Michael Swartz / July 31, 2020

A One-Two Punch of Woke Reading

Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist, is the latest in a line of racialist screeds.

“Woke” reading is all the rage this summer, having replaced the standard romance novel as the beach book of choice — at least in those states where going to the beach is still allowed. We looked at White Fragility a few weeks back, but its tag-team partner on the bestseller lists comes from the same genre of blaming white America for all that ails the black community.

The very title of How to Be an Antiracist should give us a clue as to the author’s slant on the subject, and indeed Ibram X. Kendi (who was born Ibram Henry Rogers) comes at the subject with a vengeful attitude. However, he also comes with a certain amount of academic gravitas, having spent the past dozen years on a rapid climb up the ivory tower: The onetime assistant professor of history at the relatively obscure State University of New York at Oneonta was recently named to the Andrew W. Mellon Professorship in the Humanities at Boston University and will bring the Antiracist Research and Policy Center with him from American University, where he founded it shortly after arriving there in 2017. At BU, Kendi will be only the second Mellon Professor, succeeding the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel. Kendi is clearly no Wiesel, but this is a sign of the times.

“The ‘antiracism’ of which Kendi is the most trusted exponent is not just a new name for an old precept,” writes Christopher Caldwell at National Review. “It is the political doctrine behind the street demonstrations, ‘cancelings,’ Twitter attacks, boycotts, statue topplings, and self-denunciations that have come together in a national movement. Anti-racists assume that the American system of politics, economics, and policing has been corrupted by racial prejudice, that such prejudice explains the entire difference in socioeconomic status between blacks and others, that the status quo must be fought and beaten, and that anyone not actively engaged in this system-changing work is a collaborator with racism, and therefore himself a legitimate target for attack.”

The long treatise by Caldwell, who calls Kendi the “prophet of antiracism,” is well worth the read, but let’s boil it down: To be antiracist is to be racist, and reparations are just a down payment. “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination,” Kendi writes, and then he doubles and triples down: “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”

In addition to his duties at Boston University, Kendi will also have a fellowship at Harvard for the next academic year. At 38, he’s on the older cusp of the Millennials, who are now moving into positions of power as Baby Boomers begin to grudgingly exit stage left, having essentially exiled conservative, classically liberal thought from our institutions of higher learning. The student is thus becoming the teacher and breaking into territory not previously considered to be that of a learned man.

Just consider that at one time — maybe about three months ago — our collective ideal was that of judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. These days, however, it’s fair to say that Dr. Martin Luther King’s notion is a triggering one, an outdated predecessor to the phrase, “All lives matter.” On the other hand, Kendi might borrow from Orwell’s Animal Farm: All lives matter, but black lives matter more than others. (Well, unless they don’t. Here’s looking at you, Planned Parenthood.)

Unfortunately, Kendi appears to be successfully advancing his destructive narrative, that of getting even instead of forgiving past sins. Victimhood, though, is an age-old crutch, and there are plenty of examples that disprove Kendi’s theory. These are the millions of blacks who’ve succeeded in their pursuit of the American Dream despite whatever obstacles they encountered along the way.

Rather than promoting colorblindness, though, How to Be an Antiracist blinds readers to the real truth that racism is a social construct that can be eliminated by simply practicing the Golden Rule.

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