The activist came to London to share parenting tips
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:
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:
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.