Editor’s note: I’d like to welcome my niece, Kiandria Cowart to the blog. Kiandria is an emerging junior at California University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Communications and minoring in African American Studies. She is also on the volleyball team… Go #7! When she’s not in the classroom or on the court, she’s usually sitting in a comfy chair, lost in her favorite books. Hear what Kiandria has to say about her latest read titled Stamped by Jason Reynolds.

Over the past days, I have had the pleasure of reading the book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds[1], it is a “remix” of Ibram X. Kenidi’s book Stamped from the beginning. Stamped is a soul-searching book that details antiracist, assimilationist, and segregationist throughout African American history and American history.

Reynolds is an American author who writes novels and poetry for young adult and middle-grade audiences, including Ghost, a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.[2] Before I dive into the book, I’ve highlighted a few key terms that Reynolds helps us define:

  • Antiracists: Believe racism is the problem in need of changing, not Black people. (loc 29)
  • Segregationists: Try to get away from black people. (loc 29)
  • Assimilationists: Believe Black people as a group can be changed for the better. (loc29)

Now, I have to repeat what the author says numerous times in the text, “this is not a history book” more so “a book that contains history.”  I think this is an important statement to keep in mind when you are reading Stamped.

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OVERVIEW

Reynolds starts off sharing why we should feel comfortable discussing race with one another. This is an important lesson to learn, especially now. It’s the time to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Realizing that we all do not have the same rights as one another, based on our skin color. He breaks down the meaning of racism, a centuries old topic and struggle, in today’s verbiage, making it a talisman for the younger generation of teens and young adults.

Realizing that we all do not have the same rights as one another, based on our skin color. He breaks down the meaning of racism, a centuries old topic and struggle, in today’s verbiage, making it a talisman for the younger generation of teens and young adults.

Reynolds does an amazing job relating the past to the present. Throughout the book, he gives his readers check points to remember, so it is not too much information to retain at once. Antiracism is not known to be taught in schools and perhaps you are looking for a way to better understand it and become educated. In this case, I would highly recommend this book.

He takes you on a trip through time starting with the world’s first known racist. He tells us that “the first step to building an antiracist America is acknowledging America’s racist past.” Where does this racist past begin, you might be asking? Well it began in 1415 with the Europeans, and a book called The chronicles of the Discovery and conquest of Guinea, dignifying the capture and enslavement of Africans. The book was written to characterize Africans as “savages,” and later prompted race theories as to why Africans were like this. These theories became the backbone into American racism and slavery.

Stamped gives readers a truth to the American History, one that involves corruption, hate, and bigotry, all directed toward one race, the Black race. He later goes on to explain the ideology behind iconic African American household names, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Fredrick Douglass, The Black Panther Party for Self Defense and many more. He tells the history like you are living it out beside them, marching in the protest, watching the speeches given by them, fighting for the change. He also gives you the absolute truth to these household names, like Martin Luther King Jr. changing his views from an assimilationist, one who tries to transform Black people to meet the system, to an antiracist, the changing of racism and not the conformity of a race.

Literature seemed to be the best way to get peoples points and beliefs across, the “social media before social media” as Reynolds puts it. Segregationist, people who wanted away from black people, would publish fictional books that reinforced white supremacy. Tarzan has made its way into the lives and hearts of many children and adults but originated as a book called “Tarzan of the Apes.” The apes are actually “African savages” and Tarzan, translating to “white skin” becomes superior to them, doing their tasks better than they taught him. It was a way to remind society that white skin meant superior. Antiracist fought back with their own books and rallies, but it was shocking to find out how the cinema has played a role in racism in America.

With all of this being talked about Jason Reynolds also, informs his readers about the political side of it all. Each presidents’ views of Blacks, what they did to either help the republican party or democratic party and how they chose to progress the nation. He opens up about which presidents were for equal rights and how others demolished every step took in the right direction. Like President Johnson’s term when, Black codes were established and black lives were taken with no consequences or reparations, which is America today with police brutality and senseless killings. Furthermore, proving that history repeats itself, and that freedom as put by Reynolds “is like quicksand, It looks solid until a Black person tries to stand on it. Then it became clear that it was a sinkhole.”

Black women are often too many times left out of the fight, never getting the recognition they deserve.

Black women are often too many times left out of the fight, never getting the recognition they deserve.

In Stamped they are showcased as the activist they were. Angela Davis is mentioned in a large part of the book. It was refreshing to read about a black woman being recognized for all of the battles she’s fought, and her voice being heard. The Black Lives Matter organization was founded by three black women, and often the protests are led by “young black women” willing to make a change. He later says, “perhaps the antiracist daughters of Davis should be held up as symbols of hope.” That is something to remember when you are becoming educated in civil rights activism, men AND women fought for the change.

After reading this book, I was able to imagine an antiracist America. A nation that would see the color of one’s skin and not relate them to a stereotype, see a group of people causing disruption and not think the entire race is at fault. It would be a place of equal opportunity, and if there was judgment, it would be entirely on a person’s actions, not their skin color. It is achievable, through time, but we must continue to fight in different ways than before and become educated on what we are fighting for. No, we are not fighting for Black supremacy, we are fighting for the dismantle of racism. The goal is to get rid of the term supremacy itself, creating a world that doesn’t see race as an obstacle.

MY RECOMMENDATION

I encourage you to buy this book for yourself, your niece, your nephew, or anyone you think should learn more about African American history. The way the author chose to write the book is almost as if he is carrying a conversation with you, giving you feedback, emotion, and sometimes humorous comments. When reading it, I was flashed back into my own African American history course at college listening to my professor passionately teach us about the topic. He always says “African American history is the second best story ever told, the first being what you believe in.” It is without a doubt a story that needs to be heard and taught. This book makes a great preface into learning the history. We are living through the history that will be taught to future generations, including the riots, the protests, and the movement. To quote Reynolds one last time “Scrolling will never be enough. Reposting will never be enough….we have to be participants. Active.”

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REFLECTION/DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Antiracism is the idea that all racial groups are equal and do not need to be transformed, is this the end goal? Do we need more antiracists in America?

Jason Reynolds speaks on “Black Power” many times. What comes to your mind when you hear it? How can you help educate others about this?

Jason Reynolds gives us a background into inequalities within the school systems looking back or thinking about it presently.  How has it affected you as a Black Woman? How has it affected you as a Black Man?

[1]Reynolds, Jason, and Ibram X. Kendi. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and YouAmazon, Little, Brown and Company, 2020, www.amazon.com/Stamped-Antiracism-National-Award-winning-Beginning/dp/0316453692.).
[2]“Jason Reynolds.” Jason Reynolds, www.jasonwritesbooks.com/.

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