How to Be An Antiracist Ep. 4

Podcast Description


Biological Racist: One who is expressing the idea that the races are meaningfully different in their biology and that these differences create a hierarchy of value.

Biological Antiracist: One who is expressing the idea that the races are meaningfully the same in their biology and there are no genetic racial differences.


  1. Page 46: Microaggression is the term used to describe constant verbal and nonverbal abuse racist white people unleash on Black people wherever we go, day after day. List 5 examples of microaggressive behaviors that you’ve done.
  2. Page 49: “Biological racial difference is one of those widely held racist beliefs that few people realize they hole, nor do they realize that those beliefs are rooted in racist ideas.” Reflect on and write about examples of your personal belief in biological racial differences.
  3. Page 54: What strategy do you intend to use to challenge singular-race makers and assimilationists who argue that ignoring the “mirage of racial differences” while not challenging the reality of racist policies and actions, is the answer to a post racial world?

Additional Resources


Hello everyone and welcome to Chapter 4 of How To Be an Antiracist. Again, I’m just going to flow, just figuring this out. Chapter 4 is about biology. There’s a tweet thread that I want to read by – and I, hopefully, I’ve been listening to his name, hopefully, I will not butcher it but I apologize if I do – Anand – there’s a tweet thread that I want to read by him. And then somebody sent @reportascene about a situation that’s going on that I want to just read, it’s an anonymous report. And I’m just going to read it to you because it impacts Black and Brown people. 


So, I’m going to get started with the basics of biology. Okay, so, again, Dr. Kendi has created, has two definitions here: 

“Biological racist: One who is expressing the idea that the races are meaningfully different in their biology and that these differences create a hierarchy of value.

Biological antiracist: One who is expressing the idea that the races are meaningfully the same in their biology and there are no genetic racial differences.”


And so, as I was reading this, I was really impacted. I really had some… this chapter – and I’m sure others will – really impacted me. His story is about his classroom. And it really hit home for me, it’s about a white teacher and how this white teacher prioritized, whether consciously or unconsciously, the needs of the three white students, the very small minority of white students in the classroom.  And I’ve had this experience because I’ve been the only in so many situations, particularly growing up. And not having the vocabulary to know that I was being treated differently and being gaslit by those individuals, particularly those adults. I mean, I could say they should know better, but hell, most whiteness has no clue about what it does if it’s not being actively white supremacist, or segregationist, it thinks it’s, you know, one of the good guys. 


So on the first page I highlighted this: “But generalizing the behavior of racist White individuals to all White people is as perilous as generalizing the individual faults of people of color to entire races.”

And I wrote a note down here, this is why I use the term whiteness. And this is the trigger for a lot of white people. And this is where the hypocrisy steps in and this is for specifically for you white people. And I’m not using whiteness here, I’m using white people. The fact that I even have to use whiteness, because you never use blackness. You call me Black and you have no compunction, no hesitation, no problem with calling me Black because you see me as a group, I represent the group of Blackness. But the moment I say white or call an individual a white person, you become defensive. It’s “why are we talking about race?” You have no issues with calling me Black. The opposite of Black is white. And I didn’t create this system. But it’s just another example of how white people are… the system is set up so white people are individuals and everybody else are groups of people. We talked about this before. And so, that’s that. 


And it says, “”She acted that way,” we should say, “because she is racist.””

So he’s talking about this teacher. and then I just highlighted this data point: “During the 2013-14 academic year, Black students were four times more likely than White students to be suspended from public schools, according to Department of Education data.” 

And so this goes back to – because you have the segregationists who will say that because we’re inferior and we don’t know how to behave in school, you’ll have the assimilationists who say that there’s nothing inherently wrong with them, we just need to teach them to fit inside this system of middle-class whiteness. It’s not inherently their fault, they just don’t know any better. And I can tell you as an educator, I fit into that mold. I definitely fit there. And then you would have the antiracists who would see this, who I would hope that I am now actively being, who would see this as: why are you suspending more Black students than white students? That tells me that something is wrong with the system and we need to fix the system. So I just wanted to point that out. 


