Transcript: Ibram X. Kendi on “Face the Nation,” June 19, 2022

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The following is a transcript of an interview with CBS News racial justice contributor Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, a professor at Boston University, that aired Sunday, June 19, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”


MARGARET BRENNAN: For more, we’d like to turn to CBS News racial justice contributor, Dr. Ibram Kendi, who is also the author of two new books, “How to Raise an Antiracist” and “Good Night Racism.” Good morning. Happy Father’s Day, by the way. 

DR. IBRAM X. KENDI: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you have a six-year-old daughter. So I wonder how are you going to teach her what this holiday is? 

DR. KENDI: Well, I’m actually going to teach her that it’s Freedom Day. And that throughout this nation’s history, there has been two perspectives on freedom, really two fights for freedom. Enslaved people were fighting for freedom from slavery and enslavers were fighting for the freedom to enslave. And in many ways that sort of contrast still exists today, there are people who are fighting for freedom from assault rifles, freedom from poverty, freedom from exploitation. And there are others who are fighting for freedom to exploit, freedom to have guns, freedom to maintain inequality. So I really want to get her to understand that there are multiple kinds of freedom. And she should be fighting for and joining with those who are fighting for freedom from something like slavery. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So this concept gets to sort of the core of what so many of your books are about when you say antiracist, and I just want to be clear, for people who are listening, you do not teach critical race theory or CRT, which is become very politicized. You focus on this idea of antiracism, how do you explain to people at home the difference? And for those who say, this might be too advanced for a child? How do you- how do you respond? 

DR. KENDI: Well, the difference is critical race theory is an antiracist sort of theory, but I’m thinking about something, you know, I’m really trying to get the American people to really understand that there’s, there’s inequality. And the cause of that inequality is not what’s wrong with let’s say, black people, it’s what’s wrong with- with bad policies. And the way kids can understand it is kids understand bad rules. My daughter understands what’s not fair. And we can teach children that there’s bad rules in society, there are things that are not fair in society. And that’s why, let’s say black people have less, it’s not because they are less.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You- so I think for people at home who are trying to understand the concept, it’s interesting, because you basically are arguing, being colorblind is not a virtue. For so long people were taught, be blind to color. You’re saying, acknowledging this is important, because if you ignore it, it allows racism to survive, does that right? 

DR. KENDI: It does. And unfortunately, we as parents, and teachers and caregivers of children, and just you know, adults want to believe that, but unfortunately, it’s just not true. I mean, studies show that as early as three years old, our kids have an adult-like concept of race, they’re not only seeing color, but they’re attaching it to qualities like smartness, like honesty. And so we have to share with our children. Yes, there are all these different colors. But they don’t mean anything. Just like a book cover doesn’t mean anything, you literally have to open the book, and you have to open someone’s heart to see who they and what they truly are. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State was on this program around this time last year. And I was reading her remarks and she said, when it comes to teaching about race, she wants children to be taught about America’s birth defect of racism, but also forward progress on its issues. She said, I don’t want this to be black against white, my weaponization of my identity against yours. Do you see that weaponization happening because there is fear of that?

DR. KENDI: I actually think that, that weaponization can happen, but that’s why for instance, I talk about the clash between racism and antiracism, as opposed to black and white. And I also think it’s important for us to understand what I call in my work, racist progress, how over time, let’s take voter suppression policies have become more sophisticated over time. And so if we’re not recognizing both racial progress, and racist progress, then we’re going to be missing the ways in which racism and why racism is persisting and why inequality is persisting. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, one of the things that we are tracking right now in this country is this threat of domestic extremism. And just this week, the 18-year-old white man who killed 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, made an appearance in federal court. He apologized to his parents, but explained his motivation as being about preventing the elimination of the white race. How do parents prevent their child from being radicalized like that?. I mean, that sounds like online recruitment for terrorism or something.

DR. KENDI:  It is. And that’s a huge, huge problem. I mean that- the number of particularly white male teens who have been recruited in multiplayer video games, online through memes through direct messages, you know, is really high. And the way that we protect our kids from that is ensure they can identify white supremacist ideology. And the way you the way they can identify white supremacist ideology is to teach them about it. There’s no way they’re going to be able to protect themselves from it, just like they can’t protect themselves from cars. They have to understand to look both ways whether they’re teenagers or young people, so they won’t get harmed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Dr. Kendi, thank you very much. Good luck with the books. And Happy Father’s Day again. We’ll be right back.

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