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Antiracist Scholar Ibram X. Kendi: Republicans Must Address How White Supremacists Target Youth

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We speak to prominent antiracist scholar Ibram X. Kendi about the epidemic of young white males who commit white supremacist domestic terrorism. This comes as an 18-year-old white shooter sought out a majority-Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, and killed 10 people on Saturday. Kendi says this phenomenon will only get worse if antiracist education is not introduced to white children and children of color alike at their most vulnerable stages of development. Even before critical race theory was under attack, there was a dearth of educators and education that reinforces “the source of racial disparities and inequities in our community is not the inferiority of a particular racial group but this history and presence of racist policies,” he adds. Kendi’s recent piece for The Atlantic is headlined “The Danger More Republicans Should Be Talking About: White-supremacist ideology is harmful to all, especially the naive and defenseless minds of youth.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Kendi, clearly, the vast majority of domestic terror attacks in this country are being perpetrated by white right-wing, white supremacist extremists. And yet what we have in this country is state after state banning teaching about racism, essentially, when they talk about critical race theory, a very loose definition of it. Can you respond to this? I mean, we’re talking about absolute horrors taking place all over this country.

IBRAM X. KENDI: I think that that is the reason why this crisis of white supremacist domestic terror is likely to get worse, because studies have shown that antiracist education, that antiracist books serve in a protective fashion, particularly from white youth, when they are exposed to white supremacy, because through learning about the history, let’s say, of white supremacy, they’re better able to recognize it. So, then, when they’re approached or they see a white supremacist meme online or a white supremacist enters into their multiplayer video game or they receive messages on 4chan, they’re able to recognize it as not only white supremacist ideology, but also they’re able to recognize it as wrong.

But because we’re in a time in which there’s — even before this so-called attack on critical race theory, there was a very abysmal amount of antiracist education in schools, and there were very few teachers who felt they had the ability or even the courage to teach the truth about race. And that has only declined. And so, there’s almost — there’s even less of an ability to protect particularly white male teenagers, which then makes them even more vulnerable to white supremacist ideology, at a moment in which they’re trying to figure out why there’s so much polarization, what is the existential threat.

Is the existential threat — is the existential problem racism, or is it antiracism? Is it white supremacist ideology, or is it people of color? And clearly, these white supremacists are making the case that it’s the people of color, that they’re the source of their pain, which is something that many of these young white male supremacists are being indoctrinated on, groomed on, and thereby carrying out mass shootings. And this is only going to get worse if we don’t get a handle on it.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what does antiracist education look like?

IBRAM X. KENDI: Well, antiracist education, first and foremost, is teaching children about the history of white supremacist ideology, the role that white supremacist ideology played in racial slavery, in settler colonialism, in Jim Crow. It’s also teaching white children and children of color about all the different people of all races who challenged settler colonialism and slavery and Jim Crow and mass incarceration. It’s teaching children that there are multiple cultures, just as there are multiple cultures — or, colors, and we should value them all equally. It’s teaching children that the source of racial disparities and inequities in our community is not the inferiority of a particular racial group but this history and presence of racist policies. It’s teaching children our racial reality, so that they can see that, though we look differently, though we maybe speak differently, we’re all equals, but the cause of these inequities are indeed racism.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. There is so much more to talk about, and, of course, we’ll continue this discussion. Ibram X. Kendi has a piece in The Atlantic, which we’ll link to, “The Danger More Republicans Should Be Talking About: White-supremacist ideology is harmful to all, especially the naive and defenseless minds of youth,” professor of humanities at Boston University, founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. And Nikki McCann Ramírez, associate research director at Media Matters, joining us from Washington, D.C.

We will stay in Washington as we talk about the abortion protests, the hundreds of protests that took place nationwide this weekend. We’ll speak with Renee Bracey Sherman of We Testify.

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