I recently read How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.
It took me awhile because there is so much in this book that I wanted to absorb.
Part of what I want to understand is the racist that lives in me (one of the premises of the book is we all have part of us that is racist in one form or another, and I believe that is correct), and hopefully I am learning what I can do to be an antiracist and just over all be a better person.
I also want to recommend this book to fat people because the message of this book speaks to all groups of people who are faced with societal discrimination and prejudice.
One of the messages I got out of the book is that we are individuals; and if we are judged, we should be judged as individuals – not as supposed representatives of some group.
There are no “good fatties” or “bad fatties” – there are only fat individuals.
Part of discrimination and bias comes from attributing behaviors to groups of people – instead of realizing we are all people and we all behave in different ways depending on a lot of different things.
Also, a big message is racist beliefs and policies, at the heart, is about power – it’s about gaining power and retaining power over another group.
Racism (and other forms of bias) are the result of policies and belief systems that help make one person (or group of people) feel they are superior to another group of people.
It is about power. Power to feel good about “your” group; and the power of feeling superior over the “other” group.
And the reason emotions can run so high is because if you expose those policies and belief systems for what they are – you are threatening to take away that sense of superiority.
Ever wonder where the vehemence that people who are okay with their bodies face from others? Where does that come from?
I believe it comes from the threat of taking away a sense of superiority over fat people; and the threat that fat people will no longer be automatically considered inferior in some way.
“Even now I wonder if it was my poor sense of self that first generated my poor sense of my people. Or was it my poor sense of my people that inflamed a poor sense of myself? Like the famous question about the chicken and the egg, the answer is less important than the cycle it describes. Racist ideas make people of color think less of themselves, which makes them more vulnerable to racist ideas. Racist ideas make White people think more of themselves, which further attracts them to racist ideas.” (How to Be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi)
What if instead it read:
Even now I wonder if it was my poor sense of self that first generated my poor sense of [fat] people. Or was it my poor sense of [fat] people that inflamed a poor sense of myself? Like the famous question about the chicken and the egg, the answer is less important than the cycle it describes. [Fatphobic] ideas make [fat] people think less of themselves, which makes them more vulnerable to [fatphobic] ideas. [Fatphobic] ideas make [non-fat] people think more of themselves, which further attracts them to [fatphobic]ideas.
Also, it means that non-fat people or racists have a vested interest in encouraging fatphobic or racist ideas and policies. It gives them power and it boosts their perceived self-worth.
Things that make you go hmmmm.
I used to be racist[/fatphobic] most of the time. I am changing. I am no longer identifying with racists[/fatphobics] by claiming to be ‘not racist'[/fat neutral] I am no longer speaking through the mask of racial[/fat] neutrality. I am no longer manipulated by racist[/fatphobic] ideas to see racial[/fat] groups as problems. I no longer believe a Black[/fat] person cannot be racist[/fatphobic]. I am no longer policing my every action around an imagined White[/non-fat] or Black[/fat] judge, trying to convince White[/non-fat] people of my equal humanity, trying to convince Black[/fat] people that I am representing the race[/fat group] well. I no longer care about how the actions of other Black[/fat] individuals reflect on me, since none of us are race[/fat] representatives, nor is any individual responsible for someone else’s racist[/fatphobic] ideas. And I’ve come to see that the movement from racist[/fatphobic] to antiracist[fat neutral] is always ongoing – it requires understanding and snubbing racism[/fatphobia] based on biology, ethnicity, body, culture, behavior, color, space, and class. And beyond that, it means standing ready to fight at racism’s[/fatphobia’s] intersections with other bigotries. (From How to Be an Antiracist – by Ibram X. Kendi; [with revised inserts])
I in no way mean to compare fat discrimination with racism. This is not a contest of who is more oppressed – we are all oppressed and we all have privilege to varying degrees.
What I find useful, as to the fat community, in this book is the discussion on the fundamental basis of racism – which can be related to the fundamental basis of most (if not all) types of bigotry.
The bulk of the book is about racism specifically, and I learned so much. I am grateful that this book was recommended to me and I really recommend this book to everyone. While I appreciate the efforts of others to educate me, I know it is not someone else’s job to educate me and I acknowledge and thank anyone who is able and willing to take on that effort and burden.
It’s time we start trying to dismantle the history and legacy of racism, discrimination, and biases that exist in this world.
I thank and encourage anyone who has comments on how I may have failed or overstepped (or understepped) in this post. My only excuse is that I am trying my best – but to do better, I need to know better.