Boston University professor and anti-racism activist Ibram Kendi has called to expunge the words “not racist” from the “human vocabulary,” arguing the term denies real racism. But not everyone was on board.
“We should eliminate the term ‘not racist’ from the human vocabulary,” Kendi tweeted Sunday. “We are either being racist or antiracist. Is that clear for you? There is no such thing as ‘not racist.’”
Actually what I’m saying is we should eliminate the term “not racist” from the human vocabulary. We are either being racist or antiracist. Is that clear for you? There’s no such thing as “not racist.”
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) September 20, 2020
“So what does ‘not racist’ mean? The term has no meaning other than denying when one is being racist. We should not have words in the dictionary that don’t have definitions,” Kendi doubled down, responding to a commenter, who accused him of falling into “fallacy.”
So what does “not racist” mean? The term has no meaning other than denying when one is being racist. We should not have words in the dictionary that don’t have definitions.
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) September 21, 2020
Kendi is the author of ‘How to Be an Antiracist’ and director of Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research, which was funded with a $10 million donation from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey in August. Boston University President Robert Brown noted that the “unrestricted nature” of how the donation was structured gave Kendi “endless discretion about how the income from the gift will be used over time to advance the center.”
Thanks @jack and #startsmall for supporting the @AntiracismCtr at @bu_tweets. Your $10M donation, with no strings attached, gives us the resources and flexibility to greatly expand our antiracist work. The endowment is vital, as we build our new Center. 1/https://t.co/BcVPgwCjuF
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) August 20, 2020
The researcher’s call to banish the term “not racist” for apparently failing to meet the ‘woke’ threshold has sparked backlash, prompting some of his critics to see distant echoes of George Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘1984’ in Kendi’s demands.
“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words,” one commenter said, quoting Orwell. Another said, “Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance,” while yet another posted a picture of a Nazi book burning, asking “Do you appreciate that trying to ban words, phrases and thoughts has been tried before?”
‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words’ pic.twitter.com/9i4eP71Cte
— Dr Paul Stott (@MrPaulStott) September 21, 2020
Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance
— David Parr: (@DavidParr1980) September 21, 2020
Do you appreciate that trying to ban words, phrases and thoughts has been tried before? pic.twitter.com/AoubyWwwMi
— Gordy (@Gordy_McK) September 21, 2020
Other observers challenged the substance of Kendi’s case. Writer and diversity trainer Chloe Valdary called the professor’s arguments “really silly.” Others said Kendi is creating a false dichotomy and that “antiracism” is, in practice, “anti-white racism.”
Dr. Kendi, this is really silly.
— Chloé S. Valdary 📚 (@cvaldary) September 21, 2020
Dishonest representation of the issue as a false dichotomy. In reality “anti-white racism” has been redefined by you to mean “anti-racism”. So the choice you are presenting people is “racism” or “racism”. This is thoroughly malevolent to do.
— Steven ‘Dasher’ (@swiftdasher) September 21, 2020
Podcast host Leonydus Johnson tweeted a quote from Booker T. Washington, a black author, educator and orator who advised multiple US presidents before dying in 1915. Washington spoke of a class of black people who seek sympathy and money by “advertising their wrongs” and who don’t want blacks to let go of grievances because “they do not want to lose their jobs.”
— Leonydus Johnson (@LeonydusJohnson) September 21, 2020
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