Stamped from the Beginning by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is the book you didn’t know you needed to read if you are working towards being an antiracist. At times dense with history and more than a bit confusing, its overlying message of racism as the founding sentiment of the country is as uncomfortable as it is important. The care with which Dr. Kendi presents his findings and the honesty he expresses about uncovering his own racist ideas provide the means for you to begin your own journey of antiracism.
Dr. Kendi divides American history into five sections, with each section lead by one key figure who was highly influential in the ongoing racism battle. In each section, he takes care to provide the necessary political, economic, and sociological ideologies that define that time period so that readers get a fuller picture of racism as it existed at that time and the lengths people went to protect their racist ideas.
One of the more impressive aspects about Stamped from the Beginning is not just the fact that Dr. Kendi provides a list of all of his reference documents for each point he makes. It is also the fact that he is unafraid to call out the nation’s heroes for their own complicity in promoting racist ideology. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, and Barack Obama are just a few of those on the list of people this country tends to admire and who all did nothing to eradicate racism in the country. He draws attention to the problems of such beloved, supposedly anti-racist, novels as To Kill a Mockingbird. Even more, he highlights famous movies that have their basis in racist imagery, whether you realized it or not. In short, he opens your eyes to even the most buried aspects of racism.
Stamped from the Beginning is not an easy read. Not only is it dense with fact and history, but it also is infuriating at all of the ways politicians and other people of power maintained the racist status quo throughout the centuries. The modern section that highlights all of the ongoing issues inherited by Bush one and two, Clinton, and Obama, are particularly infuriating if only because it proves that racists don’t care about science or fact – something we are still beginning to discover as 2020 ends.
In the end, what truly makes Stamped from the Beginning so powerful, and therefore uncomfortable, is all the times in which Dr. Kendi shows how racist thought permeates every aspect of society. I felt shame at having held certain beliefs, not understanding their racist underpinnings. At the same time, I had more than one epiphany as something Dr. Kendi states resonated with me and shifted my perspective. Therefore, since being an antiracist is an ongoing journey, you can’t go wrong in starting your journey with Stamped from the Beginning.