We are living in the midst of an anti-racist revolution, Ibram X. Kendi writes in a bracing cover story for The Atlantic’s September issue. This spring and summer, demonstrations calling for racial justice attracted hundreds of thousands of people in cities across the country. By June, roughly three out of four Americans were saying that “racial and ethnic discrimination” is a “big problem” in the United States.
It would be easy to see these shifts as the direct result of the horrifying events that have unfolded in 2020: a pandemic that has had a disproportionate effect on people of color and the killing of George Floyd among them. But in his cover story, “The End of Denial,” Kendi traces these profound changes to an unlikely source: Donald Trump.
The president, Kendi writes, has “held up a mirror to American society, and it has reflected back a grotesque image that many people had until now refused to see: an image not just of the racism still coursing through the country, but also of the reflex to deny that reality. Though it was hardly his intention, no president has caused more Americans to stop denying the existence of racism than Donald Trump.”
Ironically, then, a president whose undisguised racism has shaped his politics and his policy making has created an opportunity rare in the history of the United States: a chance to end the long history of denial and acknowledge that our systems are infected by racist ideas.