Book notes: Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi book summary review and key ideas.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi


“Some Americans cling desperately to the myth that we are living in a post-racial society, that the election of the first Black president spelled the doom of racism. In fact, racist thought is alive and well in America – more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, if we have any hope of grappling with this stark reality, we must first understand how racist ideas were developed, disseminated, and enshrined in American society. 

In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals – Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis. – to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists.”

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Opening thoughts:

I found this book on Audible when I saw a new release come out regarding racism and saw that this book was referenced in one of those reviews of that book. It seems to have good reviews and it’s very timely given what’s going on in America with police brutality and protests for black rights. I decided it would be a good choice to pick up for this month.

Key notes:

  • This isn’t a narrative of good versus evil, but there are three different types:
    • segregationists
    • assimilationists
    • anti-racists
  • Definition of a racist idea: any concept that regards any racial group as inferior or superior to any other racial group in any way
    • To truly think as an anti-racist means there’s nothing wrong with any racial group and all racial groups are equal
    • There are lazy, unwise, and harmful individuals of all ancestries
  • Black American’s history of oppression has made black opportunities, no black people, inferior

Chapter 1: Human Hierarchy

Chapter 2: Origins of Racist Ideas

  • Racist behaviors in early American history used religion to claim certain races were inferior and uncivilized
  • The Spanish slave culture started to promote the idea that African slaves were beastly, stronger, and more meant for manual labor than native Indians
  • Different people like the Portuguese and the French were all competing to grow their empire through increasing their slave trade workforce
  • They all saw Africans as beastly people without God, religion, law, or commonwealth

Chapter 3: Coming to America

  • The racist idea was also being passed that black women were sexually aggressive, shifting the responsibility of their sexual desires to the women
    • There was not a single report of a rape of a black woman because their credibility had been stolen by these racist ideas during that colonial era
    • Reports and journalists claimed that white rapists were individual offenders, whereas black rapists were representative of the failings of the collective group

Reader’s note: Wow, this sounds very familiar, especially in the context of modern day racism in America. Here, white terrorists are just disturbed individuals, whereas people of color are representative of their entire race

  • Some believed if slaves became Christian, they could no longer be slaves

Chapter 4: Saving Souls, Not Bodies

  • Segregationists believed that native Indians and Africans descended froma different Adam from the Bible
    • Just like how the mind controls the body, they justified in white Europe that their intellectual race should govern the physically superior and animalistic black race

Chapter 5: Black Hunts

  • One racist idea was that African slaves had a better life than they had back in Africa or under Portuguese rule

Chapter 6: Great Awakening

  • Pro-slavery theory such as Curse Theory justifies that the good end of Christianity justified the bad means of slavery
  • The same story would be told many times in American history: black property legally or illegally seized
    • The resulting black destitution would be blamed on black inferiority, and past discrimination ignored when blame was assigned
  • Black slaves illegally resisting legal slavery were stamped from the beginning as violent criminals as opposed to people resisting the brutality of slavers or pressing for the most basic of human desires: freedom

Part Two: Thomas Jefferson

Chapter 7: Enlightenment

Chapter 8: Black Exhibits

  • Some people push the idea of the “extraordinary Negro” when there are exceptions, but this allowed people to maintain their racist ideas on black inferiority as a general rule
  • Samuel Johnson was a critic of the American cry for freedom when Americans were the slave drivers of African slaves

Chapter 9: Created Equal

  • To people like Jefferson, power created freedom, and their power came from their labor force and slavery
    • Therefore, when they wrote “all men are created equal” they probably didn’t intend to abdicate their power over slaves
  • There was an inherent hypocrisy as Jefferson and the founders called for freedom when they also looked down upon women and children and slaves who were requesting the same rights

Chapter 10: Uplift Suasion

  • This strategy of uplift suasion was based on the idea that white people could be persuaded away from their racist ideas if they saw black people improving their behavior, uplifting themselves from their low station in American society
    • This strategy is used to undermine racist ideas
  • Cotton more than anything else economically freed American slavers from England and tightened the chains of African people in American slavery

Chapter 11: Big Bottoms

  • Ending the international slave trade was actually economically profitable for the largest American slave owners as it increased the demand and value of their captives

