Week #7: Kendi, Chapters 13, 14, and 15
Chapter 13, “Space”
What to Look For:
In this chapter, Kendi discusses “Space Racism” and “Space Antiracism” (166), and challenges preconceived notions about integration and segregation. He begins the chapter describing the “Black space” of his African American studies program at Temple University in Philadelphia, noting that it was housed in one of the two towers, filled with middle-income Whites, as a predominantly “White space” surrounded by a predominantly Black lower-income neighborhood (168). He notes the irony of the security guards who were there to safeguard these spaces from being infiltrated by those in the surrounding “ghetto” area (168). Kendi notes that Black spaces are identified as such, and are often perceived as being anti-White spaces, while predominantly White spaces are not identified as White, and instead are perceived as an integrated norm.
Kendi, as he does in each chapter, again provides a historical overview of racist views about separate spaces for Blacks and Whites, from the Civil War on, differentiating between segregationist and assimilationist views of how to handle the free Black population after the war. He notes how the promised twenty acres and a mule for Blacks to settle on their own land in the South, which Black leaders at the end of the war had requested as a separate space in which free Blacks could live amongst their own people as a safeguard against the ongoing hatred and violence against Blacks by Southern Whites, was quickly snatched from the hands of newly freed Blacks by the new presidency (174). Kendi provides an overview of the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case from 1896, which guaranteed ongoing segregation in the South and the perpetuation of Jim Crow practices (175), as well as the subsequent Brown v. the Board of Education case in 1954, which fought for integration of schools (176). He shows how the integration of schools has not led to the hoped-for gains that were assumed to follow, and emphasizes that inequity in resources is at the heart of the problem (176-179).
How does Kendi define antiracist views about integration of public spaces and racial solidarity towards the end of the chapter? What does he say about the effect his Black studies space had on him?
What hashtags would you create for the ideas in this chapter?
Chapter 14, “Gender”
What to Look For:
The focus of Chapter 14 is “Gender Racism” (180), which Kendi defines at the beginning of the chapter, and also in the middle of the chapter (188-189), when he explains “intersectionality” (188-192), the point at which social and political forces, which affect different aspects of ourselves, come together, or cross over each other, producing experiences unique to members of each combination of groups, or different “race-genders” (188-189), in this instance. He provides numerous examples and statistics to demonstrate the negative impact of racist and sexist policies and attitudes, amongst both men and women of various ethnic groups, predominantly groups made up of people of color (183-191). He also notes that policies and attitudes that resist feminist perspectives and policies ultimately harm other groups, and that an antiracist perspective on equity in race-gender policies is beneficial for all groups.
Kendi presents a historical overview of the development of Black feminist studies, along with his own parents’ gender roles and attitudes, and his own upbringing, which he acknowledges as being sexist and homophobic, through a lack of specific feminist teaching while growing up, despite the strong female role model presented by his mother. One influential Black feminist group from Boston from the 1970s that Kendi mentions in Chapter 14 is the Combahee River Collective (187). As Kendi states, this group “embodied queer liberation, feminism, and antiracism” (187) and gave voice to “‘the shared belief that Black women are inherently valuable‘” (qtd. in Kendi 187).
Kendi attributes his awakening in graduate school to the realization of his own gender racism and homophobia to two key figures who were an influential part of his African American studies program. Who were these two figures?
Kendi makes many cultural references to key women in history, and also in popular culture, throughout this chapter, as he does throughout the book. Are you familiar with any of the women he mentions in this chapter? Are some names new to you? What is your strategy, when reading, for making meaning from the cultural references an author makes while presenting an idea? Do you look up the unfamiliar names, places, or events? Or do you keep going, letting them wash over you, hoping to get the overall meaning from the surrounding explanations? If you answered yes, and again yes, then you are right on track! It’s a good idea to do a quick Google search to find out basic information about an unfamiliar cultural reference, like a person who the author assumes their reader is familiar with, as Kendi does when he describes his fellow-student Kaila as having a “Laila Ali intellect” (181). He assumes we know who Laila Ali is, which provides a kind of short cut for the author to help describe how powerfully intelligent Kaila is, what a ferocious and tough critical thinker she is. But if we do not know who Laila Ali is, this description is lost on us. However, we can understand from other context cues that Kaila is like this, as Kendi also describes her as “a warrior poet” (181), and that “no one overlooked the sheer size of her intellect” (181), among other descriptors.
Many of us will let these kinds of unfamiliar cultural references wash over us when reading, as we can often glean an author’s meaning from the surrounding explanations; however, we should also stop to look up what is new to us, to unlock the mysteries behind the unfamiliar references, and of course, to unlock the meaning in unfamiliar vocabulary words, so that we don’t misunderstand what the author is trying to communicate, or in order to more fully understand the author’s meaning or larger context. As a reader, you need to decide for yourself when it is most advantageous to stop and do a quick Google check on something. As a conscientious reader and critical thinker, it’s always beneficial to take the time to expand your knowledge base, as each reading experience will feed the next one, and the next, with previous mysteries becoming known quantities the next time you come across them.
Chapter 15, “Sexuality”
What to Look For:
Chapter 15 extends Kendi’s discussion of Gender Racism, expanding into what he calls “Queer Racism” (193), where racist policies and attitudes intersect with homophobia and with discrimination against any LGBTQ+ individuals and groups. What incident does Kendi describe in this chapter to connect these ideas with his own personal experience? What happens with his best friend Weckea that leads him to further self-reflect about his own homophobia and his own patriarchal attitudes? Why is he so challenged by Yaba and Kaila in his program? What does Kendi say he learned about how sexism, homophobia, and racism do not have to be attached to any particular group? What point does he make, for example, about sexist women and racist Blacks? Conversely, what does he say it means to be fully antiracist for all people?
What hashtags did you create for Chapters 13, 14, and 15? Did you Google any people or historical events from any of these chapters to find out more about some of the cultural references Kendi makes in these chapters?
Week #7 Discussion due Sun 10/17
The Week #7 Discussion will incorporate research and will provide an opportunity to explore some of the topics brought up in Chapters 13, 14, and 15. Your topic will need to explore something you have not already researched in previous Discussions. You will need to use at least three sources, in addition to Kendi’s book, for this Discussion.
Carefully review Chapters 13, 14, and 15 to find a topic that you would like to research further. See the Week #7 Discussion assignment for additional criteria for the assignment. **The Week #7 Discussion will be due Sun 10/17, by 11:59pm.
We are almost done with Kendi! Just one more week on the final three chapters! (Next week’s Discussion will ask you to explore a theme across several chapters of the book.)
*Be sure to review the Week #7 Overview before completing the Week #7 Discussion.
This week’s Discussion will incorporate research and will provide an opportunity to explore some of the topics brought up in Chapters 13, 14, and 15. Your topic should explore something you have not already researched in previous Discussions. You will need to use at least three sources from research, in addition to Kendi’s book, for this Discussion.
Carefully review Chapters 13, 14, and 15 to find a topic that you would like to research further. Your research should be unified around a central topic from one of the chapters. Your write-up will need to include:
(Approx. 450-500 words, total; more is fine.)
**You will also need to respond to another’s student’s post.