We should be reading the work of Ibram X. Kendi right now. BUT… not exclusively, as if he’s the only Black expert on race. Black America is not a monolithic group, and so we should be very careful not to adopt his totalizing language as White people who read him with respect and a heart to know and understand, which is how I read Kendi. When Kendi writes about Black people collectively, he does that as a Black man speaking from personal experience and therefore makes generalizations that make sense given his personhood. It behooves us to listen, and given his amazing training and vast scholarship, we should listen at full attention.
But there are also other experts on race. I’m going to bring in Thomas Sowell and his thinking into this blog, too, lest I commit the White sin of treating Ibram X. Kendi as the only Black expert on Black experience. What makes me comfortable with bringing a conservative Black voice into the picture? I’m moving away from White Fragility as I said, but when I said so I worried that this might make me a passive racist White person as I shed my hyper-vigilance and entered into the realm of cognitive diversity once more. But then I read this in The Atlantic – and not a moment too soon. John McWhorter, a Black man, published an article four days ago entitled The Dehumanizing Condescension of White Fragility. (Link)
I think to only teach race or reflect on it from Ibram X. Kendi’s perspective would be racist of me, treating Black people as a monolith, and disrespectful to other Black voices that might prefer to call themselves, for example, African American and not Black. (Link to article about Black versus African American).
Here’s the thing about antiracist work – it’s anti, which means it’s by definition exclusionary. And what is called racist is growing by the day. One antiracist group that I was a part of insisted that antiracist work happen in relationship and that people of color lead. Now, I happen to think that this is 100% correct. My concern, however, is that when I expressed a contrary view I was expelled from the group, even though I was a member of an organization who was interested in being led. I couldn’t even be in the group because I didn’t think like the leaders – even if I said I wanted to follow them. I’m embracing cognitive diversity. Kendi, yes – but also Sowell. And many, many others.