Chapter 12: Colonization

  • Racist ideas always seem to arrive right on time to dress up the ugly economic and political expectation of African people
  • The US sought to colonize Africa and send African slaves back there to live
    • The first place was called Liberia with its capital Monrovia named after the US president in the 1820s-1830s
      • Only 154 black northerners sailed there out of 100,000
  • Growing slave rebellions during Jefferson’s era put pressure on the government to contemplate sending back free or enslaved Africans back to Africa
  • At around 1822, Northerners had produced most of the racist books and tracks defending slavery
  • Jefferson thought of gradual emancipation turned into procrastination, and eventually he gave up because slavery was too lucrative of an industry for the country

Part Three: William Lloyd Garrison

Chapter 13: Gradual Equality

  • In the decades leading up to the Civil War, blackface minstrel shows became the first American theatrical form
    • The incubator of the American entertainment industry

Chapter 14: Imbruted or Civilized

  • After 1830, young, single, and white working class women earning wages outside the home were growing less dependent on men financially and becoming more sexually free
    • White male gang rapes of white women began to appear around the same time as the gang assaults of white men on black people
    • Both were desperate attempts to maintain white male supremacy
  • The Fugitive Slave Act extended the slavers’ power to the north
    • It criminalized abettors of fugitives, provided incentives to capture them, and denied captured blacks a jury trial, opening the door to mass kidnappings
    • To William Lloyd Garrison, “The act was so cold-blooded, so inhuman and so atrocious, Satan himself would blush to claim paternity to it”

Chapter 15: Soul

  • Book reference: Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The narrative became that black people were docile and humble, which made them better Christians and servants of God
    • Blacks were spiritually superior because of their intellectual inferiority, Stowe maintained
      • This spiritual superiority allowed blacks to have soul
  • Stowe pushed for and revived the idea of colonization in the 1850s

“When men oppress their fellow men, the oppressor ever finds in the character of the oppressed a full justification for his oppression”

Frederick Douglass
  • He amazingly summed up the history of racist ideas in a single sentence
    • Douglas had emerged as the most famous black abolitionist and assimilationist in the United States

Chapter 16: The Impeding Crisis

  • During Lincoln’s time, the argument for ending slavery was to reduce the power of slavers and allow the opportunity for white people to expand westward
  • Polygenesis, the notion of separately created human species, was becoming mainstream, but it’s days would soon be numbered
  • The anti-slavery British marine biologist Charles Darwin published his work On the Origin of Species, which would soon take hold and would be used by racist apologists for the next hundred years
    • Darwin wasn’t focused on humans, but rather the greater overall picture of natural selection and species fighting to survive, adapt, and thrive towards perfection

Chapter 17: History’s Emancipator

  • During the Civil War, Lincoln finally opened up to the idea of emancipation because it would save the union, not because it would save black people
    • During the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, northerners were still resistant about assimilation and latched onto the idea of colonization as they didn’t want black people to live in their communities
      • Lincoln believed that black people who were opposed to colonization and leaving the country were being selfish
      • Lincoln believed the only way was for them to leave the country and live in a colony
  • The Emancipation Proclamation did hardly anything because it freed slaves in an area he had no authority over, but maintained slavery in the border states he wanted to maintain relations with and exempt states in the confederacy
    • A majority of black people were still enslaved despite this proclamation

Reader’s note: Wow, that’s shady. I’m starting to see Lincoln in a different light. His indecisiveness and willingness to compromise was clearly just so he could preserve the union. He didn’t really care about slavery or black people

Chapter 18: Ready for Freedom?

  • The black fighting force during the war started to change public opinion against colonization after the war
    • People believed that since they fought for this country, they are to be considered citizens of it
  • Lincoln tried to position himself as the shepherd of black sheep, when in reality it was black people who emancipated and freed themselves by crossing over on their own, then joining the army and fighting against the Confederates on their own
    • They essentially guided and freed themselves
    • Lincoln seemed to follow in the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson by paying lip service to the cause of black uplift while supporting the racist policies that insured the downfall of black people
    • Black people in the south warned against abolishing slavery without giving them land and forcing them to work under their former masters
      • True freedom would come from granting them land

Chapter 19: Reconstructing Slavery

  • Around the time of the 15th Amendment was passed to recognize black people as equal citizens, the suffrage movement got kicked to the curb and women wouldn’t receive equal voting rights until half a century later
    • If it had been left up to the first generation of black male politicians, women may have been granted voting rights in the 1870s

