Ibram X. Kendi

Ibram X. Kendi

: Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: Slowking4


* Has taught History and Africana Studies at a number of colleges and universities
* Strong proponent of critical race theory
* Believes that “capitalism is essentially racist,” and “racism is essentially capitalist”
* “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
* Routinely charges speaking fees of $25,000 per event

Radical Roots

Ibram Xolani Kendi was born as Ibram Henry Rogers in New York City in 1982. At his 2013 wedding, he and his wife, Sadiqa, announced to their family and friends that Ibram had decided to change his middle name to Xolani, meaning “peace” in Zulu, and his surname to Kendi, meaning “loved one” in the language of the Meru people of Kenya.

Kendi’s parents were former student activists who had come of age during the Black Power movement of the 1960s and ’70s, when they embraced the radical, pro-Marxist tenets of black liberation theology.

Higher Education & Career in Academia

After earning undergraduate degrees in Journalism and Black Studies at Florida A&M University in 2004, Kendi found work as a journalist and went on to complete a doctoral program in African American Studies at Temple University during 2005-10. He also worked as an Assistant Professor of History at SUNY Oneonta from 2008-12; an Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at SUNY Albany from 2012-15; an Assistant Professor of African American History at the University of Florida from 2015-17; and a Professor of History and International Relations at American University from 2017-20. In June 2020, it was announced that in the 2020–2021 academic year, Kendi would serve as a Professor of History at Boston University, the founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, and the Frances B. Cashin Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

At various points in his professional career, Ibram X. Kendi has also been a visiting professor at Brown University; a National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow (2013); a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis; and the American Historical Association’s J. Franklin Jameson Fellow in American History. In the summer of 2011, Kendi lived in Chicago as a short-term fellow in African American Studies through the Black Metropolis Research Consortium. He has also received research fellowships, grants, and visiting appointments from numerous universities, foundations, professional associations, and libraries, including the Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum, the University of Chicago, Wayne State University, Emory University, Duke University, Princeton University, UCLA, Washington University, Wake Forest University, and the historical societies of Kentucky and Southern California.

In 2012 Kendi published his first book, The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965-1972. He has been an Assistant Professor of African American History at the University of Florida since 2015. He also serves as associate editor of the online periodical Black Perspectives.

Critical Race Theory

Kendi is a proponent of critical race theory, an academic discipline which contends that America is permanently racist to its core, and that consequently the nation’s legal structures are, by definition, racist and invalid. In a June 2021 interview with Slate magazine, Kendi made the following remarks about critical race theory:

  • “Critical race theory emerged among lawyers and legal scholars who recognized that despite being in this post–civil rights America, racial inequity and disparity still existed and persisted. For them and for critical race theorists, the aim was to examine those structures, those laws, those policies, so that we can uncover the structures of racism.”
  • “I’ve certainly been inspired by critical race theory and critical race theorists. The ways in which I’ve formulated definitions of racism and racist and anti-racism and anti-racist have not only been based on historical evidence, but also Kimberlé Crenshaw’s intersectional theory. She’s one of the founding and pioneering critical race theorists who in the late 1980s and early 1990s said, ‘You know what? Black women aren’t just facing racism, they’re not just facing sexism, they’re facing the intersection of racism and sexism.’ It’s important for us to understand that and that’s foundational to my work.”

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Kendi’s second book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, was published by Nation Books, became a New York Times bestseller, and won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction. In this volume, the author lays out what he terms “the entire history of racist ideas, from their origins in fifteenth-century Europe,” where, as he points out, numerous scholarly tracts offered moral rationales for the slave trade by claiming that Africans, by their nature, were so ill-equipped for liberty, that enslavement was in fact a blessing for them. Kendi also touches upon post-Civil War practices in the U.S., where lawmakers—convinced that blacks “were naturally lazy, lawless, and oversexed”—likewise “justified … new racist policies with racist ideas.” And he suggests that by the late 20th century in America, anti-black prejudice was less overt but every bit as pernicious as it had been during earlier epochs—employing euphemisms like “law and order,” “war on drugs,” and “tough on crime” as code words for the continued, if somewhat veiled, oppression of black people.

