THE TITLE STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING comes from a speech that Mississippi senator Jefferson Davis gave on the floor of the US Senate on April 12, 1860.
“This Government was not founded by negroes nor for negroes,” but “by white men for white men,” Davis lectured his colleagues. The bill was based on the false notion of racial equality, he declared. The “inequality of the white and black races” was “stamped from the beginning.”
Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning
On Friday, at the First Friday Book Synopsis (on Zoom), along with the excellent business book The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger, I will present my synopsis of Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. This book won the National Book Award for nonfiction.
Notice the full title: Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.
Recently, I was talking about the racist history in our country, and our state, with a person who attends our First Friday Book Synopsis events. I read him excerpts from the Cornerstone Speech by Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederate States of America, and excerpts from the Texas Ordinance of Secession. Both state, absolutely, that Black people are inferior to white people (thus: white supremacy), and that the proper place for Black people is the place of an enslaved person. He acknowledged that he had never read that speech, or that document.
White supremacy; enslaved Black people. This is the history of our country for a substantial amount of our time as a country. And the ideas behind these realities have lingered for…well, until now.
In other words, there are not two sides of any argument here. There is only one side. Read the founding documents of the Confederacy. Read the speeches and read the actual segregation laws.
And, later, as the decades progressed, it was never separate but equal. It was quite separate, and quite unequal.
This book by Dr. Kendi reveals in full the racist thinking that underlies and informs so much of what has happened throughout our history.
The definition of the word “ignorance” is about the level of knowledge one has. Ignorance is defined as “lack of knowledge.” I am woefully ignorant about so many things; I am ignorant about chemistry, physics, trigonometry, how to put on make up, how to repair an automobile engine, how to actually make a movie, to name just a few areas of my overwhelming ignorance. But – and I think this is an important but – I do not try to tell a physicist how to think about physics. I do not try to tell an automotive mechanic how to fix an engine.
In other words, if you have ignored studying an issue, you may in fact be ignorant about that issue.
In other words, if you claim to be a life-long learner, maybe you could do some of that learning in areas that you have ignored.
In other words, when one is ignorant about a subject, one should be careful about telling others what’s what about that subject. Ignorance results in uninformed conversations.
If you listen to my synopsis on Friday, and if you read this book by Ibrma X. Kendi, and other books dealing with issues of race, you will learn. You will possibly learn that you have been told things that were not true. You may realize that you have even repeated some things that were not true.
This is a time to abandon such ignorance. It is time to learn stuff.
Here is a blog post I wrote after I first presented Dr. Kendi’s book for the Urban Engamen Book Club, sponsored by Citysquare: Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi – My Six Lessons and Takeaways.