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By YouTube Originals
In this special episode of BookTube, our community of close readers asks award-winning author Jason Reynolds about his new book, Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You. Co-author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi chimes in to help explain the book’s origins.
Jason Reynolds: Honesty, Joy, and Anti-Racism
Transcript provided by YouTube:
A burning question that I have
is did you always want to be an author?
Did I always want to be an author?
No, I wanted to be Michael Jordan.
In my community, we knew teachers, we knew government workers,
we knew hustlers, we knew athletes,
but we didn’t know any authors.
We didn’t spend time in the library.
When you grew up where I grew up, being an author
isn’t a thing that we even knew that we could be.
Today, I’m super excited
to be talking about Jason Reynolds’ book “Stamped,”
which is a remix of “Stamped From The Beginning” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.
Both Reynolds and Kendi are incredible voices,
and I feel so deeply privileged
to be in conversation with them today.
It felt like I was having a really deep, intimate conversation
about topics that I’m really, really fascinated by.
“Stamped” does a fantastic job in being an approachable way
to view the history of anti-black racism.
It is not only incredibly entertaining,
but it’s our responsibility.
What’s happening, everybody? This is Jason Reynolds,
the author of “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, And You.”
This is a book meant to give some context
about the racial dynamic of this country as it stands today,
and the history of it dating all the way back to the 1400s.
We call it a remix of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s masterpiece
“Stamped From The Beginning,” which outlines the history
of racist ideas in America.
I’m so excited to be a part
of this special episode of “BookTube.”
Here I am in my office in Washington, D.C.
where I do all my work for the most part.
And I’m looking forward to talking to y’all about “Stamped.”
– Let’s get it. – What up, y’all?
My name is Jesse, and I am from the YouTube channel
and the Instagram Bowties & Books.
A’ight. Bowties & Books.
I have been a part of the bookish community
for the last two years as of August.
I focus a lot on reading books that center BIPOC
Regarding “Stamped,” I have a lot to say about this book.
I have thoughts, y’all. I have thoughts.
Personally, I absolutely loved the aggressive ways
in which different power structures are broken down
while still having a casual and highly readable element.
The book is based off of Dr. Kendi’s “Stamped,”
which is a best-selling and highly technical book.
Jason, why was it important
for you to use accessible language
while you were writing this book?
First of all, this is a good question.
My job is to level the playing field.
My job is to make sure that language can be water.
And what I mean by that is water affects
everybody’s body the same.
Every human being has to have water, right?
And I think my job is to take all that research he did in his book
and translate it into something
cool and interesting for a 12-year-old
It doesn’t matter how old you are.
You can get something from any narrative.
Human beings invest in human beings
despite whatever age that human being is.
My 75-year-old mother has read it
and has a better understanding of her own life,
and she actually lived through many of the things
that most of us will never actually experience.
I personally found myself
just frantically nodding my head in agreement
during “Stamped’s” discussion of how throughout history
black people have literally always been expected to adhere
to the rules of white conversation,
especially when navigating discussions about race.
– Yeah. – For example,
black people are literally never allowed to get angry
when we are having conversations about race.
We are expected to be cool, calm, and collected
at every point during the discussion
or else our voices, our anger, our pain isn’t seen as valid.
– Talk about it. – It’s also a way for white people
to control the conversation and to give themselves…
– Jesse. – …to stop listening to us
when they no longer feel comfortable.
Yo, real quick, I make it a habit to not tell
no lies to nobody, including white people, right?
I’m not a person who couches these conversations
just because I’m in a room with white folks. No!
If I love you like I claim to love you,
despite how you feel about me,
then I gotta respect you enough to tell you the truth,
even if that truth makes you uncomfortable.
You ain’t gotta like it, you ain’t gotta like me.
But I’m gonna tell you the truth regardless
because life is too short for me to hold it in.
So, Jason, what does resistance mean
and what does resistance look like to you personally?
It has to be internal wrestling with complicated ideas
that we think we know the answer to.
I have to make sure that I’m checking myself constantly.
As much as I’m writing about it,
I’m trying to deconstruct it,
and I’m trying to work on my own stuff internally, right?
I’m not off the hook. I’m not always an antiracist.
I try to be every day. I try to push toward it.
And I think my resistance has everything to do with making sure
that I’m holding myself accountable
more than holding all the people around me accountable, right?
I also think that as there is so much injustice,
there also is so much rich and vibrant history of blackness.
– No doubt. – So another question that I have to you
that ties directly to this theme of joy
is how do you as a black man
preserve and protect your black joy
– on an everyday level? – Ooh-whee!
Whew, you know how the books say breathe?
I think this is a moment where I have to do so.
Been black. Gonna be black.
And the funny thing about being a black person
is that when people talk about blackness or black people,
they typically talk about the struggle, right?
The truth is that being black is joyous.
It is a joyous thing to be a black person.
It’s a part of who I am every day.
And so I’ve always been okay with who I am and what I am.