Chapter 20: Reconstructing Blame

  • The government even began blaming black politicians and black people for the violence in the south against blacks
  • William Lloyd Garrison said in his last speech that the shift of public opinion away from reconstruction was the consequence of emancipating black people as a military necessity rather than as an act of general repentance
    • In his last speech, Garrison recognized racist ideas as the core of the problem
    • He called for people to give up the spirit of complexional caste or give up Christianity
  • To try and reassert their control, white males took up lynching in the 1880s
    • Someone was lynched on average every four days from 1889 to 1929
    • After justifying the ritualistic slaughters by saying the victim raped a white woman, white men, women, and children gathered to watch the killing, torture, and dismemberment of human beings, all the while calling the victim a savage
  • The lynching era was fueled by white men pushing racist ideas that evolved to question black freedom at every stage
    • These white men were striving to regain total political, economic, and cultural control of the south

Part Four: W.E.B. DuBois

Chapter 21: Renewing the South

  • Black revisionist scholars would face a conundrum in the decades following
    • When black revisionists chose not to revise, then they seemingly allowed racist racist studies excluding or denigrating blacks to stand for truth
    • When they did revise racist scholarship, they apparently lacked objectivity says the critics
      • Apparently only white scholars could be sufficiently restrained to write on race
      • Only racist studies reflected scholarly truth

Chapter 22: Southern Horrors

  • The anti-poor and anti-black literacy test in the revised Mississippi constitution allowed ignorant whites to vote and denied knowledgeable blacks from voting
  • The narrative of Booker T. Washington was for white people to allow black people to live peacefully as laborers at the bottom and slowly they will lift the entire house up as its foundations grow
    • This was the opposite of DuBois as his way of showing them how far and how high black people can go

Chapter 23: Black Judases

  • Another racist idea that was used to enforce a racist policy when during this time: white life insurance companies refused to ensure that they considered a dying race of black people
    • They believed black people were undergoing self-extinction through criminal acts in morality
  • DuBois re-enforced as much racism as he struck down
  • Booker T. Washington had a knack for putting white audiences at ease during his fundraising travels by putting down black people with jokes
    • He gave whites what they wanted: a one-man minstrel show
      • They gave him what he wanted: a check for Tuskegee
    • He would demean black people as stupid for an hour, and then he would receive donations to educate those same stupid people
      • Washington was ingeniously playing the racial game
  • DuBois brought the idea of the double consciousness for the black American
    • He met many black folk where they were, at the warring crossroads between assimilationist and anti-racist ideas
    • He believed in the anti-racist concept of cultural relatively in seeing oneself from the eyes of his or her own group, as well as the assimilationist idea of seeing oneself from the perspective of white people
      • This double desire/double consciousness yielded an inner strife
  • The strategy of the “talented 10th” to leverage uplift suasion to convince white people they weren’t inferior remained a deeply racist idea
    • White people, apparently, were not responsible for their own racist mentalities
      • If white people were racist and discriminated against blacks, then black people were to blame because they had not commanded whites’ respect?

Chapter 24: Great White Hopes

  • In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the dishonorable discharge and loss of pension of over 167 black military infantry men, who were a huge source of black pride
    • This was because they were falsely accused of murdering a bartender and wounding a police officer in the racist town of Brownsville, TX on Aug 13th, 1906
    • Overnight, the most popular president in the black community since Abraham Lincoln became the most unpopular
  • The boxer Jack Johnson infuriated many white people because he flaunted three things:
    • the heavyweight championship
    • wealth
    • his white woman
  • The fragile white masculinity in America finally claimed a small victory through the racist fictional story of Tarzan, a white man who becomes king of the apes and teaches them how to fight and grow food
  • Woodrow Wilson tricked black people into voting for him by saying he would be more moderate on race issues, but ended up being a clear segregationist
    • At this time, Hollywood and the motion picture industry became a new visual medium to circulate racist ideas
  • The racist film Birth of A Nation enabled millions of Americans to feel redeemed in their lynchings and segregation policies
    • The film revitalized the Ku Klux Klan that terrorized blacks and other minorities

Chapter 25: The Birth of A Nation

  • Biracial people also contributed to the racism by placing themselves in the hierarchy between whites and blacks
    • Because biracial people and bisexual people were categorized as peculiar people in the intermediary
  • Capitalism and racism both emerged during the same long 15th century
    • Since then, they have been both mutually fortifying each other while developing separately

