Review: How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

by Dr. Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey

Hello friends,

In just a few short months SARN will be three years old, and one thing I’ve learned in this process is that I can’t do it alone. There’s a LOT of info out there to help us with our campaign to end racism. And there are new books every day. Much as I’d like to, I can’t read them all. That’s why I’m excited to introduce you to Dr. Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey and his Element of Inclusion Book Insights

I recently spoke to him for the Building Our Own Table interview series. He reviews books all the time, and has his own unique approach. I’ve asked him to review Ibram X Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist because 1) it’s a book everyone should know about 2) it’s an example of what Element of Inclusion Book Insights provides. Here’s his alternative view of the book How To be An Antiracist.   

Professor Ibram X Kendi is best known as the author of How To be An Antiracist.   

I think it’s one of the most important books you can read on antiracism.

I don’t think it should be the first book you read on the topic. 

Here’s are 4 themes from the book that I don’t hear people talk about enough. 


1. Antiracism is Binary 

According to the author a person is either Anti Racist or they are not.

It’s described as all or nothing in the book. 

This is a high standard that people may not be used to. 

I think it’s a higher standard for organisations that claim to be “Antiracist”.

I’m not convinced that mainstream organisations: 

-  Understand this meaning of the word anti racist. 

-  Are familiar with an alternative meaning for being anti racist. 

2. Antiracism is a Verb 

One of the strongest messages of the book is that being Anti Racist is defined by action. 

To illustrate this let’s explore what being racist means: 

According to the author a racist is someone who is supporting a racist policy through “their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea”.

This means doing nothing in the presence of a racist policy makes a person a racist. 

A racist policy is described as “any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups”.

The author has a profound understanding of: 

-  Systemic racism

-  Structural racism

-  Institutional racism

However he chooses not to use these terms frequently. 

I think the author is quite dismissive of these terms. 

3. Antiracism is not a Fixed State 

The author makes it clear that a person can be racist sometimes and anti-racist at other times.

To explain this further, the author describes different occasions when he has been racist and anti-racist.

This was important because it was insightful and refreshing for me as a reader. 

It suggests that our behaviour is indicative of who we are as people. 

This underpins the importance of action in defining Anti racism in the book. 

4.  Discrimination is a tool of Antiracism 

Racial inequity is the target for Anti racist policies. 

The author suggests that if discrimination is required to create equity; then it’s anti racist. 

The author is clear: 

The only remedy to racist discrimination is Anti Racist discrimination.

The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.

The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.

These are some of the commitments attached to Professor Kendi’s version of Anti Racism. 


I like this book as a strong introduction to Antiracism but it’s not for everyone. 

- It’s non linear. 

- It’s unconventional.

- It’s assumes a lot of prior knowledge about Race. 

This is why I don’t think it should be the first book you read about Race. 

Enjoyed this book review? Read this book? Share your thoughts below.

If you enjoyed these insights from Dr. Jonathan then you will love his Book Club

Dr. Jonathan is on a mission to help a million people like you to make your workplace inclusive by providing practical insight that will help us take action on building an anti-racist society.

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This means you'll get insights in less time and have guidance on what is relevant for your needs at work.

If you want to save time, have practical guidance, and start building an anti-racist society,  then the Element of Inclusion Book Insights is for you. 

© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2023. All Rights Reserved.

Cover photo courtesy of Canva.

I am an anti-racism writer, educator and activist, Co-Founder of Mission Equality the author of “I’m Tired of Racism”, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast.

Note: I’ve partnered with Dr. Jonathan and will receive a small referral fee if you use my link to join his book club.

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