the unfettered power of the slave owners over the enslaved is that simple experiment amplified to a horrifying degree. But one of the other points of the book is that while racist ideas certainly lived in the brains of the oppressors, those same racist thoughts became part everybody else's thinking even if they were not actively oppressing. And sometimes the racist thoughts infect those trying to stop the oppression, and also become part of the victims thinking. Some Random thoughts… Christianity comes off poorly in this tale, in as much as famously Christian Cotton Mather in 1693 pressed to convert slaves to Christianity but interestingly... "Few Africans wanted to be Christians at the time (though this would change in a few decades)". But Mather’s progressiveness stopped there, because he “Obsessed over maintaining the social hierarchies by convincing the lowly that God and nature had put them there, whether it applied to women, children, enslaved Africans, or poor people.” Pg. 63 What kept catching my attention was how such brilliant men, renowned for their smarts, couldn’t see the absurdity of their prejudice. OK, OK, I know I am looking back with modern eyes and not acknowledging they were products of their time. But still, if your claim to fame is “thinking” and analyzing the range and restrictions of thought, YOU are held to a higher standard. HUME: “There never was a civilized nation any other complexion other than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. On the other hand, the most rude and barbarous of the Whites…have still something eminent about them…” Pg. 95 “Humanity is at its greatest perfection in race of whites” - KANT PG.102 LOCKE doesn’t come off well either, take that “father of liberalism” Anyway, there are also the obvious racist revolutionaries who couldn’t let go of their slaves. And again I know they were living in the world they were born in. BUT Kendi has this interesting bit… “Before supervising the contraband of Virginia, one Union Army captain, C.B. Wilder, admitted, ‘I did not think [black people] had so much brain.’ His experiences had taught him that ‘they have got as many brains as you or I have, though they have an odd way of showing it’ ". Pg. 229 So this soldier with just a little experience was able to open is mind to see he had been wrong about race. Why couldn’t those geniuses do the same? Or at least consider it at all? Occasionally I felt he veered into statements presented as facts but I think he was making rhetorical points. After a review of the Clarence Thomas confirmation… "White workers and professional had come to widely believe that they must secretly help their racial fellows on the job market, on the false assumption that government policies were helping Blacks more than Whites." Pg. 448 I mean, I don’t doubt that the white system ended up helping whites and hurting black, but what and where is the source of this secret (and therefore explicitly explained somewhere) belief system of the 1980's? If he had said white workers had internalize racist thinking, yeah I’d buy that. Also this touches on my own attempt to recognize results but not assume I know intentions. Meaning it may not be the intention of ALL conservatives to look like selfish a-holes, but that is the result. And in this case, while there surely have been businessmen who deliberately discuss in closed rooms how to promote whites over other races, but it is also sure that many more don't say or even think such things even if they benefits them to live in that world. There is bunch more and I’ll post some quotes at the end, but Kendi’s conclusion at the end is… “Antiracists merely have to have intelligent self-interest, and stop consuming those racist ideas” Pg. 504 He is talking about anti racists but in context I think he means that all of society, if only we act on intelligent self-interest would have this racism thing licked. But from my meager life experience people don’t act rationally, ever. Well that may be an overstatement Or maybe I am just too cynical about the overall aspirations of the human race, so just I don’t get this last line of the book… “There will come a time when we will humanity, when we will gain the courage to fight for an equitable society for our beloved humanity…” Pg. 511 QUOTES to REMEMBER Declaration after finishing mapping the human Genome, “ The concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis” Craig Venter (one of the scientist involved in the project). Pg 475 1776..“An estimated two-thirds of enslaved Africans in Georgia ran away…[..setting up their own governments on the frontier, or fighting with the British ]…Virginian lost as many as 30,000 enslaved Africans in a single year.” PG 105 “Racist ideas were produced to preserve the enslaving interests” Pg. 174 The Confederacy’s vice-president, Alexander Stephens’ cornerstone speech in March 1861 said, “Our new government is founded upon exactly [this] idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth” Pg. 215 “Southern constitutional conventions from 1867 to 1869 were a revolutionary sight to behold….Black delegates, about half who had been born in slavery. For all their lack of political experience, wealth, and schooling – or rather because of it – these delegates produced alluringly democratic constitutions, They instituted the South’s first publicly funded educational systems, penitentiaries, orphanages, and insane asylums; expanded women’s rights and guaranteed Black rights; reduced the number of crimes; reorganized local governments to eliminate dictatorships.” Pg. 250 “But it is also true that a society of equal opportunity without a top 1 percent hoarding the wealth and power, would actually benefit the vast majority of White people much more than racism does. It is not coincidental that slavery kept the vast majority of southern Whites poor.” Pg. 504

