Chapters 9–11 Summary
Chapter 9: Color
To preface chapter 9, Kendi defines colorism as “a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequities between Light people and Dark people, supported by racist ideas about Light and Dark people” and color antiracism as “a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between Light people and Dark people, supported by antiracist ideas about Light and Dark people.” Kendi explores these concepts through an analysis of beauty ideals, racial gatekeeping, and social and economic dynamics between Light and Dark people.
After Kendi began college at Florida A&M University (FAMU), he became increasingly aware of—and concerned by—colorism among the Black community. When he found himself dating a Light-skinned woman, he was turned off by the way his friends seemed to favor her over her darker-skinned roommate. Eventually, the dynamic bothered him so much that he decided to date only Dark women.
With the benefit of present-day hindsight, Kendi acknowledges the naivety of his good intentions. In theory, his choice was a noble rebuttal to a perceived injustice. In practice, however, his reaction to the anti-Dark colorism around him simply served to displace it with anti-Light colorism of his own, perpetuating racist, hierarchical beauty standards that are deeply detrimental and isolating to Black people of all colors. He elaborates:
White people and Dark people reject and envy Light people. White people have historically employed the one-drop rule—that even one drop of Black blood makes you Black—to bar Light people from pure Whiteness. Dark people employ the two-drop rule, as I call it—two drops of White blood makes you less Black—to bar Light people from pure Blackness. Light people employ the three-drop rule, as I call it—three drops of Black blood mean you’re too dark—to bar Dark people from pure Lightness. The “drop” rules of racial purity were mirages, just like the races themselves and the idea of racial blood.
Chapter 10: White
To preface chapter 10, Kendi defines an antiwhite racist as
one who is classifying people of European descent as biologically, culturally, or behaviorally inferior or conflating the entire race of White people with racist power.
He explores this facet of racism through his own experience and through an analysis of American political structures and elections.
Kendi’s freshman year at FAMU was chastened by an unexpected event shortly after his arrival—the 2000 presidential election, during which George W. Bush was declared the winner over Al Gore, amid a great deal of electoral chaos and uncertainty. As Kendi learned more and more about this particular election’s failings, idiosyncrasies, and margins of error, he became increasingly certain that the upcoming presidency has been stolen through the deliberate suppression of Black voters. “The racial inequity could not be explained by income or educational levels or bad ballot design,” he remembers thinking. “That left one explanation, one that at first I could not readily admit: racism.” Furious, Kendi began to see the United States as a binary of good and evil. He thought that white people, who had conspired to rig the election in favor of white conservatism at the expense of Black voters, were demonstrably evil and could no longer be trusted.
Through his modern-day antiracist lens, Kendi looks back on this period in his own history with criticism. Just as biology does not dictate the characteristics or behavior of Black people, it does not dictate the characteristics or behavior of white people. To be...
(The entire section is 877 words.)