Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
Ibram X. Kendi
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Some Americans cling desperately to the myth that we are living in a post-racial society, that the election of the first Black president spelled the doom of racism. In fact, racist thought is alive and well in America--more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, if we have any hope of grappling with this stark reality, we must first understand how racist ideas were developed, disseminated, and enshrined in American society.
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 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.
Contrary to popular conceptions, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Instead, they were devised and honed by some of the most brilliant minds of each era. These intellectuals used their brilliance to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation's racial disparities in everything from wealth to health. And 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.
Scientific disciplines split into bickering factions, with geneticists distancing themselves from eugenicists. Meanwhile, eugenics was kept afloat by Nazi Germany and by the American birth control movement, the latter run by Margaret Sanger and her American Birth Control League.19 Physical anthropology, a discipline studying biological racial distinctions, had split off from cultural anthropology, which studied cultural distinctions. Boas was at the helm of cultural anthropology; the
offered by the federal government in a single bill. More than 200,000 war veterans used the bill’s benefits to buy a farm or start a business; 5 million purchased new homes; and almost 10 million went to college. Between 1944 and 1971, federal spending for former soldiers in this “model welfare system” totaled over $95 billion. As with the New Deal welfare programs, however, Black veterans faced discrimination that reduced or denied them the benefits. Combined with the New Deal and suburban
assimilationists regarded as the principal problem, and which assimilationists believed could be remedied by persuasion and education; and “institutional racism,” the institutional policies and collections of individual prejudices that antiracists regarded as the principal problem, and that antiracists believed only power could remedy.17 And White American power did not appear up to the task. On January 17, 1968, President Johnson submitted his State of the Union to Congress. Representatives and
discrimination was in their self-interest, much as President Abraham Lincoln chose to end slavery to save the Union. They have also conceded to antiracist change as a better alternative than the disruptive, disordered, politically harmful, and/or unprofitable conditions that antiracist protesters created. Antiracist protesters have commonly rejected those racist ideas of what’s wrong with Black people that are used to justify the plight of majority-Black spaces and the paucity of Black people in
guided the ship around the mighty rock, Mather later testified. The sea calmed. The crew hurriedly rigged the ship with new sails. The Lord blew “a fresh gale of wind,” allowing the captain to navigate away from danger. The battered James arrived in Boston on August 17, 1635. All one hundred passengers credited God for their survival. Richard Mather took the deliverance as a charge “to walk uprightly before him as long as we live.”1 As a Puritan minister, Richard Mather had walked uprightly