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Ibram X. Kendi is a Race Grifter
And a very celebrated one.
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If there’s one person I can’t stand more than Nikole Hannah-Jones, it’s her male counterpart, one Ibram X. Kendi (real name Henry Rogers, but he changed it because it sounds too white), the biggest farce on the face of the planet. You should know up front that this post includes a fair bit of ad hominem. Forgive me, dear reader, but I can’t help myself.
Where to begin. I suppose I should start by telling you who this individual is. Kendi is America’s race-grifter extraordinaire, a 38-year-old prophet of the Left whose “antiracism” religion is practiced with apostolic fervor by the same breed of people who think that judging historical figures through the moral lens of the present is appropriate; that cops kill black folks for sport; and that “silence is violence,” among many other idiocies, of which there are truly too many to count. The author of numerous books, at least one of which I’d be willing to bet my life is currently on the New York Times best-seller list,1 Kendi is an activist masquerading as an historian who makes a pretty penny by sowing racial discord and demonizing white people, all of whom he believes are born with the original sin of white privilege and must therefore spend the rest of their lives in atonement.2
This is not some random bozo on Twitter. I wish it were, but it’s not. This is someone who was named a MacArthur fellow, for God’s sake. That’s an honor reserved for geniuses, or at least was at one time. Much like the Pulitzer Prize, the award has been tarnished by politicization. Kendi is also the second-ever holder of the Andrew W. Mellon Professorship in the Humanities at Boston University, which is especially egregious, in my opinion, because that chair was first held by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who penned Night, arguably one of the most important books ever written.
Much like his ideological sister Nikole Hannah-Jones, Kendi is a purveyor of particularly noxious, counterfactual pap, which in and of itself wouldn’t be that big of a deal if it weren’t for the fact that it has been institutionalized in schools, corporations, the federal government, and even the military. He teaches that racial conflict is unending, that America was founded on racism and literally everything in our society is racist, and that to disagree with any of his precepts is itself racist—a cheap rhetorical trick used to silence and impugn the motives of those who disagree with his malarkey.
Kendi’s philosophy, which is a catechism of contradictions, has largely given rise to the pious Diversity, Equity, Inclusion pablum with its all-encompassing set of convictions, attitudes, cultural practices, and articles of faith that jeopardize bedrock American ideals like individual dignity and equality under the law.
“Equity” in particular has been one of the Biden Administration’s favorite buzzwords. Perhaps the best way to explain what’s meant by equity is to explain what inequity is. According to Kendi, it’s any difference between ethnic groups in their average outcomes in any field of life or work. In other words, any policy that leads to any racial differentials in anything that doesn’t roughly reflect the racial demographics of society is ipso facto racist, which means “corrective” discrimination — i.e., neo-segregation — is not only warranted but necessary: “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination,” he says. “The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
If there are any neutral standards that suggest inequalities or differences of any sort between ethnic groups, they are also prima facie racist standards. Indeed, the idea of any higher or lower standards for anything is racist, which is why Kendi wants to get rid of standardized testing (and why there are people who now believe math is racist, an absurdity that’s already resulted in some schools making execrable changes).
Kendi's Magnum Opus
Kendi’s best known work is How to Be an Antiracist, which is beloved by guilt-ridden affluent suburban white women of the liberal persuasion everywhere and could perhaps best be described by inviting you to imagine a pile of dogshit in paginated form. I have read it. I do not advise you do anything of the sort. I tried to get a refund from Amazon. I told them it was harder to get through than West Point, it was that bad. They were unmoved.
A manifesto in the form of an autobiography, How to Be an Antiracist began selling an astonishing number of copies after the death of George Floyd in 2020. To give you an idea of how Kendi became a race obsessive, there’s a moment in his life story that’s sort of like an awakening, a foreshadowing of the identitarian ideologue’s evolution. It concerns a “microaggression” that Kendi witnessed in his third-grade classroom at the age of eight. A teacher called on an eager white student at the front of the class rather than a shy black girl sitting in the back. (Unforgivable, is all I can say. The depravity!) Later, in chapel, Kendi embarked on a power trip, defying the teacher and refusing to leave. The principal was called and his parents had to come in. For Kendi, recalling this incident brings rage: “What other people call racial microaggressions I call racist abuse,” he writes. “And I call the zero-tolerance policies preventing and punishing these abusers what they are: antiracist.”
Kendi’s core thesis — that racism is the single, self-evident cause of racial differences in everything from school grades to incarceration rates to income and thus must be rectified using “antiracist discrimination” — reiterates critical race theory’s basic concepts. In this paradigm, racism is systemic, which means anyone not actively engaged in system-changing work is a collaborator with racism, and therefore himself a legitimate target for attack. For Kendi, “there is no such thing as a not-racist idea,” only “racist ideas and antiracist ideas.” Tertium non datur.