Among the more prominent villains identified by Kendi in Stamped from the Beginning are Thomas Jefferson and the famed abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison, for his part, explicitly blamed slavery—and not any innate biological inferiority—for the “degraded” economic and intellectual condition of 19th-century blacks, writing: “Nothing has been left undone to cripple their intellects, darken their minds, debase their moral nature, obliterate all traces of their relationship to mankind.” As such, he favored the implementation of special compensatory measures to help lift blacks out of their wretched state. But because Garrison’s view implicitly accepted the premise that some type of “black behavioral inferiority” did in fact exist—albeit because of historical inequities—Kendi paints the abolitionist as an unwitting racist.

Kendi’s book is highly critical of Garrison and other “assimilationists” who, unlike overtly racist segregationists, have sought, over the course of history, to help blacks achieve succes in America’s majority-white society. Because assimilationist precepts occasionally argue that the black community ought to engage in some measure of self-examination aimed at addressing such pathologies as its own high rates of violent crime, single motherhood, drug abuse, and academic failure, Kendi dismisses these precepts as expressions of a racist psychology that wrongly blames the victims of injustice for their own sufferings. “To say something is wrong with a group is to say something is inferior about that group,” he writes. “I define anti-Black racist ideas—the subject of this book—as any idea suggesting that Black people, or any group of Black people, are inferior in any way to another racial group.” “When you truly believe that the racial groups are equal, then you also believe that racial disparities are the result of racial discrimination,” he elaborates. Striking a similar tone at a December 2016 speaking engagement in Seattle, Kendi declared: “I don’t need a white-only sign in my face. There is nothing more overt than a racial disparity.”

In Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi’s contempt for the purveyors of “assimilationist thinking that has … served up racist beliefs about Black inferiority” is by no means directed only at white targets. For example, he condemns the famous black civil-rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois for his 1897 assertion that “[t]he first and greatest step toward the settlement of the present friction between the races lies in the correction of the immorality, crime, and laziness among the Negroes themselves, which still remains a heritage of slavery.” By Kendi’s calculus, any suggestion that blacks should accept some measure of personal responsibility for overcoming their own difficulties is tantamount to racism.

In a similar spirit, Kendi flatly rejects the assimilationist goal of achieving a “post-racial society” as a deplorable, “racist idea,” on grounds that it fails, in his view, to properly blame every conceivable example of black underachievement or behavioral pathology on societal racism.

In Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi writes that he himself—prior to his intellectual awakening—had spent many years blind to the all-encompassing oppression that rests at the heart of black failure in all its manifestations. “Fooled by certain racist ideas,” he explains, “I did not fully realize that the only thing wrong with Black people is that we think something is wrong with Black people.”

Of all the individuals whose political and ideological views are examined in Stamped from the Beginning, the one who is portrayed most explicitly in heroic terms is the lifelong communist revolutionary Angela Davis.

How to Be an Antiracist

In 2019, Kendi published his third book for adult audiences, titled How to Be an Antiracist. In this book, he provides an extended discussion defining racism and explaining how racism can be combatted:

What is racism? Racism is a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalizes racial inequities. Okay, so what are racist policies and ideas? We have to define them separately to understand why they are married and why they interact so well together. In fact, let’s take one step back and consider the definition of another important phrase: racial inequity.

Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing. Here’s an example of racial inequity: 71 percent of White families lived in owner-occupied homes in 2014, compared to 45 percent of Latinx families and 41 percent of Black families. Racial equity is when two or more racial groups are standing on a relatively equal footing. An example of racial equity would be if there were relatively equitable percentages of all three racial groups living in owner-occupied homes in the forties, seventies, or, better, nineties.

A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups. An antiracist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial equity between racial groups. By policy, I mean written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, and guidelines that govern people. There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups.