  26. 4 out of 5

    Regan

    What an endeavor (and I’m not just referring to the research and writing that went into this tome)! This is by far the most comprehensive guide through 500 years of racist thought, ideas and policy concerning the lives of blacks in America. The author has divided the book into periods, using one prominent historical figure as a guide and reference point for each period, uncovering their personal thoughts and feelings about blacks and race in general, exposing not only their own biases and shortc What an endeavor (and I’m not just referring to the research and writing that went into this tome)! This is by far the most comprehensive guide through 500 years of racist thought, ideas and policy concerning the lives of blacks in America. The author has divided the book into periods, using one prominent historical figure as a guide and reference point for each period, uncovering their personal thoughts and feelings about blacks and race in general, exposing not only their own biases and shortcomings, but also those of political leaders and the country at large. The periods flow nicely into one another, one figure dying off as the next is introduced at the close, but lead the reader on a somewhat dismal and hopeless journey where the “good” men and women throughout our history we’re not quite so noble and wise as has been taught to us, and the major events we’ve come to view as major turning points were fought against often from both sides of the aisle and their subsequent occurrences were often watered down versions of what could/should have been. While no one is spared in this exposing rendering of our nation’s history, some to me are unfairly reduced to thoughtless, useless, self-serving versions of themselves, with little concern for the historical context in which they were placed. It’s a fine line to walk opening the eyes of our country today to the insidious creation and cultivation of racist ideas in order to maintain power among the relatively small contingent of wealthy white males, and exposing the warts of individuals without the context of the life and culture from which they came. I mean, Thomas Jefferson warrants intense scrutiny and exposure, but William Lloyd Garrison? Sure, it’s important to point out the difference between the assimilationist abolishonists versus anti-racists, but it really felt like WLG was getting the same treatment as Jefferson for lacking the ability to know the difference himself; even Frederick Douglass struggled with defining what it was blacks in America should pursue and demand for themselves. The entire book centers on the idea that there are three basic stances when it comes to racist thought, that of the segregationist, the assimilationist, and the anti-racist. It is the anti-racist belief system that has struggled to find air and come to the surface, and very gradually more followers and believers have pushed it and driven it forward. This is the goal for our future, and not to be confused with the idea of “color blindness” which is far from anti-racist thought. In the end, the author lifts us out of despair in his epilogue, guiding us to what we need to do moving forward by reminding us what methods failed in the past.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alexis Sims

    EXCELLENT

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jason Adams

    I found "Stamped From The Beginning" to be a problematic book. The author, Ibram X. Kendi, takes pains to mention in the afterword, that he is writing to a mass audience. This appears to have ed to a narrative approach to racist ideas through the centuries. While this is definitely accessible, I think the attempt to strip away scholarly rigor and include pop culture touchstones also weakens the books contentions. On the one hand, the book never does a good job of creating a model that defines ra I found "Stamped From The Beginning" to be a problematic book. The author, Ibram X. Kendi, takes pains to mention in the afterword, that he is writing to a mass audience. This appears to have ed to a narrative approach to racist ideas through the centuries. While this is definitely accessible, I think the attempt to strip away scholarly rigor and include pop culture touchstones also weakens the books contentions. On the one hand, the book never does a good job of creating a model that defines racism and its impacts. On the other, it does not provide the scholarly support for many of its contentions. Thus the reader is confronted with counterintuitive assertions that Martin Luther King and Rocky Balboa were racists without a lot of solid sourcing. It feels like real enlightenment in this area will only come by perusing the bibliography. I also found a few of the endnotes in my Amazon Kindle edition to be oddly uninformative. The author appears to add a single note to contain all references within a paragraph. There were more than a few times that a quote might be sourced, but a contention by the author was not. It may be that the source was included in a previous paragraph, but the lack of scholarly detail in the service of pop history is frustrating. The structure was also problematic. While the colonial era felt like filler, the modern era felt rushed. I also found the various personalities at the center of each section to be inconsistently related to the time period. Cotton Mather barely appears in his section, while Angela Davis is a prime mover in hers. The section on William Loyd Garrison carries far more material about Abraham Lincoln. I would have better preferred a more focused work that dissected specific racist ideas to their purveyors and their impacts, rather than a frequently fragmented narrative that took paint to reintroduce a character that felt increasingly secondary to the ideas under discussion. At the heart of this book is the important contention that racist ideas are a fig leaf for exploiters to legitimize their exploitation. It also hits the nail on the head that people prefer simple narratives of causation over complex truths. Thus attempts to shine truth on problematic assertions will have no real impact as the truth was never the question. In this era of "fake news" the power of the lie, as described here, has led our polity down a disastrous path. The strongest part of this book is really the latter chapter as the increasing disconnect of reality in an information age creates patterns that could easily be used to predict the rise of Trump. I found, however, that most of the evidence cited has been covered by other authors with far more nuance, and I was not a fan of the structure or hyperbolic tone of the narrative. For those that live in a bubble of privilege and entitlement, perhaps this is the right tome to shake loose an awareness of the dynamics that shape the world. I on the other hand found it not to be my cup of tea. 2 stars.