Chapter 26: Media Suasion

  • A group of young and talented black artists formed and called themselves the Niggerati in 1926
    • They showed little interest in assimilation and media suasion
    • They were forming a literary and social space of total artistic freedom and tolerance for difference in culture, color, class, gender, race, and sexuality
      • They were quite possibly the first known fully anti-racist, intellectual and artistic group in American history
    • They rejected class racism, historical racism, gender racism, and even queer racism
  • Media suasion didn’t seem to work because negative portrayals of black people were seen as typical, and positive portrayals were seen as the exception
    • King Kong was also a wildly racist film that depicts a savage ape who dies trying to possess a white woman

Chapter 27: Old Deal

  • The book Miseducation of the Negro called attention to the subject that the teaching of history by the white man assures his superiority as he controls how the black man thinks
  • During the time of Jesse Owens‘ great accomplishment in the Olympics, racist Americans refused to acknowledge the extraordinary opportunities blacks received in competitive sports, and the fact that a disciplined competitive, and clever mind more than a robust physique is what set the greatest athletes apart
  • In 1940, Columbia anthropologist Ruth Benedict dropped the term “racism” into the national vocabulary
    • Racism is an unproved assumption of the biological and perpetual superiority of one human group over another
    • She excused her class of assimilationists from her definition though, all the people who believe in the temporary superiority of one human group over another
  • The 1939 film Gone With The Wind also propagated racist ideas of the white nobles, and shiftless blacks unprepared for freedom

Chapter 28: Freedom Brand

  • A new formulation called the Dual Evolution Theory, or the Modern Evolutionary Consensus:
    • Human populations, or races, they argued, were evolving and changing genetically through two evolutionary processes – one biological, one cultural
      • It was both nature and nurture distinguishing humans
  • The power of racist ideas is demonstrated in housing area values when the demographics of each area changed from black to white or white to black
  • The doll experiment led to the discussion of how segregation of colored children would lead them to believe they were inferior and have long-term detrimental effects

Chapter 29: Massive Resistance

  • The most notorious victim of what was called massive resistance to desegregation was 14-year-old Emmett Till on Aug 25, 1955, who was beaten so badly that his face was so unrecognizable during his open casket funeral in his native Chicago
  • In the late 1950s, Southern Baptist preacher Martin Luther King jr. stepped onto the civil rights scene
  • Harper Lee wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird which became the Uncle Tom’s cabin of the civil rights movement
  • During this time MLK wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail, and Malcolm X was preaching strong anti-racist mobilization
    • The Birmingham police chief Bull Connor was becoming more notorious for attacking protesters with vicious dogs and water hoses
  • The reform and change that happened in government and legislation wasn’t to help black people, but to fight against communism during the cold war by strengthening their public image and overseas relations

Part Five: Angela Davis

Chapter 30: The Act of Civil Rights

  • During his Mecca trip, Malcolm’s opinion against white people changed and he checked on the racist wolves and devils no matter their skin color
    • Though his opinion changed, the mainstream narrative of him hating white people endured
  • The Civil Rights Acts not only served to erect a dam against Jim Crow policies, but also opened the floodgates for new racist ideas to pour in, including the most racist idea to date that ignored the white head start
    • It presumed that discrimination has been eliminated, presumed that equal opportunity had taken over, and figured that since blacks were still losing the race, the racial disparities and their continued losses must be their fault
    • Black people must be inferior in equalizing policies, like eliminating or reducing white seniority, or instituting affirmative action policies would be unjust and ineffective
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the first important civil rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1875
    • It outlawed public intentional discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in government agencies and facilities, public accommodations, education and employment, established a federal enforcement structure, and empowered victims of discrimination to sue, and the federal government to withhold federal funds from violators
  • Malcolm X had another take on the Civil Rights Act, echoing the thoughts of other anti-racists, being that if the government cannot enforce the existing laws, how can anyone be so naive as to think all the additional laws will be enforced?
  • Some people believed the narrative that welfare transformed the individual into a dependent animal
    • Hypocritically, the white middle-class who have benefited from and possibly outgrew welfare policies like the GI. Bill and the New Deal accepted this false narrative without a shred of evidence, and despite the fact that these initiatives didn’t turn them or their parents into dependent creatures
    • After looking at white mothers on welfare as deserving for decades, these Goldwater conservatives saw the grandmother of black mothers on welfare as undeserving, dependent animal creatures
  • Malcolm X was gunned down in 1965
    • Book reference: The Autobiography of Malcolm X
    • Malcolm’s ideological transformation from assimilationists to anti-white separatist to anti-racist inspired millions
    • Possibly no other autobiography opened more anti-racist minds than his
    • He condemned the half-truth of racial progress, saying “you don’t stab a knife in someone’s back 9 inches, pull it out 6 inches, and say you’re making progress
    • He argued that white people are not born racist, but that the American political, economic and social atmosphere automatically nourishes a racist psychology in the white man
      • He had encouraged anti-racist whites who had escaped racism to fight on the battle lines of where American’s racism really is: in their home communities
    • Nothing was more compelling than his unstinting humanism
      • I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost. And as such, I am for whomever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole
    • The intent-focused Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not nearly as effective as the outcome-focused Voting Rights Act of 1965
      • The Voting Rights Act ended up becoming the most effective piece of anti-racist legislation ever passed by the Congress of the United States of America