Racist policies have been described by other terms: “institutional racism,” “structural racism,” and “systemic racism,” for instance. But those are vaguer terms than “racist policy.” When I use them I find myself having to immediately explain what they mean. “Racist policy” is more tangible and exacting, and more likely to be immediately understood by people, including its victims, who may not have the benefit of extensive fluency in racial terms. “Racist policy” says exactly what the problem is and where the problem is. “Institutional racism” and “structural racism” and “systemic racism” are redundant. Racism itself is institutional, structural, and systemic.

“Racist policy” also cuts to the core of racism better than “racial discrimination,” another common phrase. “Racial discrimination” is an immediate and visible manifestation of an underlying racial policy. When someone discriminates against a person in a racial group, they are carrying out a policy or taking advantage of the lack of a protective policy. We all have the power to discriminate. Only an exclusive few have the power to make policy. Focusing on “racial discrimination” takes our eyes off the central agents of racism: racist policy and racist policymakers, or what I call racist power.

Since the 1960s, racist power has commandeered the term “racial discrimination,” transforming the act of discriminating on the basis of race into an inherently racist act. But if racial discrimination is defined as treating, considering, or making a distinction in favor or against an individual based on that person’s race, then racial discrimination is not inherently racist. The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist. Someone reproducing inequity through permanently assisting an overrepresented racial group into wealth and power is entirely different than someone challenging that inequity by temporarily assisting an underrepresented racial group into relative wealth and power until equity is reached.

The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination. As President Lyndon B. Johnson said in 1965, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.” As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in 1978, “In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way. And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently.”

The racist champions of racist discrimination engineered to maintain racial inequities before the 1960s are now the racist opponents of antiracist discrimination engineered to dismantle those racial inequities. The most threatening racist movement is not the alt right’s unlikely drive for a White ethnostate but the regular American’s drive for a “race-neutral” one. The construct of race neutrality actually feeds White nationalist victimhood by positing the notion that any policy protecting or advancing non-White Americans toward equity is “reverse discrimination.

That is how racist power can call affirmative action policies that succeed in reducing racial inequities “race conscious” and standardized tests that produce racial inequities “race neutral.” That is how they can blame the behavior of entire racial groups for the inequities between different racial groups and still say their ideas are “not racist.” But there is no such thing as a not-racist idea, only racist ideas and antiracist ideas.

So what is a racist idea? A racist idea is any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way. Racist ideas argue that the inferiorities and superiorities of racial groups explain racial inequities in society. As Thomas Jefferson suspected a decade after declaring White American independence: “The blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.”

An antiracist idea is any idea that suggests the racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences—that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group. Antiracist ideas argue that racist policies are the cause of racial inequities.

Understanding the differences between racist policies and antiracist policies, between racist ideas and antiracist ideas, allows us to return to our fundamental definitions. Racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas. Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.

Below are some additional key excerpts from Kendi’s 2019 book, some of them with accompanying explanatory text:

  • “To be antiracist is to reject cultural standards and level cultural difference.”
  • Quoting Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald’s 2016 statement that “[t]he core criminal-justice population is the black underclass,” Kendi writes: “This is the living legacy of racist power, constructing the Black race biologically and ethnically and presenting the Black body to the world first and foremost as a ‘beast,’ to use Gomes de Zurara’s term, as violently dangerous, as the dark embodiment of evil.”
  • For Kendi, the paramount task of humankind is to join in one great movement of antiracist instruction and persuasion, in which antiracists continuously refine their methods until they finally succeed in ushering in a “world of equity” – that is, not equality of opportunity but equality of outcome.
  • “To love capitalism is to end up loving racism. To love racism is to end up loving capitalism.
  • “Capitalism is essentially racist,” Kendi proclaims, and “racism is essentially capitalist.”

