Stamped

by

Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

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Assimilationists Term Analysis

Assimilationists are racists who believe that certain racial groups are better than others, but that inferior groups can become equal if they change. For instance, assimilationists blame Black people for slavery and inequality but say that Black people can fix their problems if they act more like white people. According to Reynolds and Kendi, Black leaders like Booker T. Washington, Bill Cosby, and Barack Obama, weren’t actually antiracists—they were assimilationists who preached “uplift suasion.” However, many influential activists also started out as assimilationists before becoming antiracists later in life, including William Lloyd Garrison, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King Jr.

Assimilationists Quotes in Stamped

The Stamped quotes below are all either spoken by Assimilationists or refer to Assimilationists. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers edition of Stamped published in 2020.
Introduction Quotes

The segregationists and the assimilationists are challenged by antiracists. The antiracists say there is nothing wrong or right about Black people and everything wrong with racism. The antiracists say racism is the problem in need of changing, not Black people. The antiracists try to transform racism. The assimilationists try to transform Black people. The segregationists try to get away from Black people. These are the three distinct racial positions you will hear throughout Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You—the segregationists, the assimilationists, and the antiracists, and how they each have rationalized racial inequity.

Related Characters: Ibram X. Kendi (speaker)
Page Number: xiii
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 1 Quotes

Segregationists are haters. Like, real haters. People who hate you for not being like them. Assimilationists are people who like you, but only with quotation marks. Like…“like” you. Meaning, they “like” you because you’re like them. And then there are antiracists. They love you because you’re like you.

Related Characters: Jason Reynolds (speaker)
Page Number: Chapter 1: The Story of the World’s First Racist 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

This three-fifths-of-a-man equation worked for both the assimilationists and the segregationists, because it fit right into the argument that slaves were both human and subhuman, which they both agreed on. For the assimilationists, the three-fifths rule allowed them to argue that someday slaves might be able to achieve five-fifths. Wholeness. Whiteness. One day. And for segregationists, it proved that slaves were mathematically wretched. Segregationists and assimilationists may have had different intentions, but both of them agreed that Black people were inferior. And that agreement, that shared bond, allowed slavery and racist ideas to be permanently stamped into the founding document of America.

Related Characters: Jason Reynolds (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

[Uplift suasion] would be the cornerstone of assimilationist thought, which basically said:
Make yourself small,
make yourself unthreatening,
make yourself the same,
make yourself safe,
make yourself quiet,
to make White people comfortable with your existence.

Related Characters: Jason Reynolds (speaker)
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

Du Bois believed in being like White people to eliminate threat so that Black people could compete. Washington believed in eliminating thoughts of competition so that White people wouldn’t be threatened by Black sustainability. And there were Black people who believed both men, because, though we’re critiquing their assimilationist ideas in this moment, they were thought leaders of their time.

Related Characters: Jason Reynolds (speaker), W. E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington
Page Number: 122-123
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

But not everyone was kissing Du Bois’s assimilationist feet. There was a resistant group of artists that emerged in 1926 who called themselves the Niggerati. They believed they should be able to make whatever they wanted to express themselves as whole humans without worrying about White acceptance. […] They wanted to function the same way as the blues women, like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, who sang about pain and sex and whatever else they wanted to. Even if the images of Blackness weren’t always positive. W. E. B. Du Bois and his supporters of uplift suasion and media suasion had a hard time accepting any narrative of Black people being less than perfect. Less than dignified. But the Niggerati were arguing that, if Black people couldn’t be shown as imperfect, they couldn’t be shown as human.

Related Characters: Jason Reynolds (speaker), W. E. B. Du Bois
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:

It was 1933. Du Bois’s life as an assimilationist had finally started to vaporize. He just wanted Black people to be self-sufficient. To be Black. And for that to be enough. Here he argued that the American educational system was failing the country because it wouldn’t tell the truth about race in America, because it was too concerned with protecting and defending the White race. Ultimately, he was arguing what he’d been arguing in various different ways, and what Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Marcus Garvey, and many others before him had argued ad nauseam: that Black people were human.

Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

[Malcolm X’s] ideological transformation, from assimilationist to anti-White separatist to antiracist, inspired millions. He argued that though White people weren’t born racist, America was built to make them that way. And that if they wanted to fight against it, they had to address it with the other racist White people around them. He critiqued Black assimilationists. Called them puppets, especially the “leaders” who had exploited their own people to climb the White ladder. Malcolm X stamped that he was for truth—not hate—truth and truth alone, no matter where it was coming from. His autobiography would become antiracist scripture. It would become one of the most important books in American history.

