Equity Speaker Series: Dr. Ibram X. Kendi on Antiracism

March 10, 2018

“What is the point of existence if we’re not creating a better world for the people we love?” --Dr. Kendi

More than 400 people gathered on Friday, March 9 in Seattle University’s Pigott Auditorium to attend our inaugural Equity Speaker Series featuring a community conversation with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award winning author of Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. The event was co-sponsored by Raikes Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Casey Family Programs, Seattle University and Elliott Bay Book Company.

In his remarks on his book, as well as in a Q&A from the stage with our Director of Learning Strategy Maya Thornell-Sandifor, Dr. Kendi urged a new vision and role for philanthropy—one that challenges discriminatory policies and actively works to dismantle racial inequities. Here are our key takeaways:

On Racism and Power

  • Racism is the idea that a racial group is inferior in any way to any other racial group.
  • Racist ideas blind us to racial discrimination, and a racist is someone who expresses a racist idea or supports a racist policy through their action or inaction.
  • To understand racism, we must grasp the marriage between racist ideas and racist policies.
  • Being racist – like being an antiracist – is not a fixed category.
  • Being racist is not who you are but what you do/don’t do and what you say/don’t say in the moment, and in response to racist policies.
  • Why do people and groups produce racist ideas? Are they ignorant or hateful people? Not usually.
  • People produce racist ideas and policies to protect and maintain their wealth and power.
  • The problem is not people, it is policy—and there is no such thing as a race-neutral policy.
  • Policy either increases, maintains or reduces inequality.
  • A racist policy is any policy that yields a racially unequal outcome, regardless of intention.
  • Antiracist policies are those which reduce racially unequal outcomes.

On Being Antiracist

  • There’s no philosophy or category of ‘not racist’ – instead, the construct is racist or antiracist.
  • When you begin to understand the problem is not people but policies, you can become antiracist.
  • Antiracism will free us from being manipulated by racist ideas.
  • Whether with your time or with your fiscal resources, challenge racist policies.
  • When you hear ideas in your sphere that are racist—say so.
  • We need to bolster our children’s armor with antiracist ideas to prepare them for the world they live.

Thank you for your inspiring leadership, Dr. Kendi – we are so grateful for your insights and teachings!




Photo ©Philanthropy Northwest/Daniel Sheehan