More Thoughts on “Anti-Racism”

During a June 2019 appearance at the Aspen Institute, Kendi stated that the only effective antidote for to racism is “anti-racism” — i.e., the promotion of compensatory policies that reduce racial disparities or inequalities, such as wealth redistribution, affirmative action, or reparations for slavey. “Racist policies yield racial inequity. Anti-racist policies yield racial equity. Racist people are people who are expressing racist ideas or are supporting racist policies with their action, or even inaction.”

In September 2019, Kendi wrote a piece in Politico where he proposed the creation of a federal Department of Anti-racism as well as an antiracist amendment to be added to the U.S. Constitution, to monitor and punish public officials who hold “racist” ideas. He elaborated:

“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. 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.”

Antiracist Baby

In June 2020, Kendi published Antiracist Baby, a “board book” for very young children “that introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of anti-racism.”

Depicting America as a Racist Nation

In a July 2020 event with Google, Kendi declared that any imbalance or inequality between two groups of people is, by definition, indicative of some injustice or bias within the larger society: “Americans don’t want to confront racism…. This is very simple. If you have a [sic] economic inequality,… there is an economic factor or policies behind that economic inequality. If you have a gender inequity, then there are gender-based policies behind those gender inequities. If you have a racial disparity, then there are racist policies, racial policies, behind that inequity.” In the same speech, Kendi said: “I think it’s important to almost recognize that to be raised in the United States is to be raised to be racist. And to be raised to be racist is to be raised to almost be addicted to racist ideas.”

On April 21, 2021 — the day after the announcement that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had been convicted of murdering George Floyd 11 months earlier — Kendi released a video statement claiming that the necessary work of radically transforming a congenitally racist America was just beginning:

“With today’s conviction we can now formally say that Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. A Minneapolis jury convicted a police officer who knelt on the neck of a handcuffed black man in a prone position for more than nine minutes.

“So now what? Chauvin is headed to jail, but is America headed to justice? Is justice convicting a police officer, or is justice convicting America?

“When tens of millions of Americans after Floyd’s murder last year took to the streets of nearly every American town, we were convicting America. Since 2013 more than 1,000 people have died at the hands of police, many of them mentally ill, many of them during traffic stops like Daunte Wright. […]

“It is easy to just blame individual officers like Derek Chauvin, but the problem is structural. The problem is historic. The problem is every single American who sees George Floyd and Breonna Taylor as dangerous rather than the policies that led to health disparities, under-resourced schools, disproportionate black poverty and unemployment, and few resources for all of us suffering from drug abuse, from mental illnesses, from despair.

“Justice is not closing a case. Justice is not closing the cell door on Chauvin. Justice is closing the door on racist narratives and policies that endangered Floyd, that still endangers black people, that endangers America.

“Justice is opening the door to an anti-racist future where American fear is endangered, where I no longer live in fear, where Americans no longer live in fear of me. Justice has convicted America. Now, we must put in the time transforming this nation.”

On July 7, 2021, Kendi spoke at an American Federation of Teachers conference where, in a conversation with AFT secretary-treasurer Fedrick C. Ingram, he discussed his 2019 book How to Be an Antiracist. Said Kendi: “In studying the history of racism, even studying the history of times in which people were being racist, what I found was a consistent, sort of, narrative was just denial, was, was people just denying the ways in which they were being racist, their racist policies, their racist ideas. People constantly and consistently, whether you’re a Ku Klux Klansman, a lyncher, or a slaveholder or segregationist, or, you know, someone today consistently claiming they’re not racist, no matter what they do or say. And I wanted the heartbeat, really, of this book to be the veritable opposite of that… [T]o be antiracist, is to admit the times which we’re being racist. To be racist, is to constantly consistently, deny, deny, deny, like Donald Trump.” Kendi then proceeded to deny, falsely, that critical race theory was being taught in K-12 schools. He also claimed that parents who believed that it was being taught to their children, had been fed “lies.” “To me, we live in a dangerously racist society,” he concluded.