Ok, so on page 46, he defines microaggressions as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership.” And then I highlighted this:

“I don’t think it’s coincidental that the term “microaggression” emerged in popularity during the so-called post-racial era that some people assumed we’d entered with the election of the first Black president. The word “racism” went out of fashion in the liberal haze of racial progress—Obama’s political brand—and conservatives started to treat racism as the equivalent to the N-word, a vicious pejorative rather than a descriptive term. With the word itself becoming radioactive to some, passé to others’ some well-meaning Americans started consciously and perhaps unconsciously looking for other terms to identify racism. Microaggressions became part of a whole vocabulary Of Old and new words—like “cultural wars” and “stereotype” and “implicit bias” and “economic anxiety” and “tribalism””


And then I highlighted this and wrote – what I’m saying now – wrote in the margins, I’m going to adopt this:

“I do not use “microaggression” anymore. I detest the post-racial platform that supported its sudden popularity. I detest its component and “aggression.” A persistent daily low hum of racist abuse is not minor. I use the term “abuse” because aggression is not as exacting a term. Abuse accurately describes the action and its effects on people: distress, anger, worry, depression, anxiety, pain, fatigue, and suicide.

What other people call racial microaggressions I call racist abuse. “


And then I bring into – this brings me back to again, I keep railing on this compassionate empathy component that we find being heralded in the tech space. Because a lot of what I’m supposed to extend compassion and empathy to are microaggressions, or as he defines them, abuse against myself and people like me. But I’m supposed to sit back and assume best intentions while I’m being hurt. And that is not… and I’m sure that’s not the intention of the people are championing this, but that’s the impact. And so.. impact always trumps intention. 

And I also have a problem that most of these conversations are had by mostly white people who don’t have the lived experiences of being targets of racism. So that is also an imbalance.


So your first homework assignment this week is about microaggressions. It comes from page 46, it says microaggression is the term used to describe constant verbal and nonverbal abuse racist white people unleash on Black people wherever we go, day after day. List 5 examples of microaggressive behaviors that you’ve participated in. This is your own opportunity to self-reflect and call yourself out on microaggressive behaviors that you’ve done to people of color and particularly Black people. So that’s assignment #1. 


So, he goes into page 48: “With racist teachers, misbehaving kids of color do not receive inquiry and empathy and legitimacy. We receive orders and punishments and “no ex as if we are adults. The Black child is ill-treated like an adult, and the Black adult is ill-treated like a child.”


And this I talk about a lot when I share how Black people, Black youth, Black children are adultified. And the research has shown that you see a Black girl as being responsible for her behavior as an adult at the age of five. And I want you to think about that. Particularly those of you that have children. I want you to look at your little white kids’ face and if they’re less than eight, because you adultify young Black boys by the age of 10. And I want you to look at their young faces. And I want you to see how silly and clumsy and defiant and all those things that they do in your home. And I want you to try and think about what that would be like if your young person, if the person you love, who you recognize as being a child, was being treated as an adult. Because that’s how it is in our communities. 


That’s how we have to be taught to go out into the world, to go out at a very young age, we lose that innocence. We don’t have that innocence anymore. I had a story of being with a friend when I was in San Diego and we were at the zoo. And, I was already uncomfortable, I’m telling you right now, I’m already uncomfortable at this point when there’s just a whole bunch of white people around me and I’m just one of a few people of color. She has two daughters and they knew that this park was coming up in front of us. And she just let them run off in front of her. And I was just shocked. And we got to the place and sat down, I had to explain to her, I’m like – we can’t do that to our Black babies. We can’t just, let them run off where they’re not in our eyesight. Either something will happen to them or they will be blamed for something. And then I just started to cry because I thought about her five year old daughter who was treated as a child, who was treated with innocence and our babies are not and it just made me think about my childhood and how early I lost that innocence and had to learn to walk into the world or be in the world as a mini-adult just because it was not safe being the silly little five year old that I was because it’s not accepted. I just really want you to think about the various ways that white supremacy makes it safe for whiteness and doesn’t for blackness. 


So, I just said, reading about this experience – and this is about him and being in school – I am reminded that these are our experiences. And my heart breaks. So that’s just.. I just think about all the Black kids from generations that were never allowed to be children who were treated so unfairly. 

