Remember that time a huge swath of Americans convinced themselves the country was “post-racial” following the election of our first Black president, Barack Obama? Well, if the much-needed formation of the Black Lives Matter movement, a countless four years of Donald Trump, and 2020's uprisings for racial justice didn’t convince them otherwise, last week’s full-scale insurrection on the Capitol Building certainly did, as suddenly, many of those same racism-deniers are seeing the virulent effects of white supremacy with new eyes.
“I define white supremacy as a political, social and economic system that thrives on the subjugation of people who’ve not been led into whiteness,” says award-winning author, journalist and podcaster Kenrya Rankin, this week’s guest on The Root Presents: It’s Lit! It’s also the definition she gives in the introductory essay of her fifth book, Anti-Racism (Words of Change series): Powerful Voices, Inspiring Ideas, a new book of quotes from a broad swath of thought leaders both known and unknown, compiled to share with a young audience.
Published in July of last year, the book follows 2019's How We Fight White Supremacy: A Field Guide to Black Resistance, co-written with her fellow editor at Colorlines Akiba Solomon. In our interview, Rankin tells us she considers Anti-Racism the “subset” of its immediate predecessor, explaining, “it really situates racism is just one of the isms and the obias that hold up this like stinking tent that makes up white supremacy. It’s just one of those things. And so How We Fight White Supremacy is a larger conversation...my work really attaches to that because it’s really about centering, the lived experience, work and advocacy of Black people.”
Also a mother, Rankin was especially excited to produce a text for a young audience; a departure from her co-hosting duties alongside sex educator Erica Easter on The Turn On, a literary erotica podcast exploring the unique pleasures and intricacies of sex while Black.
“I think that young people can really understand big concepts in a way that we don’t often give them credit for,” says Rankin, adding, “they can understand shit even the adults think is difficult. I think we just have to take the time to talk to them and give them context, and we also have to trust them with information. And I love the idea, especially as a mom, of writing books that catch people when they’re still very much in formation and help them to kind of form the way that they view the world. I mean, if you’re doing it right and you’re doing it in a way that is meant to shore up their very young skills so that, you know, they’re armed when they become adults, it feels pretty damn cool,” she concludes. As evidenced by our conversation, Rankin is one of the coolest moms—and writers—around.
“This is not a fight that is over,” she says. “This is not a fight this new, like some people think it is. But there are people who have been doing the work of securing our liberation each and every day.”
Join The Root and literary freedom fighter Kenrya Rankin on Episode 17 of The Root Presents: It’s Lit!: Kenrya Rankin Wants to Have a Word About Anti-Racism, now available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, Amazon, NPR One, TuneIn, and Radio Public. Also available is a transcript of this week’s episode.