Boston University Center for Antiracist Research

That same month, Kendi became the director of the brand-new Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, which in August 2020 received a $10 million donation from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Claiming That Whites May Adopt Black Children to Conceal their Own Racism

When President Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett for the U.S. Supreme Court in September 2020, Kendi posted a series of tweets regarding the fact that Barrett had adopted two of her seven children, Vivian and John Peter, from Haiti. In Kendi’s calculus, she may have adopted those children as a means of denying and concealing her own deep-seated racism:

“Some White colonizers ‘adopted’ Black children. They ‘civilized’ these ‘savage’ children in the ‘superior’ ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity. And whether this is Barrett or not is not the point. It is a belief too many White people have: if they have or adopt a child of color, then they can’t be racist.”

Collaborating with Netflix on “Antiracist” Programming

In January 2021, Netflix announced that it was collaborating with Kendi to create three new programs. One would be an animated series titled Antiracist Baby, based on Kendi’s aforementioned book of the same name. The new series would consist of animated music videos featuring “earwormy songs” to teach the basics of “anti-racism” to toddlers and their caregivers. Another would be a televised “hybrid documentary / scripted feature” titled Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas. And the third would be Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, a television documentary for young people.

Advisory Board Member of The Emancipator

In March 2021, Kendi joined the 18-person advisory board of a new publication called The Emancipator, launched jointly by the Boston Globe and Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research, where Kendi served as the director. The stated purpose of The Emancipator was to “hasten racial justice.” Additional advisory board members included Nikole Hannah-Jones, founder of the 1619 Project; illegal alien journalist/activist Jose Antonio Vargas; and MSNBC host Joy Reid.

Maroon Visions

On August 23, 2021, Kendi announced that he was launching his own Hollywood production company, Maroon Visions, to create content on the themes of racism, equity, and social injustice. To get his company off the ground, Kendi signed a “multi-genre” deal with the studio Boat Rockers to produce shows for a variety of audiences, most notably children and families. “We plan to unleash the imagination of creators with scripted and unscripted stories from the past and present that inspire humans to envision and shape just and equitable societies for all people,” Kendi said in a statement.

MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant”

In September 2021, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded Kendi a so-called “genius grant” — which came with a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000 spread over five years — in recognition of his “exceptional creativity, significant achievements, and promise for future contributions,” as Boston University put it. According to the MacArthur Foundation, its genius grants are intended to “enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.”

Kendi Unwittingly Discredits His Own Claims about White Racism

On October 29, 2021, Kendi shared a news article about a recent survey that discovered that 34% of white students admitted to having misrepresented or lied about their race on college applications — and that 81% of those students claimed to have told those lies in order to improve their chances of being accepted, while 50% said that they had done so in order to increase their chances of receiving financial aid earmarked for nonwhite minorities. Moreover, the survey reported that 77% of the white students who lied about their race, were ultimately accepted to the colleges to which they lied.

“More than a third of White students lied about their race on college applications, and about half of these applicants lied about being Native American,” Kendi wrote on Twitter. “More than three-fourths of these students who lied about their race were accepted.”  When he then realized, shortly thereafter, that his tweet (and the facts it cited) undermined his oft-repeated claims about the white privilege and systemic racism allegedly pervading American society, Kendi deleted the tweet. But numerous high-profile people and publications subsequently took Kendi to task for his decision to delete the tweet. The Post Millennial, for example, said: “[I]f white privilege is so prevalent and persuasive, why would white kids feel the need to disguise their whiteness in order to gain admittance to college and aid to help them attend? Could it be that these white students felt that as opposed to giving them an edge, their whiteness was a hindrance to admittance?” Another critic, Human Events senior editor Jack Posobiec, tweeted that he had “broke[n]” Kendi by laying bare his hypocrisy.