Chapter 31: Black Power

  • White America’s fears about a black revolution was reflected in the box office hit Planet of the Apes
    • This franchise replaced Tarzan as the mainstream popular racist idea of its time
  • The “law and order” rhetoric was used as a defense for police brutality
    • Both the rhetoric and brutality in turn triggered more rebellion, which in tern triggered more rhetoric and brutality in the late 1960s
  • The book Soul on Ice was a literary best seller about a black soul which has been oppressively colonized by a white society, released in February 1968
  • Anti-racist black power compelled the ongoing search for new standards
    • For black perspectives, black people looking at themselves through their own eyes
  • The black woman in America can justly be described as a slave of a slave, a double jeopardy of racial and gender discrimination
    • Statistics show that they earned the least in wages, and it argued they were the most oppressed

Chapter 32: Law and Order

  • Nixon’s campaign was focused on attracting all of the racists who refused to believe they were racist and didn’t want to admit it in 1968
    • Historians have named this the Southern Strategy
      • It was and remained the national Republican strategy over the next five decades, which demeans black people and praises white people without explicitly referring to those groups
  • Angela Davis was put on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list and showcased the image of the iconic black power activist
    • The movie star Pam Grier transformed the afro from an anti-assimilationist political statement into a fashion statement
  • In 1973, the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals called the prison system a failure, a creator of crime rather than a preventer
  • When Angela Davis returned, she found the marketplace of ideas was the same as when she left
    • Segregationists were still imagining genetic differences between the races, and assimilationists were still trying ascertain why their only hope for black uplift integration had failed
  • The gay liberation movement was kicked off in 1969 and started their own new integrative dance of queer anti-racism in the 1970s
  • In 1982, Alice Walker penned the novel The Color Purple presents a black woman negotiating and finding her way through the rugged confines of abusive black patriarchs, abusive southern poverty, and abusive racist whites
  • The highest grossing film of 1976 which won the Oscar for Best Picture was Rocky
    • Rocky’s opponent Apollo Creed symbolized the empowerment movements, the rising black middle class, and the real life heavyweight champion of the world in 1976, the pride of black power masculinity Muhammed Ali
    • Rocky Balboa came to symbolize the pride of white supremacist masculinity’s refusal to be knocked out from the avalanche of civil rights and black power protests and policies
  • Popular book Roots and it’s television adaptation also became a hit during this time in 1977, becoming the most watched show in television history

Chapter 33: Reagan’s Drugs

  • Standardized tests and IQ tests were first developed by segregationists in the early 20th century as a way to justifiably discriminate against non-whites in the admissions process, and continually failed to predict success in college and professional careers, or even to truly measure intelligence
  • Some categorized the post-World War II era as the period of progressive transition from racial inequality to class inequality
  • The underlying unproven theory of social biology allowed believers to apply the field’s principles to racial disparities and arrive at racist ideas that’s blamed black social behavior for their plight
    • This would allow users of the theory to avoid the word racist
    • Racist intellectuals and politicians were producing theories like welfare recipients are lazy, all prisoners are dangerous, poor people are ignorant, or one parent households are immoral that allowed Americans to call black people lazy, dangerous, ignorant, and immoral without ever saying “black people”
  • Ronald Reagan would declare a war on drugs, particularly marijuana, even though most people didn’t feel like it was one of the most important problems
    • This would ultimately disproportionately affect black people
  • A general rule applied that still applies today: whenever there are more police, there will be more arrests
    • More arrests mean people perceive there’s more crime, which justifies more police and more arrests, and supposedly more crime
    • The “dangerous black neighborhood” conception is based on racist ideas, not reality
      • There is such a thing as a dangerous unemployed neighborhood, however
  • Imprisoning blacks and taking away their right to vote was a particularly cruel way to snatch away the voting power of your political opponents
  • Drunk driving in white suburban neighborhoods killed people than inner city violence