I was raised to believe that I never need to feel shame
My mom is probably the greatest human
that I’ve known thus far in my life.
She raised us in a super progressive,
really interesting and open household.
We were raised in a house where we could talk back if we wanted to.
We could sort of debate with our mother in a way
that most– most parents just don’t allow for.
But my mom wanted to teach us that we had a voice and we had feelings
and those feelings are valid, even if she doesn’t change her mind.
We also were raised to make sure that in the midst of that expression,
that we expressed ourselves with confidence.
So I couldn’t disagree quietly.
I couldn’t disagree and sort of mutter it or murmur it, right?
I sort of had to roll my shoulders back, stick my chest out,
and say the way I felt as if I meant it.
And if I did, she’d take it seriously.
And these are all sort of the things that I use to this day
when it comes to making my work, so shout out to moms.
Hi, I’m Danielle Bainbridge.
So I’m a historian, and my YouTube channel Origin of Everything
is about breaking things down from the beginning.
So this book was personally a really great read for me
because it took a complex and difficult subject, racism,
and made it interesting and entertaining
without sacrificing the hard facts.
Let me just take a second real quick and just say
she seems like my kind of person.
Seems like she knows what she’s talking about.
One of these days, Danielle, you and I, we’ll meet.
I think it’s important to mention that you were named
the new Library of Congress’ National Ambassador
for Young People’s Literature.
Congratulations on that high honor.
– Thank you, Danielle. – I’m curious to hear
what that experience has been like for you?
It was an absolute honor.
I was appointed by the Library of Congress
the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2020 and 2021.
I have a role and a job to do,
and I take it really, really seriously.
I make sure that I put as much time as possible into young people.
And I realize that I have so much to say to our young people,
especially those who grew up like me.
If you want to know where the cure is,
if you want the antidote to hopelessness,
spend a little more time with young folks.
I’ve read Dr. Kendi’s original book “Stamped From The Beginning.”
– Shout out to Dr. Kendi. – And I can only imagine how hard it must have been
to take Dr. Kendi’s incredible book,
– which is really dense– – Wait. Real quick.
She said, like, Dr. Kendi’s book, which is really dense.
I just want to say, yes, it is.
I imagine it must have been intimidating to be tasked with such a big job.
Where did the idea for the remix come from,
and how did Jason Reynolds come into the picture?
First of all, it’s important to know that he asked me to do this
right after he won the National Book Award for that book,
I said absolutely not, you know?
I wanted a YA version of “Stamped From The Beginning” because people asked.
People would say, you know, this book needs to be
in every, sort of, high school.
It needs to be in every middle school.
We should not be learning this history
only when we become adults.
And so that galvanized me and encouraged me
So, of course, when I asked Jason,
he said no over, you know, and over again.
My “no,” it came from a place of respect.
And secondly, in came from a place of insecurity.
You know, I got through college barely, right?
I wasn’t some– some genius kid.
That wasn’t my– my thing.
And so I was just concerned that I would say yes
and then be in over my head.
– But he kept asking. – I persisted, you know?
Not necessarily because I wanted to get a win,
but just because at the end of the day,
I wanted young people to read this book.
I mean, he kept asking. Talk about a persistent person.
And eventually, he convinced me that it was bigger than the both of us.
And he convinced me, you know, that perhaps he could see something in me
that I couldn’t see in myself at the time.
Ibram: Jason has just a unbelievable skill and talent,
and that’s why I knew that if he was to write “Stamped,”
that it would turn out into precisely what it turned out to be,
In reading and listening to “Stamped,”
your voice comes through so clearly.
There’s a lyricism to your handling of language
and a real mastery and artistry with words.
Can you talk about your philosophy behind writing?
There’s this quote, an Alfred Hitchcock quote.
He says something along the lines of,
“The face does not exist until I put light on it.”
Language is light, right? Language is the light
in which he speaks of for me in my world, right?
Young children who are growing up in the Bronx
or in D.C. or in Chicago,
though we know those lives are real,
those lives could easily be dismissed
if someone doesn’t put language to it.
I only have 26 le– there’s a limited,
a finite amount of resource here.
I have 26 letters to work with that I get to arrange
in all kinds of different combinations
to figure out how to cast spell on the person that reads them.
– What an amazing thing. – Hi, everyone. I’m Joanna.
Before I start talking about what I loved about the book,
I should probably set the table a little bit.
I am a recent American. I’m originally from Venezuela.
And I gotta tell you something. From the outside looking in,
America has excellent branding.
Land of the free, home of the brave.
It’s not– but then you get here and it’s like,
“Wait a minute. Like, is it?”
One of the ways America sold racism to us
was through pop culture and art.
And a lot of us were too busy watching the movie to even notice.
There’s some obvious examples the book brings up,
like “Birth of a Nation,” America’s first Hollywood hit.
Now this movie wasn’t just about the KKK,
– it celebrated the KKK. – Yeah.
So, let’s wrap our head around that.
The movie that put Hollywood on the map
made the KKK look like some cross-burning Avengers.
