In February, AACRAO's Book Club held a discussion on Ibram X. Kendi How to be an Antiracist. Professor Kendi is a speaker at AACRAO's upcoming Annual Meeting, and his book explores how to address racism at all levels in your life.
After our largest discussion yet, our co-hosts Joyce R. Philip and Dr. Soraira Urquiza recap their expectations, experiences, and takeaways.
What were your thoughts going into the discussion?
"The journey to being an anti-racist is not simple. Regardless of your race, gender, ethnicity, age and/or religion, travelling this road is a complex process. Obstacles made up of our personal experiences prevent us from smoothly traversing down paths
that will lead us to declare, once and for all, that I am not a racist. In Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist, no one gets “a get out of jail card” that would anoint the individual free of racism. Hallelujahs are quelled here,
even for this granddaughter of a slave who served in the Civil War.
To be an antiracist takes work. It takes an examination of self. Above all it takes action."
Dr. Soraira Urquiza:
"Nervous. Anxious. Excited.
These were all the emotions I had going into the book club discussion. Once I got settled in, I was so proud to be there and my fellow AACRAO colleagues. The stories shared in the larger group and the conversations in the breakout rooms were enlightening
and inspiring. I only wish we had more time together.
However, I also could not help but wonder, who wasn’t there and why? Were my co-facilitator, Joyce, and I just preaching to the choir? Now don’t get me wrong, I think the choir can (and should) always learn new songs, but why does it feel
it is the same people at the table?"
How did the discussion go?
Dr. Soraira Urquiza:
"Listening to my colleagues discuss their journey with Dr. Kendi’s book reminded me that we are all dedicated to making higher education better for our students. By committing to being antiracist, we can review, challenge, and change our institutional
policies and practices that support inequity. This book club discussion gave me the emotion I struggle the most to maintain, hope."
"In our small group discussion, participants shared their successes and difficulties. Their efforts to take action that would shift their institutions’ policies and processes towards equitable and just treatment for faculty, staff and students were
not always welcomed. For so many, the journey has not been easy, for the road was scorched with those who were not allies of the struggle. One participant spoke of the systems that discourage students from being fully engaged in the college experience.
These systems that work for the majority have been in place for long periods but remain unexamined. Taking action to make policy and process changes that are fair and impact the entire staff and student body is what the antiracist journey is about."
"In chapter 17, Kendi writes “A mission to uncover and critique America’s life of racist ideas turned into a mission to uncover and critique my life of racist ideas, which turned into a lifelong mission to be antiracist.” We all must
recognize that we have an obligation to be the force of change and to take accountability for the activities, policies and processes in our institutions and communities. We must accept responsibility for creating and achieving antiracist outcomes.
Here are some tools:
- Identify what needs to be changed and be committed and intentional about your efforts
- Provide examples of the problem and back it up with data
- Develop and/or identify allies that support your change efforts
- Be transparent. There should be no hidden agendas. There should be visibility and accessibility of information at all levels and a clear view to decisions being made.
- Care enough to confront obstacles head on using exquisite communication skills
- Listen carefully first and talk second
- Practice self-care for the road is bumpy, long, and filled with potholes. You will not be successful if you succumb to professional, personal and spiritual fatigue.
The journey towards being an anti-racist is a reward in itself. It will yield a better institution, a better community, a better world and an individual’s perpetual crusade to be an anti-racist."
Dr. Soraira Urquiza:
"Dr. Kendi has stated that the heartbeat of racism is denial and the heartbeat of anti-racism is confession. He asks, “Are we willing to endure the grueling fight against racist power and policy? Are we willing to transform the antiracist power
we gather within us to antiracist power in our society?” (p.218). Because if we are committed to this work, we need to do the work- beginning with ourselves. This requires honesty and transparency. We need to commit to looking inward. The fact
of the matter is a commitment to anti-racism takes uncomfortable inter and intrapersonal work. This work goes beyond having a conversation; it necessitates action. Sometimes it requires an entire paradigm shift.
I understand that not everyone is ready or even willing to engage in this effort. Therefore, it is up to those of us in the choir to sing our songs--loudly."
Dr. Kendi will be a speaker at our 2021 (106th) Annual Meeting at the end of the month. Register today to continue the conversation.
Watch the full recording of the discussion here.