There’s a word to describe Americans who believe in a colorblind society and that all people should be treated equally regardless of their skin color: racist.
That, at least, is the contention of the burgeoning anti-racism movement, which holds that people are either racist or anti-racist, and those who are not actively agitating against White supremacy and systemic racism might as well take a seat next to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Oh, and if you say you’re not racist, you’re definitely racist.
“If you merely are considered not racist, you are racist. That’s how crazy it is,” Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson told host Lars Larson on KXL-FM in Portland, Oregon. “It is essentially a totalitarian requirement that you have to join their cause or you are opposing their cause.”
That philosophy would appear to be at odds with free expression, but such concerns have done nothing to slow universities scrambling to launch anti-racism initiatives, backed by tech titans like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, who donated $10 million to the newly established Boston University Center for Antiracist Research.
The center was founded by history professor Ibram X. Kendi, a CBS News contributor and author of the 2019 bestselling book “How To Be an Antiracist.”
Mr. Kendi was lured to BU after establishing the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University.
As he explains in his book, “One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’ The claim of ‘not racist’ neutrality is a mask for racism.”
Those unfamiliar with Mr. Kendi and his work received a crash course this weekend when he entered the kerfuffle over whether Judge Amy Coney Barrett could be plausibly accused of racism, given that the Supreme Court nominee adopted two children from Haiti.
The short answer: Yes.
“Some White colonizers ‘adopted’ Black children,” tweeted Mr. Kendi. “They ‘civilized’ these ‘savage’ children in the ‘superior’ ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity.”
He added: “And whether this is Barrett or not is not the point. It is a belief too many White people have: if they have or adopt a child of color, then they can’t be racist.”
The backlash was swift. “Ibram Kendi launches a cruel, racist attack against Judge Barrett and her family. But what else would we expect from a fraud like him?” tweeted Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican.
Jeff Ermann of InsideMDSports.com added: “I lean left and appreciate your work to fight racism, but this is a garbage take and does nothing to help the cause. I’m sure every adopted parent said ‘I want to civilize some savages let’s adopt!’ You’re only giving dishonest people talking points.”
Mr. Kendi followed up by retweeting a woman who said she was adopted by racist White parents.
“Just like some Black kids adopted by White people say their parents are striving to be antiracist. Both are true,” he tweeted. “White parents of adopted Black children are neither inherently racist nor antiracist.”
What concerns conservative scholars and academics is not so much Mr. Kendi’s views on adoption as the growing influence of the anti-racism narrative in academia, corporations and government institutions.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has a page devoted to anti-racism that includes a video featuring Mr. Kendi and links to articles such as “The Urgent Need for Anti-Racist Education” by Christina Torres.
“When we choose to be antiracist, we become actively conscious about race and racism and take actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives,” said the museum. “Being antiracist is believing that racism is everyone’s problem, and we all have a role to play in stopping it.”
Critics of anti-racism worry about its ability to chill dissent and advance left-wing policies from the Black Lives Matter playbook, such as dismantling capitalism and defunding the police, by accusing anyone who disagrees of being racist.
“Capitalism has inequitable outcomes. Most everything has inequitable outcomes, so the entire status quo could be considered racist, and is considered racist,” said Max Eden, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “Traits of American culture are increasingly being labeled by critical-race theorists, Kendians, as parts of White supremacy culture.”
The push to have people acknowledge being racists as part of anti-racism training also is troubling. An Aug. 28 screenshot of a Facebook town hall posted by Rod Dreher showed Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law staff and faculty posting statements such as “I’m a racist” and “I am a racist and gatekeeper of white supremacy. I will work to be better.”
Mr. Dreher said everyone began with “a ritual denunciation of themselves as racist,” which drew comparisons to the “struggle sessions” during Maoist China.
Northwestern University did not immediately return a request for comment.
“You need the positive commitment to doing the anti-racism work, and you need the confession,” Mr. Eden said. “Kendi says one of the important aspects is confession. Saying that you are a racist or admitting that you have been a racist under this definition is something that you are almost obligated to do in order to demonstrate that you are not a racist.”
Mr. Kendi has called for an anti-racism amendment to the Constitution to ensure that no racist laws are passed.
“In order to truly eliminate racial inequities, we have to eliminate racist policies,” he said in a video posted on Politico. “We have to constitutionalize the idea that a racial inequity is caused by a racist policy, we have to prevent public officials from dividing Americans through racist ideas.
“You can’t necessarily fix political divergence and political difference,” he said, “but what you can fix is making sure those ideologies are based in facts, are based in reality, are not based in bigotry.”
The Trump administration has pushed back on anti-racism by issuing an executive order this month to halt federal training sessions in “White privilege” and critical race theory, calling them “divisive, anti-American propaganda.”
Such efforts have done nothing to stem the anti-racism surge in academia spurred by protests over the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody.
Cornell University President Martha Pollack announced in July the creation of an anti-racism center to “promote research and teaching in matters that relate to systemic racism, colonialism, bias and inequity, a required educational program for faculty, and a for-credit educational requirement for all Cornell students that covers the same.”
Some faculty and students released a list of demands that went further, saying that if the “suddenly popular term ‘anti-racism’ is to mean anything at all, it must mean redistributive justice and the dismantling of white supremacist norms and conditions.”
The list of demands included “cluster hires of Black and other faculty of color,” and “abolish colorblind recruitment policies and practices in partner/spousal hiring and replace them with intentionally anti-racist policies and practices,” according to Legal Insurrection.
Mr. Jacobson said that under the current atmosphere, “it is not surprising that so many faculty, including several law school faculty, consider it appropriate to advocate for race-based hiring and promotion, and other race-based initiatives.”
“I doubt the University would implement such unlawful employment and public accommodation practices,” he said, “but the campuswide ‘anti-racism’ indoctrination mandated by the administration has pushed the envelope on what is acceptable.”