Thus, one of his key points is that it’s not enough to not be racist. Which is ridiculous. Of course it’s enough. It is a good thing to not be racist. What he’s saying is that unless you’re actively, aggressively going out and combating racism, you are a racist. By that same fallacious logic, if you’re not going out and actively combating pedophilia, you’re a pedophile.
This reductive, Manichean outlook brooks no compromise and extends to policy. “Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity,” Kendi proclaims, defining the former as racist policies and the latter as antiracist ones. And so racism, according to Kendi and his zealots, is no longer about individual discrimination, but rather the social scaffolding that allows for disparities in outcomes. If everyone doesn’t finish the race at the same time, then the course must have been flawed and should be dismantled. In fact, any feature of human existence that causes disparate outcomes must be eradicated.
“When I see racial disparities, I see racism,” Kendi says, to the exclusion of other explanations.3 He doesn’t support the goal of working toward MLK’s dream of a colorblind society in which the pigment of one’s skin, and race, is immaterial. Actually, “the most threatening racist movement is not the alt-right’s unlikely drive for a White ethno-state, but the regular American’s drive for a ‘race-neutral’ one.”
Just so we’re clear on that last bit, Kendi believes that America working toward a society where race doesn’t matter is more dangerous than the mutually agreed upon goal of neo-Nazis, the Klu Klux Klan, and your garden-variety white power skin heads. Think about how absurd that is.
His logic is often so porous that it’s difficult to believe he’s not being sarcastic, so circular that it’s dizzying. Tautologies abound. When asked to define the word “racism,” he told attendees at the Aspen Ideas Festival that it’s “a collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity that are substantiated by racist ideas.”
But make no mistake about it, this antiracism hokum, which presents performance art as politics, has infected America, most notably in the form of critical race theory,4 which has enjoyed influence well beyond its immediate discipline in the corporate world and elsewhere. Zaid Jilani lays out a prominent example that shows both how ass-backwards this ideology is and how influential:
Just look at the case of Denise Young Smith. Young Smith spent almost two decades working her way up in Apple, becoming one of the few black people to ever reach its executive team. She was named vice president of diversity and inclusion, and in 2017 traveled to the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia.
At the summit, she was asked by a reporter whether black women would be a priority in her new role promoting diversity in the company. In her answer, she described a lonely rise through the ranks: ‘I’ve been black and a woman for a long time. I have been a first, I’ve been an only,’ she said. She talked about hearing from other black women in the industry who shared stories about people assuming they were the assistant or secretary rather than the manager.
Her words were a powerful testament to anyone who has ever been stereotyped or been on the receiving end of low expectations due to the color of their skin.
But then, despite all her years of hard work and accomplishments, she made a fatal mistake and breached the etiquette of high liberalism’s diversity culture. ‘You asked me about my work at Apple, or in particular, who do I focus on?’ she said to the reporter. ‘I focus on everyone. Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color or the women or the LGBT or whatever because that means they’re carrying that around ... Because that means that we are carrying that around on our foreheads,’ she replied.
Then she uttered the sentence that really got her into trouble: ‘And I’ve often told people a story—there can be 12 white blue-eyed blond men in a room and they are going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation,’ she noted.
Toward the end of How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi lists how to actually be an antiracist. Among the must-dos are “Invent or find antiracist policy that can eliminate racial inequity” and “Deploy antiracist power to compel or drive from power the unsympathetic racist policymakers in order to institute the antiracist policy.” They’re all equally as vague, but Kendi didn’t beat around the bush as much in a politico symposium held not too long ago. The topic? How to fix “inequality” in America. His proposal? Top-down enforcement of racial quotas; a constitutional amendment banning racial disparities; and a Department of Antiracism to prescreen every policy for racially disparate impact, and which would not only be unaccountable to voters or legislators, but would have the power to suppress “racist ideas” and veto, nullify, or abolish any law at any level of government not deemed “antiracist”:
[The antiracist amendment] would establish and permanently fund the Department of Antiracism (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.
Per Kendi, the DOA would only be staffed with “formally trained experts on racism” (such as himself, presumably) and “no political appointees,” and they’d be tasked with “investigating” private businesses and “monitoring” speech.
We have a word for this: Totalitarian.
But Kendi isn't so much a totalitarian as a Marxist, and as part of his quest to de-universalize Western values, he’s constantly moving goalposts. America is one of the least racist countries on the planet, and racism itself has become a much more fringe issue. I mean, in the past two decades we’ve elected a black president and a black vice president, both unthinkable in 1964.
