Any good teacher who's going to teach about racism, and also its history, are going to teach about people of different races who were involved in abolitionist struggles, who were involved in the civil rights movement, who are trying to create an equitable and just society today. So what a white student will learn is, they'll learn about a white slaveholder and a white abolitionist, and they'll learn about why both said what they said and did what they did, and they'll learn which one had the morally right and just position.
On whether these lessons are better taught at home
I think these lessons are better taught everywhere. And I think when our teachers are teaching it and the parents are teaching it and, you know, aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins and friends, and we're just we're so focused on ensuring that this next generation of Americans can view different-looking groups as equals and can ultimately eliminate this scourge of racism that this nation has faced. We're collectively focused on that. I mean, to me that's what sort of gets me excited. And that's why I'm so excited about the books that are being produced today that can allow us as parents and caretakers and teachers to facilitate these conversations.
Kendi's reading recommendations
Dear Martin and Dear Justyce, by Nic Stone
Dear Martin is about a young African American teen who is going to a private school, and is really grappling with his his own identity. And so he ends up, in the book, writing a series of journal entries exploring the life of Martin Luther King to really understand his own identity. And, you know, I think teens everywhere—but especially black teens—are constantly trying to understand who they are. The second book, Dear Justyce, which is one of Justyce's friends who's incarcerated, writing to Justyce ... about what really happened, why he's innocent, but even more importantly about the juvenile justice system. You know, I love when books encourage young people to write and to express themselves, and certainly these two books do.
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
This book is really a memoir in verse about her life and her upbringing in South Carolina and in New York. And it's really a book that allows a young person to really explore what it means to be a child, particularly a child in this world. But I think what I really found fascinating about this book and why I can't wait 'til [my daughter] reads it one day, you know, is because you can just tell through this text just how much Jacqueline came to love stories and storytelling despite the fact that she struggled to read as a child.
The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo
Elizabeth Acevedo is obviously one of the more gifted writers of our generation, and she writes about a character ... Xiomara, who has all these frustrations as she's growing into herself, and she learns to pour these frustrations and these passions into poems. And she recites them to herself and wants to perform them, and knows her overbearing caretakers would not approve, but this is her outlet, this is the way she wants to speak and share herself, and ultimately she refuses to be silent.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sánchez
Well, I think one of the things I'm trying to teach my daughter is the beauty about humanity is our imperfections. And, you know, I think Juan Felipe Herrera spoke about this book as a perfect book about imperfection. And I don't know whether I mean, I feel like quoting his statement. I don't know if there's a better way to describe, you know, I am not your perfect Mexican daughter.
It's really a book in many ways about two sisters, and one sister is perceived by her mother as this perfect child. And the other child is perceived as this far less than perfect child—to be diplomatic. And then the 'perfect child' tragically passes away. And then the 'not perfect' child begins to learn more about her and begins to find that in many ways she was imperfect, just like she was.
The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person, by Joseph Frederick