Chapters 6–8 Summary
Chapter 6: Body
Kendi begins this chapter by defining racism as it relates to the body. To be bodily racist is to perceive “certain racialized bodies as more animal-like and violent than others”; to be bodily antiracist is to be “humanizing, deracializing, and individualizing nonviolent and violent behavior.” He elaborates on these definitions through anecdotal and scholarly analyses of physical safety and violence.
Recalling his parents’ encroaching fears when he began to play basketball around the age of eight, Kendi highlights a stark truth: because a Black body is seen by society at large as more threatening than a white one, there is inherent risk to occupying one at any age. “We were unarmed, but we knew that Blackness armed us even though we had no guns,” he remembers of his teens. whiteness, on the other hand, “disarmed the cops—turned them into fearful potential victims.” He goes on to cite an alarming statistic:
Unarmed Black bodies—which apparently look armed to fearful officers—are about twice as likely to be killed as unarmed White bodies.
As the increasing criminalization of Black bodies—or, more specifically, the perpetuation of racist stereotypes against Black people that project the image of criminality onto them—influenced the outside observer during the war on drugs, Kendi notes that it eventually became ingrained in him, too. “The responsibility of keeping myself safe followed me like the stray dogs in my neighborhood,” he remembers, citing both external and internal fears:
The acts of violence I saw from [a classmate] and others combined with the racist ideas all around me to convince me that more violence lurked than there actually was. I believed that violence didn’t define just [him] but all the Black people around me, my school, my neighborhood. I believed it defined me—that I should fear all darkness, up to and including my own Black body.
This perception, Kendi notes, results in large part from deeply flawed and inherently racist metrics of measurement and reporting. One cited example, a longitudinal study from 1976 to 1989, determined that rates of violent crime were much higher among young Black men than young white men. When the research team isolated just the crime rates among the young men who were employed, however, the difference in numbers completely disappeared. By ignoring a major factor that heavily influences economic security in their survey population, the researchers created the impression of a damaging racial disparity where there wasn’t one.
Chapter 7: Culture
To preface chapter 7, Kendi defines cultural racist and cultural antiracist. A cultural racist, per his definition, is
one who is creating a cultural standard and imposing a cultural hierarchy among racial groups.
A cultural antiracist, by contrast, is
one who is rejecting cultural standards and equalizing cultural differences among racial groups.
To illustrate these in context, Kendi traces the evolution of his own cultural identity through a significant moment in his adolescence: a long-distance move. As a young teen growing up in Queens, his identity seemed clear-cut. He had an established social group, loved the culture of young Black New York, and felt at home in the world of basketball, his sport of choice. His sense of self was upended when the family moved to Manassas, Virginia—a relatively short distance, but a figurative world away—and he failed to make the basketball team at his new school. Cut off from his expected avenue toward establishing a new social life, he struggled to adjust due to his ingrained cultural prejudice. “As an urban Black Northerner, I looked down on the cultures of nonurban Blacks,...
(The entire section is 893 words.)