Ibram X. Kendi’s name appears everywhere: in school curricula, corporate training programs, even the Navy’s official reading list. The Boston University prof is a blazing supernova in the constellation of radical-chic race activism. But be warned: His philosophy would jeopardize the bedrock American ideal of individual dignity and equality under law.
Kendi’s rise was swift and significant. He published a bestselling book, “Stamped from the Beginning,” in 2016. After the death of George Floyd in 2020, Kendi’s next book, “How to Be An Antiracist,” began selling an astonishing number of copies, including institutional sales to public schools, government agencies and professional groups, all seeking to understand the ongoing racial unrest; he was a campus and media fixture at the height of the crisis.
But after the protests died down, Kendi’s work faced new scrutiny, revealing a simple truth: Kendi is a false prophet — and his religion of “antiracism” is nothing more than a marketing-friendly recapitulation of the academic left’s most pernicious ideas.
Born Ibram Henry Rogers, Kendi presents himself as a radical subversive. But in reality, he is an ideologist of elite opinion, buoyed by government and corporate patronage. Kendi’s work has been endorsed by Fortune 100 companies, the federal bureaucracy and the US military — the very power structures he claims to oppose.
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. Kendi’s “gift,” in other words, is for translating ivory-tower theories into media- and corporate-friendly narrative.
“When I see racial disparities, I see racism,” Kendi says, to the exclusion of other explanations. His logic often descends into dizzying circularity and tautologies. When asked to define the word “racism,” he told attendees at the Aspen Ideas Festival that it is “a collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity that are substantiated by racist ideas.”
In another nod to 1960s-style radicalism, Kendi also claims to oppose capitalism. “The life of racism cannot be separated from the life of capitalism,” he says. “In order to truly be antiracist, you also have to truly be anti-capitalist.”
But Kendi, like his counterpart Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, is a prolific capitalist in his personal life. He charges $20,000 an hour for virtual presentations and has merchandised his entire line of ideas, releasing self-help products and even an “antiracist” baby book. He gratefully accepts millions from tech and pharmaceutical companies on behalf of his Antiracism Center. Fighting Big Capital, it turns out, is a lucrative enterprise.