Ibram X. Kendi is a professor at Boston University and a leading advocate of critical race theory. He has an impressive array of institutional affiliations spanning top universities. Kendi is also a best-selling author who regularly gets prestigious speaking engagements. By all objective measures, Kendi is a very successful Black American.
However, Kendi’s success is peculiar. He has amassed wealth and influence by bashing America for past and (as he sees it) ongoing attacks against the Black community. Admittedly, it would be intellectually dishonest to ignore the well-documented history of racial conflict in American history. Likewise, history makes it clear that Black people were exploited and targeted by hateful events and eras.
Kendi is far from the first to note such history in a public space, and he came of age and prominence well after the critical battles of the Civil War and the later Civil Rights Movement. His contributions to academic thought, it’s safe to say, are not novel or groundbreaking. Many have condemned America’s social order throughout history, and these condemnations continue to this very day.
The Big Money in Anti-Racism
Unlike those who came before him, Kendi excels in monetizing White guilt. His Center for Anti-Racist Research has raised over $55 million in donor dollars since the death of George Floyd. He drew multi-million-dollar checks from the likes of Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey. He hired a massive staff, and they produced little to no research for years.
Does Anti-Racism Research Work?
The anti-racist movement as a subset of the broader Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) push in the United States has little to do with improving intercultural relations within the country and more to do with cashing in on gullible White people. These programs and initiatives have little empirical support, yet they’re fervently professed as objectively good within academia. To be clear, it is objectively good not to be a racist. There is no evidence, however, that calling almost everything and everyone racist under the auspices of systemic racism promotes racial cohesion.
So what exactly is the purpose of an anti-racist center within the academy? Does anyone expect actual White supremacists, bigots, and neo-Nazis to consume, internalize and change with academic research? That is a laughable notion. It is rare for anyone to change their core beliefs with “new” research because few actually read academic research outside of think tanks and colleges. Likewise, human cognitive biases make changing long-held views difficult. Additionally, those who are sympathetic to Kendi’s views probably are not the racist threat.
What is the value-added proposition for Kendi’s antiracist research center? None. There is no value added because Kendi at best excels at reminding people that awful things happened and guilt-tripping them into paying him money to do nothing about it. His “everyone is hateful” approach to cultural integration is regressive and does not work. His donors are more concerned with publicly aligning with trendy topics than actually helping Black people. If they cared about Black people, they would give millions to revitalization efforts in the inner city. They would encourage stronger family formation and reject race-baiting hustlers like Kendi.
Similarly, if we as a people cared about teaching proven and productive ways of fighting racism, we should be funding people like Daryl Davis, a Black man with a proven record of engaging White supremacists and convincing them to walk away. Somehow, Daryl Davis does not have any billionaires backing his approach to racial unity despite converting over two hundred Klansmen.
Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research is just a small part of the greater ecosystem of DEI scams on our college campuses. These centers, institutes, and programs have no record of success in their stated objective but are treated as indispensable by mostly White university officials deathly afraid of being called racist, thus enabling the wasteful grift that has come to define the often well-meaning but ultimately pointless academic units.
Raheem Williams is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) and a Senior Fellow at Do No Harm. He has worked for several liberty-based academic research centers and think tanks. He received his B.A. in economics from Florida International University and his M.A. in financial economics from the University of Detroit Mercy. Raheem is currently an MPA candidate at the University of Pennsylvania.