Ibram X. Kendi has become, if not a household name, something approximating it for an academic set not used to attention. Thus, when Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey agreed to give Kendi’s Boston University Center for Antiracist Research a $10 million grant last week, just two months after the center was opened, that was a pretty big deal.
“Your $10M donation, with no strings attached, gives us the resources and flexibility to greatly expand our antiracist work. The endowment is vital, as we build our new Center,” Kendi wrote on Twitter.
“Racism is a juggernaut. Racist policies + ideas are ubiquitous,” he added.
“We need juggernauts combating racism. We need the ubiquity of antiracist research, policy innovation, narrative change, and activism.”
Racism is a juggernaut. Racist policies + ideas are ubiquitous.
We need juggernauts combating racism. We need the ubiquity of antiracist research, policy innovation, narrative change, and activism. Thanks @Jack for supporting the @AntiracismCtr + so many racial justice orgs. 2/
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) August 20, 2020
“What is amazing is just the generosity of Jack Dorsey and that it gives the foundation to the center,” said Boston University President Robert A. Brown, according to BU Today, a university publication.
Given that the funds were gifted to Kendi’s center with no strings attached, Brown said, that “gives the director endless discretion about how the income from the gift will be used over time to advance the center.”
$10M to Dr. Ibram Kendi and the Center for Antiracist Research at BU. This research will inform and fuel much needed and overdue policy change. I appreciate you Dr. Kendi, and I’m grateful for your work! https://t.co/M2zvIQYeEO
— jack (@jack) August 20, 2020
This wouldn’t make headlines in any other time. Kendi isn’t just a major name in the field of academia; his 2019 book, “How to Be an Antiracist,” attracted positive reviews in the media and became an international bestseller in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Dorsey, of course, is currently positioning himself as the woke face of social media.
This, in short, isn’t just a donation, it’s a powerful advertising opportunity for Dorsey’s corporate leviathans, Twitter and credit-card processing firm Square — the kind of advertising opportunity Dorsey hoped for when he began the Start Small initiative to give away $1 billion of his wealth expediently and with measurable results.
However, the question isn’t what kind of results Dorsey was hoping for. It’s the question of what kind of impact Kendi might make — and it’s not entirely a positive one.
To start with, we should probably define what Kendi describes as “racist” or “antiracist.” As Manhattan Institute fellow Coleman Hughes pointed out in his review of “How to Be an Antiracist” for City Journal, Kendi believed “there is no such thing as a not-racist idea,” only “racist ideas and antiracist ideas.”
If one isn’t an antiracist, one is necessarily racist. There aren’t gradations between (pun unintended) black and white.
A curious idea enough if it were just expressed in a book. Kendi wants to see it go far beyond this.
He distilled one of his more controversial concepts in a short 2019 piece for Politico when describing how he would go about fixing inequality.
“To fix the original sin of racism, Americans should pass an anti-racist amendment to the U.S. Constitution that enshrines two guiding anti-racist principals: Racial inequity is evidence of racist policy and the different racial groups are equals,” he wrote.
“The amendment would make unconstitutional racial inequity over a certain threshold, as well as racist ideas by public officials (with ‘racist ideas’ and ‘public official’ clearly defined). It would establish and permanently fund the Department of Anti-racism (DOA) comprised of formally trained experts on racism and no political appointees.
“The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.”
Now, beyond the utterly insane idea that the concepts of “racist ideas” and “public official” could be clearly defined, Hughes hit this one solidly on the head.
“Kendi’s goals are openly totalitarian. The DOA would be tasked with ‘investigating’ private businesses and ‘monitoring’ the speech of public officials; it would have the power to reject any local, state, or federal policy before it’s implemented; it would be made up of ‘experts’ who could not be fired, even by the president; and it would wield ‘disciplinary tools’ over public officials who did not ‘voluntarily’ change their “racist ideas’ — as defined, presumably, by people like Kendi. What could possibly go wrong?”
Given the near-impossibility of passing a constitutional amendment, of course, this would be almost impossible to enact. And yet, Jack Dorsey just gave $10 million to a man who aims to do just this.
Kendi is serious, however, about considering every policy a potentially “racist” idea that needs to be eradicated via totalitarianism. According to Hughes, Vox editor Ezra Klein asked Kendi whether a capital-gains tax cut could be considered racist or antiracist, given that it’s as race-agnostic of a policy as you can get. However, Klein pointed out blacks own less stock — so does this mean the policy is racist?
“Yes,” Kendi said — and, according to Hughes, “without hesitation.” If you supported this because you didn’t think it was racist, this simply made you a racist. While Kendi’s logic isn’t as circular as that of “White Fragility” author Robin DiAngelo, it’s not too far off.
This is the kind of authoritarian Jack Dorsey just gave money to. Will his Start Small program produce measurable results? We can only hope and pray that it doesn’t. This is the kind of knee-jerk reaction from two elites you would have figured some conservative had dreamed up as an example of liberal fascism — instead of real life.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.