In response to such criticisms, Kendi focused on Posobiec and tweeted: “Jack couldn’t deny his lies so this is how he responded. And his ‘broke’ reference has a long history within racist structures. White enslavers boasted of *breaking* Black people (when they did not *break* Black people). The resistance never stopped then and it won’t stop today.” In response to yet another person on Twitter, Kendi wrote: “A White man is attacking a Black person with lies (which are violent). The Black person resists. The White man keeps attacking until he declares he ‘broke’ the Black person. That’s the context. Seek a book about slavery.”

Kendi’s Daughter Says She Wants to Be a Boy

In late October 2021 as well, Kendi announced: “Even talking about gender, you know, I think it was last week my daughter [five-year-old Imani] came home and said she wanted to be a boy, you know, which was horrifying for my wife to hear, myself to hear. And so of course, you know, we’re like, okay, what affirmative messages about girlhood, you know, can we be teaching her to protect her from whatever she’s hearing in our home or even outside of our home that would make her want to be a boy?”

Concerned by His Daughter’s Attachment to a White Doll

In June 2022, Kendi published in The Atlantic a long essay titled “My Daughter’s White Doll,” reflecting upon the concerns he had felt five years earlier (in 2017) regarding the fact that his then-one-year-old daughter (Imani) had recently experienced a tear-filled tantrum when her father took her blue-eyed, white doll away from her. “Sadiqa [Kendi’s wife] and I were probably unduly sensitive about the whole situation,” he wrote. “But we wondered if our Black child’s attachment to a white doll could mean she had already breathed in what the psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum has called the ‘smog’ of white superiority.”

Kendi further explained that an “alarm was ringing” in his head because he feared that his child’s attachment to a white doll may have been the result of her exposure to the “racial prejudice” that allegedly pervaded American society. Moreover, Kendi wrote that Imani’s tantrum had prompted him (Kendi) to find out whether his daughter’s daycare center was providing dolls of diverse races/ethnicities for the children to play with: “I walked around the day care and found the large toy chests. I rummaged through the toys and did not come across a single doll that looked Asian, Native, Latino, Middle Eastern, or Black. Every single doll I saw looked White. Anger overtook me…. We told the owner about the White dolls before leaving for the day. Changes came.”

“Regardless of your race,” Kendi emphasized, “it’s never too early to consider the messages a child is receiving from the world around them. Color blindness is not an option. Research has demonstrated that even at 1 year old, our children notice different skin colors. We can impress upon children the equality of dark and light colors.”

Massive Layoffs at Center for Antiracist Research

In September 2023, Kendi’s Boston University Center for Antiracist Research laid off approximately 15 to 20 of its roughly 45 staff members.

Skin in the Game: A Look at Racism in the Sports World

In 2023, Kendi hosted a five-part television series on ESPN+, titled Skin in the Game. “The series delves into and challenges racism in the sports world,” said ESPN+ in a preview of the program, “and will reveal how pervasive racism is in sports, while challenging the thoughts and systems of various governing bodies. Through Dr. Kendi’s analysis, athlete profiles, and robust roundtable discussions with athletes, academics and journalists, each episode dives deeply into the histories, statistics and notable moments behind the racist norms we accept today.”

Episode 1, which aired on September 20, 2023, was titled “Power to the Players: How Do Athletes Play a Role in Social Change?” In the course of that show, Olympian hammer thrower Gwendolyn Berry characterized multi-million dollar sports contracts as a form of human bondage. “It’s almost like the contracts, you know, are the new slave chains, right?” said Berry. “So you know, you have to sign this contract and sign this document and sign this document, and it’s like you’re binded to this. And then if you break that, that’s your livelihood, that’s your life. So we [sic] the new slaves. Athletes are literally the new slaves because we need this. Our families, our friends depend on this contract to eat.”

