In regards to Michael Romain’s editorial on Stamped [Reading ‘Stamped’ accurately, News Commentary, Oct. 27], I find it difficult to believe that Adrian Johnson [Middle-school anti-racism curriculum bears reading, Viewpoints, Oct. 27] has not read the book “correctly,” when most of Johnson’s letter cites directly from the book itself. Nonetheless, Romain’s analysis of Stamped underscore some of the problems with Kendi’s views and with District 97’s new “anti-racist” curriculum.
Almost no one would think that a conservative or liberal belief is in itself good or bad. Although we might take one side or another, we nonetheless admit the possibility of reasonable disagreement. The word “racist,” however, has a much different meaning. To most everyone, racism or racist beliefs are outside the bounds of reasonable discussion; they are inherently wrong and have no place in a decent society.
The trick Kendi employs in his book is to define racism in a way that suits his own political beliefs, and to thus categorize any viewpoint that differs from his as racist. In this way, he frees himself from the burden of defending his ideology against reasonable critiques. So even though a majority of Americans might agree with Obama’s “Father’s Day speech,” or find Rev. Wright’s “God Damn America” speech excessively cynical, Kendi can simply label the former as racist, the latter as anti-racist, and end all reasonable debate.
While it is true that Kendi does not necessarily label people as such, the question is not who are the “bad guys” and “good guys,” but what are the “good beliefs” and “bad beliefs”? Is Kendi’s hierarchy of segregationist, assimilationist, and anti-racist beliefs accurate, consistent, or even useful? What policies should be considered “anti-racist,” and is opposition to or disagreement with an “anti-racist” policy a “racist” belief in and of itself? Are disproportionate outcomes always evidence of racism, and when is it racist to believe they are not?
Romain argues in his editorial that Obama’s speech was “flat-out” racist. If true, then it must follow that no child in our schools should be allowed to voice agreement with the President, because even though “lauded by people across the ideological spectrum,” Obama’s views are racist, and racist beliefs have no place in our schools.
Although it is reasonable to expose our students to scholars such as Kendi, the new curriculum makes his views on anti-racism the new standard, which, by definition, labels any dissent as racist. However “correctly” one reads it, Kendi’s Stamped is overtly biased, and is riddled with conjecture, inaccuracy, and missing context. Our schools and parents need to recognize this, and make sure our students understand that the ideology of anti-racism is one among many other reasonable viewpoints concerning what racism is, where it is manifest, and how we combat it. To do otherwise will only encourage the cynical, narcissistic and tribal thought that continues to fester in the political climate of our times.
Doran Swan, Oak Park resident and D97 parent