Chapter 34: New Democrats

  • While the Cosby Show intended to paint a vision for what was possible for a black family with Uplift Suasion and hopefully change the minds of white people, it only did so a little
    • For otherwise, they were regarded as extraordinary cases, and furthered other racists’ convictions that racism was only in the history books
    • It suggested the idea that blacks were solely responsible for their social conditions with no acknowledgement of the severely constricted life opportunities that most black people faced
  • A study concluded that poverty was worse for kids than crack, dispelling the myth of the deviant and society-ruining crack babies
    • Medical researchers had to finally admit that crack babies were like the science for racist ideas, they never existed
    • Backed by science or not, racist ideas persisted in American minds, and Reagan’s Vice President George H.W. Bush made sure to manipulate them when he ran for president in 1988
  • Like their ancestors, young, urban blacks resisted the law enforcement officials who condemn them to 20th century slavery
    • Hip-hop and rap blossomed in 1988 after a decade of growth from the concrete of the South Bronx
  • In 1992, Rodney King was beaten by four police officers amidst the tensions between the black communities who have been suffering under the baton of aggressive policing for years to suburban and rural communities that had been cheering the aggressive policing of inner-city communities for years
  • In 1993, the 22-year-old new king of gangsta rap and son of Black Panthers was Tupac Shakur
  • Angela Davis had been arguably America’s staunchest ani-racist voice over the past two decades, unwavering in her search for anti-racist explanations when others took the easier, racist way out of black blame
    • She never stopped looking into and defending the lives of black and brown women

Chapter 35: New Republicans

  • Slaveholders’ racist theory about African-Americans as more dependent had been dusted off and renovated for the 1990s, allowing racists to reside in the hallowed mentality of thinking that African-Americans were not taking enough personal responsibility
    • And that’s why so many were dependent upon government welfare, just as they used to be dependent on their masters’ welfare
  • In 1995, the trial of the century occurred in the O.J. Simpson murder trial and exoneration became the epitome of softness on crime and upset racist Americans

Chapter 36: 99.9% The Same

  • Because of the lip-service many Americans gave to embracing Ebonics in schools, there was actually a lot of pushback
    • It showed that they despised multiculturalism
  • Like racist whites, racist blacks believed their success was due to their extraordinary, God-given qualities or extraordinary work ethic. That if they made it, any black person could if they worked hard enough
    • For many of these black racists, their expression may have been deeply political as they have been cunningly reciting racist talking points in order to receive financial and occupational favor, whether they believe these racist ideas or not
    • Opportunities proliferated in many organizations for black racists willing to look down on African Americans in the 21st century
  • The completed mapping of the human genome should not only revolutionize medicine, but should also revolutionize racist science
    • The map shows us in genetic terms that all human beings regardless of race are more than 99.9% the same
    • One of the scientists responsible for sequencing the human genome Craig Venter was even more frank with reporters
      • He said the concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis
    • Even then, racists were still able to produce their next segregationist theory
      • First First Theory, then Natural Slave Theory, then Polygenesis, then Social Darwinism, and now genes, every segregationist had produced new ideas to justify the inequities of every era
    • University bio-ethics scholar Dorothy Roberts exposed her 2011 book Fatal Invention the unscientific basis of biological races
      • Race is not biological category that is politically charged, it is a political category that has been disguised as a biological one
        • But the biological one has lived on comfortably
  • The U.S. State Department had assured the United Nations that U.S. law guarantees the right to participate equally in elections
    • But on November 7, 2000, tens of thousands of black votes in Jeb Bush’s Florida were barred from voting or had their votes destroyed, allowing George W. Bush to win his brother’s state by fewer than 500 votes and narrowly taking the electoral college
  • Comedian Dave Chapelle performed one of his most famous skits on his Comedy Central show about a blind, white supremacist who finds out he’s black
  • In 2003, the No Child Left Behind Act encouraged funding mechanisms that decreased funding to schools even when children were not making improvements, thus leaving the neediest students behind
    • It was the latest and greatest mechanism for placing the blame for funding inequities on black children, teachers, parents, and public schools
    • This victim-blaming watered the growth of the quickening, no-excuse charter school movement which ordered children to rise above their difficult circumstances and blamed and expelled these children when they cannot
  • While misbehaving white children have received compassion and tolerance, misbehaving black children have been more likely to hear “no-excuses” and be on the receiving end of zero-tolerance and handcuffs