Below are the titles of episodes 2 through 5 of Skin in the Game, coupled with descriptions of their content by ESPN+:

  • Episode 2: The Invisible Struggle: Are Black Women Athletes Carrying the Weight of the World?:Dr. Kendi questions why Black female athletes are considered too polarizing when they prioritize their mental health….”
  • Episode 3: The Impossible Measure: What is the Cost of Race Norming?: “Dr. Kendi explores race norming, the practice of adjusting aptitude scores based on race or ethnicity, and its use in professional sports … [and] how the practice has unfairly impacted athletes.”
  • Episode 4: America’s Pastime: Why is Latin American Culture Important to Baseball?: “Dr. Kendi explores how Latino baseball players are bringing their cultures to America’s pastime while juggling the pressure to assimilate….”
  • Episode 5: Out of Focus: What is the Impact of Racist Ideas in Sports Media?:Dr. Kendi discusses the lack of diversity in sports media and how it impacts the coverage of athletes of color….”

Claiming That Racism Was What Forced Harvard President Claudine Gay to Resign

On January 2, 2024, Harvard’s first black president, Claudine Gay, announced her resignation after having served just six months in that position. The chain of events that led to her resignation began with her failure to condemn Hamas’ deadly October 7, 2023 terrorist attacks that killed more than 1,200 innocent people in Israel. Gay initially said nothing after student groups on campus released an open letter stating that Israel’s historic and ongoing transgressions were “entirely responsible” for the carnage. A few days after that, Gay issued a letter to the Harvard community expressing “feelings of fear, sadness, anger and more” – language that many critics derided for its tepidness.

Then, at a December 5, 2023 congressional hearing on anti-Semitism, Republican U.S. House Representative Elise Stefanik asked Gay: “At Harvard, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment? Yes or no?” Gay’s reply was noncommittal: “It can be, depending on the context” – a response that drew sharp rebuke from the public.

And then, reports began to emerge that Gay had been guilty of plagiarism in many of her past writings, including her 1997 doctoral dissertation. By January 1, 2024, various sources had cited more than 40 instances of plagiarism by Gay. In response to those allegations, the same congressional committee that had held the aforementioned December 5 hearing said it would examine Gay’s writings in greater depth.

In a letter announcing her decision to resign, Gay said that “it has become clear that it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual.” She also accused her critics of being motivated by racism: “Amidst all of this, it has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor — two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am — and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus.”

In a series of January 2, 2024 tweets, Kendi portrayed Gay as a victim of white racist forces that wanted her banished from Harvard:

  • “Racist mobs won’t stop until they topple all Black people from positions of power and influence who are not reinforcing the structure of racism. What these racist mobs are doing should be obvious to any reporter who cares about truth or justice as opposed to conflicts and clicks. Too often mainstream reporters join the racist mob or give it credibility — as they did in this case — just as they did a century ago.”
  • “When a racist mob attacks a Black person, it finds a seemingly legitimate reason for the attack that allows for it to accrue popular support and credibility, and which allows the growing mob to deny they are attacking the person in this way because the person is Black. That’s how anti-Black racist attacks have been justified. The seemingly legitimate reason, in this latest case at Harvard, is primarily academic misconduct or plagiarism. The question to assess whether this was a racist attack isn’t whether Dr. Gay engaged in any misconduct.”
  • “The question is whether all these people would have investigated, surveilled, harassed, written about, and attacked her in the same way if the Harvard president in this case would have been White. I. Think. Not.”

Additional Information on Kendi

An active public speaker and frequent contributor of op-ed pieces, Kendi has written for such publications as Diverse: Issues in Higher EducationThe RootSalonThe New York Times, the New York Daily NewsSignature, the Huffington Post, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Kendi is exceptionally wealthy, routinely charging speaking fees of $25,000 or more, per event.

Further Reading

Ibram X. Kendi” (by Ibramxkendi.com); “A Post-Racial Society Is Racist, and Other Things Ibram X. Kendi Taught Me” (by Daniel Greenfield, 3-20-2017); “The Racism of Good Intentions” (Washington Post, 4-15-2016).

Additional Resources:

Ibram X. Kendi’s Parents Worked to Give Him a Good Life. He Called Them Racists.
By Daniel Greenfield
July 8, 2021

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