by James Billot
Tuesday, 5
July 2022
News
11:00

Ibram X. Kendi: I taught antiracism to my one-year-old

The activist came to London to share parenting tips
by James Billot
The BBC’s Razia Iqbal and Ibram X. Kendi

Ibram X. Kendi is an anxious parent.

In his latest book, How to Raise an Antiracist, the antiracist activist describes wearing a gas mask, hazmat suit and gloves just to change his baby’s diapers. On one occasion, he beats himself up for putting on the diaper too tightly, with his body ‘stiffening’ any time the baby is in his arms.

But at an Intelligence Squared talk last night in London, he admitted that he has gone even further, including teaching his daughter about antiracism at the tender age of one. He described an incident where she only had white dolls to play with, which he feared would implicitly teach her to devalue blackness. So Kendi and his wife began instructing his child about the importance of antiracism:

The doll incident woke us up as parents. For children at this age, the conversation is going to be more non-verbal and so we became more deliberate about getting picture books that would allow her to connect her skin colour to beauty; that would allow her to appreciate the human rainbow in all of its beauty. This would allow her to recognise that there’s nothing wrong with her hair…We were constantly teaching her ‘no dark is not bad’, ‘no, white is not good’, ‘no they’re both equals’.
- Ibram X. Kendi

In his book, Kendi expands on this programme in more detail. ‘Childproofing is certifying our babies’ personal libraries have books that reflect the full range of humanity and inspire antiracist action,’ he writes. The library to which Kendi refers stretches all the way from Innosanto Nagara’s ‘A is for Activist’ to Meghan Markle’s ‘The Bench’ as well as a sprinkling of bell hooks.

But books are just the easy part, Kendi explains. In order to prepare children for a racist world, ‘caretakers’ must prime youngsters for ‘all sorts of trying, uncomfortable, and menacing aspects of our world’. As he explained last night, racist ideas come at children like cars on the street:

Parents are very deliberate in teaching their children to look both ways before crossing the road because those cars can harm you. So it’s critically important to look both ways…The street is dangerous. And the racial street that our children are walking in is dangerous. They can be hit by cars, but these cars are messages that there’s something wrong with them because of the colour of their skin or if they’re white because there’s something special about them. 
- Ibram X. Kendi

It seems even a world-famous antiracist activist such as Kendi struggles to live according to his own worldview. For example, he confessed to failing to choose a neighbourhood that is not racially diverse enough for his child to grow up in, so he relocated to D.C. On another occasion, he could not find a dark-skinned doll at his child’s nursery, so he took her out of the school entirely. Being a good antiracist parent is evidently a tough job.

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Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
1 month ago

As somebody who is neither racist nor anti-racist (at least, not in the sense of Ibram X. Kendi), it is difficult to tell this kind of thing apart from Titania Mc Grath’s spoofery. Indeed, progressives share this same problem: Titania Mc Grath has appeared on the booklist for genuinely anxious, woke parents, e.g.
https://commonslibrary.org/how-to-inspire-a-young-activist-a-collection-of-books-for-kids-and-teens/

Last edited 1 month ago by Lennon Ó Náraigh
Ambrose Thomson
Ambrose Thomson
1 month ago

It’s a trend

Last edited 1 month ago by Ambrose Thomson
N Forster
N Forster
1 month ago

According to Kendi, if you are not actively anti racist, you are a racist. There are no other options.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
1 month ago
Reply to  N Forster

If you are not actively against the idea of transporting a 1 tonne block of cheese to the moon, then you support the idea.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 month ago
Reply to  N Forster

If you’re actively “anti-racist”, you are a racist. The only other option is to be non-racist.

R S Foster
R S Foster
1 month ago

…anybody who treats his own Daughter’s dirty nappy as a health hazard is, frankly, demented…I’m not sure he should be bringing up children at all, much less turning somersaults to make one into an infant “anti-racist”…

Ambrose Thomson
Ambrose Thomson
1 month ago
Reply to  R S Foster

Are we sure he wasn’t just trying to be funny with that story? That part felt like an “I’m-a-clueless-parent” self deprecating trope, designed to disarm readers who don’t like being preached at from “on high.” The made-up story about the white dolls seems to serve the same purpose. If even Ibram managed to wind up unwittingly almost raising a racist baby, then we better all be on our best guard.

R S Foster
R S Foster
1 month ago

…I’ve read odd bits of his work idling in bookshops…I don’t think either humour or self-deprecation figure much in his personality..!

Ambrose Thomson
Ambrose Thomson
1 month ago
Reply to  R S Foster

Fair. But a gasmask? Really? It strains credibility to say the least. I guess my point was that he’s posing. He didn’t actually wear a gas mask, in real life, surely.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ambrose Thomson
Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 month ago
Reply to  R S Foster

Exactly. Extraordinary

Ambrose Thomson
Ambrose Thomson
1 month ago

The doll aisle in every major retail store has dolls of every race available. I can’t speak for his kids nursery, but if he himself discovered that his kid didn’t have non-white dolls, he’s either lying or he’s terrible at his own agenda. For someone with his background, it should be impossible to miss the options in the store. How could the world’s foremost anti-racist be discovering to his dismay that he’s perpetuating racist structures, when his own brand of anti-racism has already prevailed in the retail store offerings. He should do better.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago

Yes I thought that too. It’s his fault as the retail options are plentiful now.
If anything it’s white kids, especially boys, who are going to feel excluded in the current media mania for presenting minority children only on kids tv programmes and advertising to kids.

Ambrose Thomson
Ambrose Thomson
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Yes. A concerned parent reported to my cousin that she had witnessed her son killing an ant, of all the toxic masculine things to do!

Kirsten Walstedt
Kirsten Walstedt
1 month ago

Clearly a future serial killer. Ants are just the beginning!

