“How To Be An Antiracist” encourages conversation about racial justice in America
June 11, 2020
National Book Award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist will be the “Community Read” for the upcoming academic year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
The selection, which encourages readers to think about how to create and actively participate in an antiracist society, is consistent with Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson’s recent call for “a yearlong, university-wide discussion about racism and inequity.”
In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly described How To Be An Antiracist as “a boldly articulated, historically informed explanation of what exactly racist ideas and thinking are,” adding that it “will spark many conversations.”
Established in 2015, the Community Read program provides a common intellectual experience for all incoming Rensselaer students. By bringing students, faculty, and staff together throughout the year to engage in discussions centered on a book about issues of global concern, it epitomizes The New Polytechnic, the interdisciplinary model for education and research at Rensselaer.
The New York Times best-selling book was selected as the upcoming Community Read by a group of faculty, staff, and students from the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) and the Division of Student Life. The book will be incorporated into many HASS Inquiry courses, with HASS faculty and Student Life staff employing intergroup dialogue as a pedagogical innovation that can address these complex issues.
“Having the Rensselaer community read this book together will encourage important and timely conversations about systemic racism and social justice issues,” said Susan Smith, the faculty coordinator of the HASS Inquiry program and a lecturer in HASS. “We appreciate President Jackson’s leadership on these issues and look forward to engaging with this important work as we prepare students to change the world for the better.”
Kendi, who spoke at Rensselaer in February 2020, is the founding director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University in Washington, D.C. This summer, he will join Boston University and launch the new BU Center for Antiracist Research. A professor of history and international relations and a frequent public speaker, he is also a contributor at The Atlantic and CBS News. In addition to How To Be An Antiracist, which was published in 2019, Kendi is the author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and The Black Campus Movement, which won the W.E.B. Du Bois Book Prize.
“As an institution, we are responsible for educating the next generation of thinkers. Our students have to be equipped to have difficult, provocative, and ultimately transformative dialogues about race and racism in this country,” said Chenthu Jayachandiran, the director of multicultural programs at Rensselaer. “Dr. Kendi's book gives us a method for how to have those conversations and truly embrace an anti-racist framework. We have intentionally trained several faculty and staff across the institution so that they can serve as models for our students, teaching them how to engage in these discussions inside and outside of the classroom.”