/ Middle Grade Books / Non-Fiction Books / Young Adult Books / Human Rights

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You is a remix of Ibram X. Kendi's book Stamped from the Beginning. Jason Reynolds, an acclaimed author for young people, remixes the content to create a vital text for teaching students about racism. Most of the book focuses on the history of racism in the United States, with emphasis on black history, slavery, and civil rights. Importantly, the historical events and figures are used to teach about underlying beliefs that are at the root of racism, beliefs that are all too present today.

Stamped

Stamped covers similar ground as other works by Ibram X. Kendi. The authors discuss different types of racist ideas. For instance, they discuss segregationist ideas, which involve assumptions that people of colour are inferior to white people and incapable of improvement. They also discuss assimilationist ideas, which is the racist assumption that some groups are culturally inferior and need to be uplifted. In describing historical and political figures, they outline how these types of racist ideas play out in their actions and words. They also discuss antiracism, an outlook that rejects racism and requires moving towards justice. For the authors, the key question boils down to "whether you, reader, want to be a segregationist (a hater), an assimilationist (a coward), or an antiracist (someone who truly loves)." For more information on these topics, I highly recommend reading Kendi's How to Be An Antiracist.

As an adult reading Stamped, I often wanted to dive deeper into the history and ideas, which indicates I need to find a copy of the original Stamped From the Beginning. However, Jason Reynold's writing is excellent and easily understandable for young people wanting to explore racism and American history. He strikes a conversational tone, and I can see why this book has been chosen as the 2020 Global Read Aloud Young Adult title.

There are a few drawbacks for a Canadian audience. The book focuses almost exclusively on American history, primarily describing American historical figures and events. Despite the American focus, it is easy to make connections between the ideas and concepts discussed in Stamped and racism in Canada. While many Canadians view our own history with rose-coloured glasses, segregationist and assimilationist policies and perspectives are prevalent in our history and persist today. (For further reading on this, check out Stolen City by Owen Toews or Indigenous Writes by Chelsea Vowel as a primer). To effectively explore racism and antiracism in Canada, consider pairing Stamped with Canadian texts that cover similar historical ground, such as 150 Years Retold. Those two texts together would make for a powerful learning experience!

Ellen Bees

Ellen Bees

I am a middle school teacher with a passion for sustainability and human rights. Opinions are my own.

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