Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Nation. Apr. 2016. 592p. notes. index. ISBN 9781568584638. $32.99; ebk. ISBN 9781568584645. HIST
Kendi (African American history, Univ. of Florida; The Black Campus Movement) argues that deep beliefs in differences between blacks and whites reach back beyond America's colonial beginnings, and in order to explain the disparities that have persisted in white supremacy and black subordination, suggests that three distinct sets of voices—segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists—have defined the dominant opinions. Segregationists and assimilationists represent obverse sides of the same coin in Kendi's view. Both accept the stamp of blackness as inferiority: one maintaining that it is biological and cannot be eradicated, the other contending it is behavioral and can be uprooted. Antiracists have rejected the concept by embracing human differences. Using examples ranging from the 1600s to the present, the author exposes the ideas that have formed the foundation of racial discrimination, employing as tour guides prominent Americans such as Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Angela Davis.
VERDICT Kendi's provocative egalitarian argument combines prodigious reading and research with keen insights into the manipulative power of racist ideologies that suppress the recognition of diversity. This is a must for serious readers of American history, politics, or social thought.
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