“No one taught me that these differences our underlying humanity-the essence of biological antiracism. Adults had in so many ways taught me that these superficial differences signified different forms of humanity-the essence of biological racism. Biological racists are segregationists. Biological racism rests on two ideas: that the races are meaningfully different in their biology and that these differences create a hierarchy of value… Biological racial difference is one of those widely held racist beliefs that few people realize they hold-nor do they realize that those beliefs are rooted in racist ideas. “


So your homework assignment two is from page 49:  “Biological racial difference is one of those widely held racist beliefs that few people realize they hold-nor do they realize that those beliefs are rooted in racist ideas.“


So I want you to reflect and write about examples in your personal, of your personal beliefs and biological racial differences. 

Okay, so these are not, I know these are hard and some of you are going to push back and say “I don’t have these” but I want you to take a moment and really think about these. Because I have them as a Black person because I was taught that people who are poorer than me, people who had disabilities, all kinds of things were somehow less than I was. And I was able to look down on them. As a Black person. I know you as a white person have these. We can only face these, we can only deal with the hard things if we face them. So this is an opportunity to dig deep, you can do this by yourself, you don’t have to do it with anybody. You don’t have to share this with anybody, I just need you to do the hard work. Because you cannot be antiracist if you will not face the fact that you are racist. 


And so, then we talk about, then he talks about how the Bible was used. I highlighted this at the top of page 50: “How Black people are biologically distinct because of slavery. At the 1988 American Heart Association conference, a Black hypertension researcher said African Americans had higher tension rates because only those able to retain high levels of salt survived consuming the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean during the Middle Passage. “I’ve bounced this off a number of colleagues and…it seems certainly plausible,” Clarence Grim told swooning reporters. Plausibility became proof, and the slavery/hypertension thesis received the red carpet in the community in the 1990s. Grim did not arrive at the thesis in his research lab. It came to him as he read Roots by Alex Haley. Who needs scientific proof when a biological racial distinction can be imagined by reading fiction? By reading the Bible?”


And so, I’ve been talking more and more about how the Bible has been used as a tool particularly still in 2019, it’s one of the strategies and tools for the enslavement of the mind of people. And I see – and you can disagree, I’m not going to debate this – you can see how much harm has been inflicted on people for generations around the world based on religious text. So, I won’t get into the … one thing, it says, “The same Bible that taught me that all humans descended from the first pair also argued for immutable human difference, result of a divine curse.”


So he gets into all of these things that are in the Bible that people have used to explain and justify slavery. And he talks about Darwin. I have a different idea and perspective about Darwin’s work. I never saw… it was never taught to me from the perspective of being a segregationist and highly racist. But as I see it now, it definitely was and was used to promote these very racist ideas. 

“prompting biologist Charles Darwin to write in the opening pages of The Origin of Species in 1859, “The view which most naturalists entertain, and which I formerly entertained—namely, that each species has been independently created—is erroneous.” He offered a theory of natural selection that was soon used as another method to biologically distinguish and rank the races.

The naturally selected White race was winning the struggle, was evolving, was headed toward perfection, according to social Darwinists. The only three outcomes available for the “weaker” races were extinction, slavery, or assimilation”


And he talks about, we see that with Native Americans, with Africans and then with Chinese and Eastern Europeans. And then it talks about eugenics. 

So a lot of this biological stuff is just, it… so it talks about the transatlantic eugenics movement:

“aimed to speed up natural selection with policies encouraging reproduction among those with superior genes and re-enslaving or killing their genetic Inferiors. Global outrage after the genocidal eugenics-driven policies of Nazi Germany in the mid-twentieth century led to the marginalization of biological racism within academic thought for the first time in four hundred years. 

And yet marginalization in academic thought did not mean marginalization in common thought, including the kind of common thinking that surrounded me as a child.”


And then he talks about the genome project and how, when it was announced, that the truth was that regardless of race more than 99.9% of us were the same, shortly after that,

“Scientists planning the next phase of the human genome project are being forced to confront a treacherous issue: the genetic differences between human races…A Troublesome Inheritance… made the case that “there is a genetic component to human social behavior.” cradle of biological racism-it leads to biological ranking of the races and the supposition that the biology of certain races yields superior behavioral traits, like intelligence.


So they’re trying to explain, since its 99.9% the same, they have to explain that the difference of this .1% is behavior and that’s how whiteness is better. And so this is really what I want you to understand: how transient whiteness is. Because even in the face of data, of truth, and I make a distinction between truth and facts, because facts change and we see it when whoever takes over, whoever is in power changes the facts, but truth remains the same. And even in the face of data and truth, whiteness changes and shifts to now explain that thing as well. 