Related Characters: Jason Reynolds (speaker), Malcolm X
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:
Afterword Quotes

[It all] leads back to the question of whether you, reader, want to be a segregationist (a hater), an assimilationist (a coward), or an antiracist (someone who truly loves).
Choice is yours.
Don’t freak out.
Just breathe in. Inhale. Hold it. Now exhale slowly:
N O W.

Related Characters: Jason Reynolds (speaker)
Page Number: 248
Explanation and Analysis:
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Assimilationists Term Timeline in Stamped

The timeline below shows where the term Assimilationists appears in Stamped. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
...have always existed in the U.S., and three groups have always fought over them: segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists. Segregationists and assimilationists blame Black people for inequity, while antiracists blame racism. Segregationists... (full context)
Chapter 1: The Story of the World’s First Racist
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
...three main characters: the first is segregationists, who hate other racial groups. The second is assimilationists, who tolerate other groups, but only when they adapt to mainstream white culture. The third... (full context)
Chapter 5: Proof in the Poetry
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
How Racist Ideas Spread Theme Icon
...savages. Even though this idea is based on good intentions, it’s still racist. (Specifically, it’s assimilationist.) Phillis Wheatley went to London, where the English published her poetry and used her as... (full context)
Chapter 8: Jefferson’s Notes
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
...the House by counting enslaved people. So, everyone agreed on three-fifths. This number satisfied both assimilationists and segregationists by arguing “that slaves were both human and subhuman.” Meanwhile, in Haiti, a... (full context)
Chapter 10: The Great Contradictor
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
Power, Profit, and Privilege Theme Icon
...people he ever saw. All in all, Jefferson was sometimes a segregationist and sometimes an assimilationist—but never an antiracist. (full context)
Chapter 15: Battle of the Black Brains
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
...farming and physical labor, since he thought that would please white people. He was an assimilationist, just like Du Bois, but they weren’t friends. Du Bois was an intellectual, while Washington... (full context)
Chapter 18: The Mission Is in the Name
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
Power, Profit, and Privilege Theme Icon
...equal civil rights in the U.S. When Du Bois heard this, he gave up on assimilationism and started pushing people to fight for equality. In 1919, when the soldiers returned from... (full context)
Chapter 19: Can’t Sing and Dance and Write It Away
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
How Racist Ideas Spread Theme Icon
...participated in the movement now known as the Harlem Renaissance. He encouraged them to become assimilationists—or focus on impressing white people with their art. But he clashed with a group of... (full context)
Chapter 21: When Death Comes
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
Power, Profit, and Privilege Theme Icon
...mourned him. Alex Haley published Malcolm X’s influential autobiography, which showed how he went “from assimilationist to anti-White separatist to antiracist.” President Johnson ultimately doubled down on civil rights legislation by... (full context)
Chapter 22: Black Power
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
...calling for “Black Power”—meaning that Black communities should become self-sufficient. But white people and Black assimilationists thought that he wanted Black supremacy—again, they confused antiracism with anti-white racism. (full context)
Chapter 23: Murder Was the Case
How Racist Ideas Spread Theme Icon
Over the next few years, public conversations about race and racism exploded. Assimilationist professors said that integration failed because white men were jealous of Black men’s sexual prowess.... (full context)
Chapter 25: The Soundtrack of Sorrow and Subversion
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
Power, Profit, and Privilege Theme Icon
In an empty gesture to Black Americans, President George H.W. Bush appointed the Black assimilationist Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. When Anita Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment, Congress... (full context)
Chapter 27: A Bill Too Many
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
Power, Profit, and Privilege Theme Icon
...“evil-doers.” When Bush cut school funding for lagging schools that largely served Black students, Black assimilationists like Bill Cosby were delighted. They blamed poor Black parents for their children’s difficulties in... (full context)
Chapter 28: A Miracle and Still a Maybe
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
Power, Profit, and Privilege Theme Icon
How Racist Ideas Spread Theme Icon
...eloquent “A More Perfect Union” speech, Obama responded to these criticisms with a mix of assimilationism and antiracism—and then he won the presidency. It was Angela Davis’s first vote for one... (full context)
Afterword
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
Power, Profit, and Privilege Theme Icon
How Racist Ideas Spread Theme Icon
...as animals through the media. But everyone can choose whether to be a segregationist, an assimilationist, or an antiracist. (full context)