  29. 5 out of 5

    MissSophie

    "[...] das Einzige was mit schwarzen Menschen nicht stimmt, [ ] ist unser Glaube, dass etwas mit ihnen nicht stimmt." (S.19) Ein tolles Buch, dass die komplette Geschichte des Rassismus in Amerika behandelt, bis zur Wahl von Obama 2008. Auch wenn der Anfang ein bisschen schleppend ist, und man sich als Leser erst mit den verschiedenen rassistischen Theorien vertraut machen muss, wird es doch im Laufe des Buches klarer und man kann Entwicklungen besser nachvollziehen. Was dieses Buch vor allem zei "[...] das Einzige was mit schwarzen Menschen nicht stimmt, [ ] ist unser Glaube, dass etwas mit ihnen nicht stimmt." (S.19) Ein tolles Buch, dass die komplette Geschichte des Rassismus in Amerika behandelt, bis zur Wahl von Obama 2008. Auch wenn der Anfang ein bisschen schleppend ist, und man sich als Leser erst mit den verschiedenen rassistischen Theorien vertraut machen muss, wird es doch im Laufe des Buches klarer und man kann Entwicklungen besser nachvollziehen. Was dieses Buch vor allem zeigt, ist dass Rassismus in der Politik und in der Kultur der USA so tief verankert ist (auch in der Black Community selbst), dass es schwierig ist schnell und wirksam etwas zu ändern. Und obwohl es schon kleine Schritte vorwärts gegeben hat, gibt es auch immer wieder große Schritte zurück (The New Jim Crow zB). "Es wird eine Zeit kommen, in der wir die Menschheit lieben, in der wir den Mut finden werden, für diese geliebte Menschheit um eine gleiche und gerechte Gesellschaft zu kämpfen, in dem Wissen, dass wir für uns selbst kämpfen, wenn wir für die Menschheit kämpfen. Die Zeit wird kommen. Vielleicht, nur vielleicht, ist sie jetzt da." (S.547)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    Everybody should read this book. It is at once heartbreaking, penetrating, and head-bangingly frustrating to read about the persistence of racist ideas in America, from the settlement of Jamestown in 1609 to the backlash against the Black Lives Matter hashtag this morning. Racism is dyed into the warp and weft of our national fabric; we can't pretend it's not there, that we're "post-racial," or that "good people" don't contribute to it. This books says: look. And it is a look we all need to take Everybody should read this book. It is at once heartbreaking, penetrating, and head-bangingly frustrating to read about the persistence of racist ideas in America, from the settlement of Jamestown in 1609 to the backlash against the Black Lives Matter hashtag this morning. Racism is dyed into the warp and weft of our national fabric; we can't pretend it's not there, that we're "post-racial," or that "good people" don't contribute to it. This books says: look. And it is a look we all need to take. Kendi dissects the "common sense" notion of racism -- that hate and bigotry lead to discrimination, which leads to racist policies -- and flips it on its head. The self-interested few who hold power enact racist policies, which cause discrimination, which leads to hate and bigotry to justify the economic, social, and medical discrepancies that result. Using 5 major philosophers of race, he moves through the centuries to document that this has always been so. Anti-racism, misunderstanding the problem, has been ineffectual in solving it. This book is not easy to read; it's 582 pages long and emotionally draining. However, everyone owes it to themselves to read this book and to catch a glimpse of what a truly just and equal society might look like.

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