Kirsten Walstedt
Kirsten Walstedt
1 month ago

He could have brought some black dolls to the nursery for general use.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 month ago

The correct response to Ibram Kendi:-

Ok groomer.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

In what way is he grooming? I have seen this applied to a number of cases and I can’t see the connection.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 month ago

He’s grooming his kids to be “anti-racists”, i.e. racists.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 month ago

“In order to prepare children for a racist world, ‘caretakers’ must prime youngsters for ‘all sorts of trying, uncomfortable, and menacing aspects of our world’.”
This quote seems to encompass the paranoia that seems to grip the woke. Clearly a black parent would wish to ensure their children are as little affected by the remaining idiots who believe having a black skin says anything about a persons character and abilities, but to prepare for a “racist world” has more than a touch of paranoia about it even in the US where racist attitudes undoubtedly prevailed for a long time. In the US where positive discrimination officially prevails in many institutions it is unrealistic to pretend that a child has to be prepared for life in the Jim Crow South of a century ago.
He refers to encouraging her not to see her hair as bad. Of course there is nothing wrong with typical black hair but inevitably hairdressers as a whole will specialise in the predominant hair type. There is nothing racist about it since black hairdressers can set up businesses to cater for black hair.
I am rather surprised he managed to find a nursery without black dolls unless he moved to an unusually insular white only area. It all smacks of a somewhat disingenuous as well as paranoid approach to life.

Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Heavy on the disingenuous

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

And then there is the old advice – ‘follow the money’. He is making millions of dollars a year out of this. Very few could resist the temptation, so I’d not judge that harshly….were it not for his judging everyone else harshly.

D Walsh
D Walsh
1 month ago

White leftists are the dumbest people on the planet, Kendi is a scammer nothing more, pay up suckers

How much cash would Kendi make in China, India, or Japan, ect, he’d be laughed at. only white people fall for this BS

Kirsten Walstedt
Kirsten Walstedt
1 month ago

He’s so woke he can’t even say “parent” or “parenting.” ‘Caretaker’ makes me think of a groundskeeper.
Radical slam poet and queen of social justice Titania McGrath has turned her talents to the realm of children’s non-fiction. Aimed at activists from the age of six months to six years
OMFG I can’t believe this got included! Doyle must have done backflips when he heard

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 month ago

Please, someone think of the children!

J Morgan
J Morgan
1 month ago

Hm so he lives in DC for the racial diversity? I’m willing to bet it’s somewhere like Adams Morgan rather than Columbia Heights.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 month ago

I’ve never heard a good word said about the guy, yet, on reading those quotes I thought what he said was mostly reasonable. Except it would have been easier to buy some coloured dolls and donate them to the nursery rather than remove his child.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 month ago

Those were my thoughts. Ensuring that his child has positive images of black people seems a responsible thing to do, I would do the same. I also agree with you that I would just ask the nursery to buy some black dolls, not withdraw my child. Of course, a truely ‘woke’ person wouldquestion his stereotyping his daighter by giving her dolls. 🙂

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 month ago

My thoughts exactly. Which stereotypes must be upheld and which ones rejected?

Ambrose Thomson
Ambrose Thomson
1 month ago

There’s a surface reading of wokism that always sounds reasonable. The very term “anti-racist” is a perfect example. Who except a few fringe deranged people is not against racism? Of course anti-racism is totally reasonable as a simple notion. But there’s a whole ideology packed in here and it’s pursued disingenuously. It’s also overblown. People like Kendi, who manages to have his kid in a nursery, should spend some time in the slums of Hyderabad Pakistan where I grew up. There’s real oppression and abuse in this world, but white dolls in fancy day cares aren’t it.

Jim R
Jim R
1 month ago

So what does he do when his kid is afraid of the dark and wants the light on? Is it possible that humans might have preferences for light over darkness that have nothing to do with racism, but a basic survival instinct without which our ancestors would have been eaten by nocturnal predators?

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 month ago

Kendi is simply a hater.

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
1 month ago

Most recent children’s literature is time-wasting trash, including The Bench. (A friend’s child started a parody of it —” A bench is a perch for bums. Some people are all bum to the crowns of their heads…” Such uncluttered possession of reality.) Children can sense preachiness a mile off. So glad my own parents just passed on their parents’ copies of Greek myths for children (Disney’s Ariel is very wet compared to Clyte!) and fairly unbowdlerized Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Jumped-up pseudo intellectuals like Mr. “Kendi” are bound to be deeply superficial.

Max Price
Max Price
1 month ago

Poor kid.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 month ago

Seems unherd really loves Kendi….

Rose D
Rose D
1 month ago

So he’s raising a racist baby?

Michael F
Michael F
1 month ago

When my daughters were babies, black dolls were easily available. We had one of each colour, which was our childrens’ choice. It was also rare to find a contemporary book that didn’t feature black, brown and white faces, and this was 20 years ago so I would imagine it’s even more the case now.
Of course, I live in the UK, not the US. I can only assume that they still have massive problems with structural racism that we don’t, and books are white only. So why is he telling us his story, when it only applies to the seemingly apartheid neighbourhood in which he resides?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael F

African Americans have been provided every opportunity in the book to elevate themselves in US society. The fact that they haven’t is now taken to be an indicator of white supremacy.

I would like to say that out of the African American students I have taught there are a notable number who abhor CRT preaching. Unfortunately, their views and opinions are often ignored for more sensationalist anti racist ones.

Laura Kelly
Laura Kelly
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael F

I’m 60 and I had a black Barbie in the 70’s–“Julia” from a TV show about a nurse. Black dolls have always been available. Maybe black dolls don’t comprise 50% of all dolls, but blacks only comprise 12% of the population. Also, you forgot the /s!