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Skidmore College

Skidmore FYE Summer Reading: "How to be an Antiracist"

June 15, 2021
by Peter MacDonald

Skidmore College’s First-Year Experience program’s summer reading has been a centerpiece of FYE since its inception nearly two decades ago. Its purpose is twofold: to impress upon students that intellectual engagement should not be confined to classrooms or academic calendars and to provide a common intellectual experience that binds the first-year class together. 

This year, the reading committee chose award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to be an Antiracist” as the Class of 2025’s summer reading. A memoir, the book details Kendi’s real-life encounters with racism and his advice on eliminating it.  

At the same time there has been encouraging news about public health in the United States, there continues to be troubling news about systemic racism in the United States. Committee members said it was important to explore the root causes of racism and possible paths toward racial justice as the U.S. economy reopens. 

“One of the committee’s collective goals in selecting this reading was to engage community members to lean into the necessary and hard work of antiracist action, and to have a text that could provide us with a common language for learning and talking about race, racism, antiracism and related constructs,” said Assistant Professor of Sociology Leigh Wilton. 

Assistant Professor of English Paul Benzon said that the way the book takes up the question of racism and antiracism was particularly relevant. 

“The how in the title embodies an interdisciplinary way of thinking that’s a huge part of FYE and what we do at Skidmore more broadly,” Benzon said. “Kendi thinks about race through history, political science, gender studies, Black studies and more, but it’s never just any one of those approaches. It’s always about how to think and act more broadly in relation to this urgent contemporary problem.” 

FYE Director Amon Emeka sees the selection as hopeful and is excited about the opportunities for the Class of 2025 and the Skidmore community to have open, honest conversations. 

“It is a deeply interdisciplinary exploration of racism and its antithesis — antiracism — that will leave readers thinking in new ways about how they can (re) open our society in the most complete sense of that word,” Emeka said.  

For more on “How to be an Antiracist,” including interviews with Kendi and several committee members, visit the FYE Summer Reading 2021 website.   

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