Chapter 37: The Extraordinary Negro

  • Book reference to Obama’s anti-racist memoir Dreams from My Father
  • Movie reference: Crash – different races experiencing prejudice
    • However, the film was critiqued by anti-racists as not addressing institutionalized racism
  • Racism and destructive capitalism exploded and was exposed during Hurricane Katrina when the federal response to the disaster was inexplicably delayed and slowed, which some people suspect was so that corporations could take advantage of it
    • Some say that the media directly killed many residents because of how they portrayed its black residents as violent and looting, but white residents as not
    • This was the racist justification for the delay in sending aid because it was perceived as dangerous to go to these black areas
  • Reference to Obama’s 2008 speech “A More Perfect Union


  • Book reference: The New Jim Crow
  • After the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2013, three black women, two of whom were queer, started the Black Lives Matter movement
    • This declaration of love intuitively signified that in order to be truly anti-racist, we must also oppose all of the sexism, homophobia, colorism, ethnocentrism, nativism, cultural prejudice, and class bias, and teeming with racism to harm so many black lives
  • Anti-racists should stop connecting selfishness to racism and unselfishness to anti-racism
    • Altruism is wanted, not required
    • Anti-racists merely have to have intelligent self-interest and to stop consuming those racist ideas that have engendered so much unintelligent self-interest over the years
      • It is in the intelligence of self-interest of the middle and upper-income blacks to challenge the racism affecting the black poor, knowing they will not be free of the racism slowing their socioeconomic rise until poor blacks are free of racism
  • Supporting the prevailing bigotries is only in the intelligent interest of a small group of rich, Protestant, heterosexual, non-immigrant, white, Anglo-Saxon males
    • Those are the only people who need to be altruistic in order to be anti-racist
    • The rest of us merely need to do the intelligent thing for ourselves
  • The history of racist ideas showed that not only has uplift suasion failed, but that generally speaking, the opposite of its intended effect has occurred
    • Racist Americans have routinely despised those black Americans the most who uplifted themselves, who defied those racist laws and theories individuals have implored to keep them down
  • Individual blacks are not race representatives
    • They are not responsible for those Americans who hold racist ideas
    • Black people need to be their imperfect selves around white people, around each other, around all people
  • Self-interest leads to racist policies, which leads to racist ideas, leading to all the ignorance and hate
    • Racist policies were created out of self-interest, and they have usually been voluntarily rolled back out of self-interest
  • Power will never self-sacrifice away from its self-interest
    • Power cannot be persuaded or educated away from its self-interest
    • Those who have the power to abolish racial discrimination have not done so thus far and will never be persuaded or educated to do so as long as racism benefits them in someway
  • Any effective solution to eradicating American racism must involve Americans committed to anti-racist policies, seizing and maintaining power over institutions, neighborhoods, countries, states, nations, the world
    • An anti-racist America can only be guaranteed when principled anti-racists are in power, when anti-racist policies become the law of the land, when anti-racist ideas become the common sense of the people, and when the anti-racist common sense of the people holds those anti-racist leaders and policies accountable
  • There will come a time when Americans realize that the only thing wrong with black people is that we think something is wrong with black people
    • There will come a time when we will gain the courage to fight for an equitable society, knowing that when we fight for humanity, we are fighting for ourselves

Main ideas / Themes:

  • Anti-racist means there’s nothing wrong with any racial group and all racial groups are equal
  • Throughout history, those in power disguised their racist ideas against blacks using false religious ideas and unproven scientific theories
    • Lacking religion = beasts
    • Natural Slave Theory
    • Polygenesis
    • Curse Theory
    • Social Darwinism
    • Dual Evolution Theory
    • Theory of Social Biology
  • “When men oppress their fellow men, the oppressor ever finds in the character of the oppressed a full justification for his oppression” – Frederick Douglass
  • Capitalism and racism have been both mutually fortifying each other while developing separately since the 15th century
  • The teaching of history by the white man assures his superiority as he controls how the black man thinks
Black people were”stamped from the beginning”
  • America was founded on principles and laws that treated black slaves as dependent animals whose purpose was to be subservient to the intellectually superior white people, and has continued to reinforce these racist ideas
    • Slavery
    • Fugitive Slave Act
    • 3/5ths Compromise
    • systematic lynching
    • Teaching & not revising racist history/scholarship
    • Anti-poor and anti-black literacy tests
    • Blacks being refused life insurance
    • Doll experiment
    • Jim Crow laws
    • The “extraordinary” black person
    • Systemic police brutality (Bull Connor, Rodney King riots)
    • Double standard for people on government welfare
    • “Law and order”
    • War on drugs
    • Nixon and the Southern Strategy
    • America’s failed prison system
    • Standardized & IQ tests
    • No Child Left Behind Act
    • FEMA / Hurricane Katrina response
  • Uplift suasion – the idea that racist ideas can be persuaded away if more blacks excelled
    • This racist idea resulted in an opposite effect, as successful blacks were hated more
    • Blacks who did succeed were labeled as “extraordinary” instead of disproving racist ideas of black inferiority
    • This concept is the prevailing, modern-day method to disguise racist ideas and discrimination against blacks
  • The Emancipation Proclamation did little to help slaves, and a majority of slaves had to free themselves
Racist Ideas in Media
  • Tarzan
  • Birth of A Nation
  • King Kong
  • Gone With The Wind
  • Planet of the Apes
  • Rocky

Closing thoughts:

This was such an eye-opening read and so necessary during this time of civil unrest. I think to understand where we are today, it’s very important to understand where we came. Due to the skewed history we’re taught in school, I’m not surprised that I’ve only learned about the watered-down version of history as it pertains to the systemic injustice against black people in America.

It makes sense as history is written by those in power, and as the book says, controlling the narrative of history allows the white man to maintain their superiority over blacks.

When the history of racist ideas in America is laid out so clearly like this, it’s easy to understand why there’s so much anger and pain in society. It’s literally rooted in American history.

Overall, even though it was a long read, it was very informative and necessary for people to learn about. Only once we can acknowledge the past can we start to connect and tear down the invisible walls of hate and discrimination that this country was founded on.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

Although there were many great points in this book, the biggest takeaway that I got from this book is:

  • Uplift suasion – the idea that racist ideas can be persuaded away if more blacks excelled

This is one of the main arguments that racist ideas and racist people hide behind in this day and age. There’s a double standard that white people get compassion and empathy, but black people in this country are told to suck it up and stop complaining. It’s another way to reinforce racism. Somehow, the white head start doesn’t matter, and if blacks don’t succeed, it’s their own fault. And this prevailing idea that in order to change things, more blacks need to succeed (despite their huge disadvantage), in order to change the racist minds of others.

This makes absolutely no sense, but this term brought into focus the fallacy of this argument against blacks. It is a fallacy that is rooted in a racist idea, and therefore is invalid.


The history of racist ideas in America from before its founding until now. Black people have been “stamped from the beginning” as inferior. Those in power have been pushing against racial progress since the beginning as it served their own self-interest.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.


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12 thoughts on “Book notes: Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi”

  1. Note: This book, and I am not lying or misleading anyone here, unironically claims that the popularity of Tarzan, written from 1875-1950, may have been a “racist driven response” to the success of Muhammad Ali as a boxer, who was born in 1942. Muhammad did not start boxing till he was 12, either, so this claim is literally impossible. Sorry but I prefer books to be historically accurate if they are gonna make grand and sweeping statements and use examples and figures from history, and this, frankly, dishonest and/or imbecilic claim is just one of many like it made in this book (like he mentions of the Spanish attacked the Moors and Berbers and other North African Muslim groups, forgetting that was mainly to drive them from their homeland that Muslim invaders themselves “stole” (to use Kendi’s choice of words) it from Visigothic kings who stole it themselves not too long before that.


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