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 on Sunday. “We are either being racist or antiracist. Is that clear for you? There is no such thing as ‘not racist.’”
“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.”
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.”
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?”
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.”
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.”