J. Pharoah Doss: Demonstrating a full commitment to diversity?

After an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, was killed by a White police officer in 2020, some observers referred to the ensuing nationwide rioting as America’s “racial reckoning.” To appease the protesters, local governments announced plans to defund the police, while corporations gave millions of dollars to Black organizations and social justice projects.

Then Boston University announced the hiring of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, one of America’s foremost academics on racism and social justice, to establish a new Center for Anti-Racist Research. The university declared that the new center will demonstrate the school’s dedication to diversity and inclusion. Twitter’s CEO immediately donated $10 million, and millions more followed suit.

The mission of the Center for Anti-Racist Research was to gather researchers from various disciplines to figure out “novel and practical” ways to understand, explain, and solve problems of racial inequity and injustice. If this was the intention, Dr. Kendi should not have been appointed as its director.

Dr. Kendi has only proposed impractical solutions to these problems in the past.

To “fix the original sin of racism,” Dr. Kendi stated, Americans need to pass an anti-racist amendment to the United States Constitution that enshrines two guiding anti-racist principles: 1) Racial inequality is evidence of racist policy. 2) All racial groups are equal. The amendment would outlaw racial inequity above a certain threshold and prohibit racist ideas by public officials.

Dr. Kendi also advocated for the federal government to establish an Anti-Racism Department. This department, comprised of certified racism experts, would preclear all local, state, and federal policies to ensure that no racial inequities are created.

It’s worth noting that, according to Dr. Kendi’s best-selling book How to Be an Anti-Racist, people are either racist or anti-racist—there is no in-between. As a result, there is no such thing as a “race neutral” or “not racist” policy.

Because policies must be implemented before racial disparities may be revealed, how can Dr. Kendi’s Department of Anti-Racism preclear policies if race neutrality does not exist? Race specialists would have to hypothesize on whether a policy might result in racial inequities before labeling it racist or anti-racist. It’s easy to predict how this will turn out. All Democratic policies will be deemed anti-racist, while all Republican measures will be deemed racist.

Obviously, Boston University didn’t deem Dr. Kendi’s past solutions to racial disparity impractical. The university had high hopes for the Center for Anti-Racist Research to provide more solutions like the ones Dr. Kendi previously proposed.

Unfortunately, after only four years in existence, the Center for Anti-Racist Research has announced huge layoffs. Boston University started an investigation to determine how nearly $40 million in funds vanished, but no meaningful study was ever produced.

The scholars who were let go stated that the center was mismanaged, that they were underpaid, and that they had “exploitive” work hours. One scholar went so far as to label the layoffs “employment violence and trauma.”

“There will always be people who criticize the job someone else is doing,” Dr. Kendi responded, but I stand by my decision, especially when social justice organizations are under attack. But I want to live in a world where all leaders of new organizations are given the time to make mistakes and learn and grow. I want to live in a world where all new organizations are given the time to have growing pains and develop.”

As bad as it all seems, Dr. Kendi is not the major problem.

Boston University’s investigation into the mismanagement of funds wants us to forget that the Center for Anti-Racist Research was established to demonstrate the university’s commitment to diversity.

When the university has completed its investigation into Dr. Kendi, they should look into why they thought embracing Dr. Kendi’s defective anti-racist philosophy reflected a commitment to diversity in the first place.

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