So, on page 54, Race is a mirage but one that humanity has organized itself around in very real ways. 

And this talks about the assimilationists who believe – you know, the single-race makers – who are like “oh we’re all one race, let’s just ignore this” or: Assimilationists believe in the post-racial myth that talking about race constitutes racism, or that if we stop identifying by race, then racism will miraculously go away. They fail to realize TK that if we stop using racial categories. then we will not be able to identify racial inequity. If we cannot identify racial inequity, then we will not be able to identify racist policies. If we cannot identify racist policies, then we cannot challenge racist policies. If we cannot challenge racist policies, then racist power’s final solution will be achieved: a world of inequity none of us can see, let alone resist. 


And so, although we are the same, the policies don’t make us the same. And until the policies change, it is “terminating racial categories is potentially the last, not the first, step in the antiracist struggle.”

So your third assignment is from this page 54: What strategy do you intend to use to challenge singular-race makers and assimilationists who argue that ignoring the “mirage of racial differences” while not challenging the reality of racist policies and actions, is the answer to a post-racial world?


And, that’s where I’m going to end that. And then I’m going to get into, I’m going to read the Anand’s tweet thread right quick, not all of it, but I’ll put it in the resources. 

“There are at least two traditions of racism in American life — the flagrant and the insidious. Racism with a hood, and racism with a smile. Racism that bombs churches, and racism that asks to touch your hair. The racism of David Duke, and the racism of Thanksgiving Uncle.J”


And so I’m going to add that thread to the resources so you can read the rest of that. And then I want to read. And this came to me as anonymous. And it was in reference to Drift, which is a… their handle on Twitter is @Drift and it says “Connect your sales teams with your future customers NOW”. And I’m assuming they did some kind of rallying, picketing in front of a conference. And this person who started it was Dave Gerhart TK and some people had some challenges with that. 

I’m just going to read you the DM I received. 

“Hi Kim, thank you for all the wonderful work that you do. Secondly, I’m sorry to reach out to you through a fake Twitter account. I wanted to share something to report a scene but wanted to remain as anonymous as possible as I’m worried about retaliation from my company. If you have a moment, please check out the thread” – which I just explained – “the woman in the thread” – and I’ll add the thread to the resources – “particularly Allison is calling out a company called Drift, a Boston-based startup full of the cliches of tech bros and misogynistic leaders you can imagine. They are so out of touch and yet claim to be all about D&I since the founders are Latinx. In a 300+ company, I can literally count the number of Black employees on one hand. And on the hiring page, they still have the face of a Black engineer who left the company almost two years ago, in an effort to seem inclusive. And yet for this guerilla marketing stunt, they blatantly hired mostly Black people to stage a fake marketing protest at a fancy marketing conference. None of these protesters are full-time employees of Drift. It strongly seems that, as people of color, they are being opportunistically used for their image. They are hired to brandish to absurd signs, cause a ruckus outside a professional conference in an effort to chase the attention of the arguably white-collar professionals who otherwise wouldn’t give them the time of day. This move is so incredibly in bad taste given how many Black and Brown people are actually protesting on the streets of this country for life-threatening political causes. Drift is soulless, trying to monetize on this “Black activist” look phenomenon for marketing and PR and possibly capitalizing worker’s need for employment and jobs. 


To be perfectly honest, I do not know what my goal is for sharing this with you, other than to trying to report to someone the absurdity, racist tone of this company’s behavior. It’s been grating me all day and there’s little I can do besides submitting an anonymous Glassdoor review, which I’ve already done. Since the company has very few people of color or Black people and leadership DOES NOT LISTEN TO FEEDBACK. Thank you for reading and at the very least, allowing me a way to vent this weird feeling. I spent almost a year in this nightmare company and finally left after a sexual harassment incident and I just can’t believe what all they get away with. Thank you again, sorry to offload this to you in such a weird way. “


So, I just read that to you because I want you to understand that this is a part of our culture. This is a part of how business is done, this is a part of capitalism and until we’re ready to do this with homework. And I know that some of this work is going to be upsetting for many of you, really make you uncomfortable, I don’t care. Because we have to do the real work because if we’re not doing the real work we become, you become performative and you do to some level, what has been described in this DM to me and you end up displaying Black and Brown people in ways that further harms them and we have to stop that.

How to Be An Antiracist Ep. 4

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