So, “Birth of a Nation,” I was kind of expecting that.
But then the book goes like, “Hey, guess what?
So, was I shocked to learn that my favorite Disney movie
was based on a racist book?
I mean, not really anymore.
I feel like this happens to me all the time.
Someone will say, “Hey. ‘Dixie Chicks.’
That name is problematic.”
And I’ll be like, “Are you sure about that?”
Do a quick Google search.
Immediately, first result, yes, it’s completely racist.
And I know this is an obvious one, but Aunt Jemima.
It’s obvious now, but for the longest time,
I didn’t realize it was reiterating a racial stereotype.
And the model who Aunt Jemima is based on,
So, Jason, did you see these things as inherently problematic growing up?
So what’s interesting is when I was a kid, no.
I did not know these things were problematic.
My mother collected memorabilia that was actually racist.
And there are a lot of black people who do this,
who collect Pickaninny dolls and Sambo dolls
And my mom was a person who collected these kinds
of antiques and had them in our house.
So when I was a kid, of course I didn’t know
that anything was wrong with these images
until I got a little older.
And that proves the point that I think a lot of us–
a lot of racism as it– as it sort of exists
in the present time is hiding in plain sight.
One of the most actionable takeaways from this book for me
was that it isn’t enough to be aware of racism
or be against the concept of racism,
but to be actively antiracist.
that’s an answer that I– that I will not–
There is not such thing as becoming an antiracist.
Racism continues to change and shift.
It shows itself in different ways,
and so we will have to continue to change and shift and evolve
so that we can continue to combat it in different ways.
This is the rest of our lives, journeying through
trying to figure out how to self-correct
to the point that it becomes autocorrect.
And if we can all do that,
then perhaps we can make the world
Hey, y’all. How are you doing?
I am so excited to talk about “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, And You.”
My name is Kim. I run a multiplatform digital community
for black women called For Harriet.
because I wanted to have intergenerational conversations
about the experiences of black womanhood
that don’t really get talked about in the mainstream.
– Shout out to Kim. – There were so many great moments in “Stamped”
that I gravitated to, but I loved chapter 15 of this book
called “Battle Of The Black Brains.”
– Yeah, yeah. – Which is about W.E.B. Du Bois,
who was a fantastic scholar,
a civil rights activist from way back,
and Booker T. Washington,
who was an activist, a businessman,
a political leader, and how they were two giants of black history,
but also deeply imperfect.
Actually, kind of problematic.
It is so, so important for us to really reckon with the fact
that our leaders, the people that we view as icons,
– had some issues. – Mm.
…focus on lower pursuits such as tending the fields,
Jason, I actually wanted to ask you how do you reconcile
the many great things that so many of our heroes did
with the problematic aspects of their past?
The fact that they did a lot of stuff that is frankly shady and kind of gross?
– What do we do with that? – Oof. Tough, tough, tough question.
I try to contextualize what it is that they did.
So many of them make decisions based on where they are in history
and the opposing forces that are there.
I mean, I think about my own mom, right? My family.
The truth of the matter is is that just because a person is a hero
does not make them any less a human.
My name is John Fish, and I’m a 21-year-old
Harvard student from Ontario, Canada.
In Canada, I didn’t really learn a whole lot
And being a white kid in a white family,
my only real perception of anti-black racism
– was through media. – Hmm.
I remember being a 13-year-old watching the George Zimmerman trial.
And I remember thinking that it was so unfair,
but I couldn’t place it in the correct
historical and social context.
Jason, I think that “Stamped” does a really good job
expressing this history of anti-black racism as an evolution
and telling the story as it happened.
I’d be really curious to hear how you think the media
and how you think that education, schools,
could do a better job at telling this history.
Mm! In America, we celebrate black people in February.
You ask the average young American who they know,
and they’ll tell you Martin, they’ll tell you Rosa Parks,
they’ll tell you Harriet Tubman.
If you’re lucky, you might get a Nelson Mandela in there.
There’s, like, the Super Friends of black history
that we sort of pluck from as often as possible.
And they sort of serve as the avatars
for the rest of our lives and our struggle,
when the reality of the matter is
they just barely scratch the surface.
I mean, there are textbooks in America
where they will not call enslaved Africans “enslaved Africans.”
Instead they call them “migrant workers.”
John Fish, you’re a smart guy.
You know that that is not the same.
There are all these sort of conversations around like,
“Oh, well, we don’t have enough time to go into detail.
We don’t have enough time to teach an intensive lesson
on the history of black people in America.”
When what they’re really saying is,
“We don’t have the interest in teaching the truth
about American history.”
Black people happen to be
the backbone of American history.
And so the fact that we get left out of it
makes it even more egregious.
The way they could do it better
Usually when I give these interviews, I talk about my mom.
And my father often sees these things and he’s like, “You never talk about me.”
And so I want to be sure to say my father’s a good dude.
This post was previously published on YouTube.
Photo credit: Screenshot from video