I am not sure if Jemar Tisby will like this comparison, but I think it is fair to say that most evangelicals see him–for good or for bad–as the Christian version of Ibram X. Kendi.
Kendi wrote Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. It’s a good treatment of racism in American history. Tisby wrote, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicty with Racism with the evangelical publisher Zondervan. It’s a good overview for evangelicals and I’ve defended its use in Christian college classrooms. I interviewed Tisby after the book appeared in 2019. You can listen to that interview here.
Kendi wrote How to Be an Antiracist. Tisby wrote How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice with Zondervan.
Kendi started an antiracist center at Boston University and Tisby soon joined him.
But Tisby didn’t last long at Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research. And now, in the wake of a university investigation into the center’s management, culture, and use of over $30 million in funds, Tisby is speaking out on his Instagram page:
I worked at the Center for Antiracist Research for five months back in 2021.
I stepped down from the nonprofit I founded, The Witness, to be part of this work.
I worked virtually but we were all set to move to Boston. Instead I chose to resign what seemed like a dream job (on paper) rather than continue.
There is much more I could say, but for now I will say just two things:
1). Trust your intuition. If something feels “off” then it probably is. And your body will know this before your brain can explain it.
2). The Center is not just its leader. The staff there have been working so, so hard to fight racism and produce good work. They deserve praise for their persistence and admiration for their expertise.
The antiracist movement transcends any individuals. The work is vital and necessary and it must continue.
Tisby obviously saw the handwriting on the wall. I am sure he has more to tell.
But what Tisby does not say in his Instagram post is that there are other ways to address racism in the United States. (Of course, to be fair, an Instagram post is hardly the place to develop such thoughts.) He seems to place the blame on one man: Kendi. Perhaps Tisby is right. Perhaps Kendi does not have administrative skills and the Boston University needs to merely find an antiracist scholar who has such skills. Perhaps this is just a problem with one individual.
Or is it something more? Something more systemic? Many have suggested that there are serious problems with the larger antiracist approach to American diversity. One of the criticisms of Ibram X. Kendi is that he refuses to debate those who have different approaches for dealing with racial problems in the United States. I’d love to hear Jemar address these critics. He certainly has the platform to do it.