How to Be an Antiracist Characters
The main characters in How to Be an Antiracist are Ibram X. Kendi, Carol and Larry Rogers, and Sadiqa Kendi.
- Ibram X. Kendi, the author of How to Be an Antiracist, is a scholar and professor. Born in Queens, Kendi attended school at Florida A&M University and Temple University. He founded the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University.
- Carol and Larry Rogers are Kendi’s parents, who met at the Urbana ’70 conference.
- Sadiqa Kendi is Kendi’s wife. She battled breast cancer after their marriage, leading Kendi to draw a parallel between cancer and American racism.
Ibram X. Kendi, the author of How to Be an Antiracist, was born in Jamaica, Queens, in the early 1980s. Already racially aware at a young age, he began what he refers to as “racial puberty” around age seven—the age at which he demanded to know not just if his prospective third-grade teacher was the only Black teacher at the elementary school, but why.
Throughout his teens, Kendi felt very at home in New York City. He was comfortable in his surroundings and felt connected to and at home in the culture of the city’s Black youth. When his family moved to Manassas, Virginia, his sense of self was upended. As a self-described “urban Black Northerner,” he looked down on nonurban Southern Blacks and struggled to relate.
This realization—that, even as a young Black man, Kendi held racist prejudice of his own—is the first of many such realizations Kendi has over the course of How to Be an Antiracist. Through a series of anecdotes spanning his childhood, his teens, his years at Florida A&M University, his time as a graduate student at Temple University, and his subsequent career as an academic, Kendi dissects his own hidden prejudice and shows how he’s worked to dismantle it.
Kendi met his future wife, Sadiqa, while he was in graduate school at Temple. Eventually, the two married, and together they selected the surname “Kendi.” Toward the end of the book, Kendi recounts how they were both diagnosed with cancer—hers first (breast), then his (colon) shortly after her recovery. Their battles with the disease came to symbolize Kendi’s understanding of racism itself: malignant and invasive, threatening and complex, and yet possible to beat.
At the time of the book’s publication, Kendi is the executive director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center (ARPC) at American University in Washington, DC, an organization he founded in 2017.
Carol, Kendi’s mother, met Larry, Kendi’s father, at Urbana ’70, a conference at the University of Illinois. They both attended for the same reasons: they wanted to see Tom Skinner preach and Soul Liberation perform. After the conference, they went their separate ways and were both motivated to work toward Black liberation. Carol returned to Nyack College and cofounded a Black student union.
Several years later, Carol and Larry reconnected at another Soul Liberation concert, and their relationship began in earnest, despite Carol’s nine-month mission to teach in Monrovia, Liberia. Eight years later, the two married and started their family.
Kendi describes his mother as petite, but incredibly strong; even living in a house with three men over six feet tall, she was never the weak one.
Larry is Kendi’s father. After Urbana ’70, Larry, like Carol, was freshly motivated to fight for Black liberation. He returned home and began reevaluating his church, organizing programs that publicly questioned whether it adequately served the Black community. In chapter 1, Kendi traces the beginning of his own antiracist journey to his parents’ response to Urbana ’70, contending that they laid the groundwork long before he was born:
What changed Ma and Dad led to a changing of their two unborn sons.
(The entire section is 856 words.)