So, Kendi must move the goalposts and find racism where there is none, which is amongst people who are not in fact racist. He must also claim to see it in even the most ridiculous of things and use it to explain unrelated problems. “Racism,” he writes, “has spread to nearly every part of the body politic,” “heightening exploitation,” causing “arms races,” and “threatening the life of human society with nuclear war and climate change.” Kendi fails to elaborate on how exactly nuclear war and climate change have anything to do with racism, and he’s just as vague about capitalism: “The life of racism cannot be separated from the life of capitalism. In order to truly be antiracist, you also have to truly be anti-capitalist.”
And yet this is someone who’s made a fortune indicting those who disagree with him as complicit in American racism and proselytizing critical race theory.
The University of Wisconsin paid him $45,000 ($207 a minute) for an event called, “An Evening with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi,” where he preached about how racist America is. The University of Michigan paid him $20,000 for a one-hour “virtual event.” Fairfax County Public Schools also paid him $20,000 to give a presentation to teachers and administrators. On top of that, the school district splurged $24,000 to buy his books about critical race theory and made them required reading for K-12 students.
There are dozens of such examples, and his asking price has steadily risen in tandem with his unwarranted fame. This kind of lucre, in a country he argues is irredeemably racist.
Kendi Exposes His Own Grift
Kendi’s antiracism grift is so idiotically reductive that even he can’t escape its gravitational pull. Perhaps the best example showing as much occurred back in November of last year, when The Hill published an article titled, “More than a third of white students lie about their race on college applications, survey finds.”
According to the article, the survey in question found that “34% of white Americans who’ve applied to college falsely claimed on their applications they’re a racial minority,” and that the number one reason why applicants faked minority status was to improve their chances of getting accepted (81%). Fifty percent also lied to benefit from minority-focused financial aid.
If the survey is accurate, it points to the fact that about half of all college students perceive claiming minority status as the easiest way to obtain college admission and scholarships. (Elizabeth Warren, anyone?) None of this screams “systemic racism” or “white privilege,” and it completely contradicts Kendi’s grift. Yet, he gave the article an approving retweet because anything and everything even remotely related to the idea that white people benefit at the expense of black people lures him in like a well-groomed moth to a flame.5
Kendi was rightly picked apart for promoting such a self-evidently antithetical article. He later tried explaining away his snafu with a gibberish thread that made zero sense. Jack Posobiec, editor of Human Events, used his platform to highlight how America’s race-grifting extraordinaire had beclowned himself, and when Kendi deleted the tweet, Posobiec declared victory: “I broke Kendi.”
To the surprise of no one, Kendi claimed that use of the word “broke” qualified as racist. Because of course.
Fun fact: The books on the New York Times bestseller list are not determined by sales. Writes Gabe Muniz, “Like any traditional gatekeeper, the Times has its set of rules, standards, and procedures. As such, they hold the ‘keys’ as to ‘who’ gets in…and who is left out (even if they’re deserving).”
The notion that white racism is baked into American life has been around since the 1970s. In this conception, Anglo-European ideas and symbols are advanced to control people of color—AKA systemic racism. Today's Church of Woke demands that whites be taught to acknowledge their privilege, repent for the inherent sins of their race, defer to people of color who continue to be oppressed by the pervasive whiteness of America, and actively oppose racism.
Consider that even the most conformist monocultural society imaginable would never produce equal outcomes, nor will our multicultural one. The statistical parity that Kendi obsesses over would require the sort of extreme levels of social engineering and thought control that Bill Gates dreams of.
Critical race theory should be understood as less of an academic field and more of a synecdoche of sorts. When people say that it's being taught in K-12 schools, they don't mean that obscure texts are being used as part of the curriculum, but that everything is being taught and interrogated through its incredibly toxic lens. CRT has become a shorthand term for the ideas and terminology that are directly based on academic critical theory, including that America is an oppressive, racist country uniquely designed to harm its non-white citizens. Kids are being taught to view themselves in a simplistic binary as either members of an oppressor class (white) or an oppressed class (non-white), with guilt and shame being the only acceptable moral stance for those who are the oppressors.
Nowhere in his 500-page tome does Kendi ever mention racial disparities between Asians and whites. This omission exposes his grift as well. If he did mention Asian/white disparities in income and educational attainment, by his own logic he'd have to conclude that America is in fact an Asian supremacist nation which. But Asians get shafted, too. Writing in the Spectator, analyst Kenny Xu found that “an Asian-American student must score 450 points higher on the SAT to have the same chance of admission as a black student with the [otherwise] same qualifications.” And of course disparate outcomes vis-à-vis white people don't play: Nonwhites gained ten million jobs, while whites lost 700,000, during a span of years that roughly aligned with the Obama Administration, but Kendi would never acknowledge such an inconvenient fact.