Here is Paul:
“…many major universities, corporations, nonprofit groups and influential donors thought buying into Kendi’s strident, simplistic formula — that racism is the cause of all racial disparities and that anyone who disagrees is a racist — could eradicate racial strife and absolve them of any role they may have played in it.
After all, this reductionist line of thinking runs squarely against the enlightened principles on which many of those institutions were founded — free inquiry, freedom of speech, a diversity of perspectives. As one Boston University professor wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal, that academia backs Kendi’s mission amounts to a “violation of scholarly ideals and liberal principles,” ones that betray “the norms necessary for intellectual life and human flourishing.”
In “Stamped From the Beginning,” Kendi asserted that racist ideas are used to obscure the fact that racist policies create racial disparities and that to find fault with Black people in any way for those disparities is racist. People who “subscribed to assimilationist thinking that has also served up racist beliefs about Black inferiority,” no matter how well meaning and progressive, were themselves racist. In Kendi’s revisionist history, figures who were previously hailed for their contribution to civil rights were repainted as racist if they did not attribute Black inequality solely to racism. Kendi accused W.E.B. Du Bois and Barack Obama of racism for entertaining the idea that Black behavior and attitudes could sometimes cause or exacerbate certain disparities, although he noted that Du Bois went on to take what he considered a more antiracist position.
In 2019, Kendi took the ideas further, pivoting to contemporary policy with “How to Be an Antiracist.” In this book he made clear that to explore reasons other than racism for racial inequities, whether economic, social or cultural, is to promote anti-Black policies.
“The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination,” Kendi wrote, in words that would be softened in a future edition after they became the subject of criticism. “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” In other words, two wrongs do make a right. As practiced, that meant curriculums that favor works by Black people over white people are one way to achieve that goal; hiring quotas are another.
Among the book’s central tenets is that everyone must choose between his approach, which he called “antiracism,” and racism itself. It would no longer be enough for an individual or organization to simply be “not racist,” which Kendi called a “mask for racism” — they must instead be actively “antiracist,” applying a strict lens of racism to their every thought and action, and in fields wholly unrelated to race, in order to escape deliberate or inadvertent racist thinking and behavior. “What we say about race, what we do about race, in each moment, determines what — not who — we are,” Kendi wrote.
Kendi’s antiracism prescription meant that universities, corporations and nonprofits would need to remove all policies that weren’t overtly antiracist. In the Boston University English department’s playwriting M.F.A. program, for example, reading assignments had to come from “50 percent diverse-identifying and marginalized writers,” and writers of “white or Eurocentric lineage” had to be taught through “an actively antiracist lens.” Antiracism also requires a commitment to other positions, including active opposition to sexism, homophobia, colorism, ethnocentrism, nativism, cultural prejudice and any class biases that supposedly harm Black lives. To deviate from any of this is to be racist. Either you’re with us or you’re against us.
Yet, as the psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt pointed out, Kendi’s dichotomy is “incorrect from a social-science perspective because there are obviously many other remedies,” including ones that address social, economic and cultural disparities through a fairer distribution of resources.
Yet the same year “How to Be an Antiracist” was published, Henry Louis Gates’s “Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow” presented a more nuanced assessment of the relationship between past and present. With its vivid examples of crude prejudice (the photos are not for the fainthearted), Gates’s historical excavation allows the reader to see a clear line between the pervasive bigotry of the past and the kind of ugly but marginal brand of white supremacy on display in 2017 Charlottesville, Va. In contrast to Kendi’s contention that racial progress is consistently accompanied by racist progress, numerous memoirs, firsthand accounts, biographies and histories of the civil rights movement also document clear progress on race.
Contra Kendi, there are conscientious people who advocate racial neutrality over racial discrimination. It isn’t necessarily naïve or wrong to believe that most Americans aren’t racist. To believe that white supremacists exist in this country but that white supremacy is not the dominant characteristic of America in 2023 is also an acceptable position.
And while a cartoon version of colorblindness isn’t desirable or even possible, it is possible to recognize skin color but not form judgments on that basis. A person can worry that an emphasis on racial group identity can misleadingly homogenize diverse groups of people, at once underestimating intraracial differences and overemphasizing interracial ones. The Black left-wing scholar Adolph Reed, for example, decried the emphasis on race-based policies. “An obsession with disparities of race has colonized the thinking of left and liberal types,” Reed said in an interview with The New York Times. “There’s this insistence that race and racism are fundamental determinants of all Black people’s existence.”
In short, a person can oppose racism on firm ethical or philosophical or pragmatic grounds without embracing Kendi’s conception of antiracism. No organization can expect all employees or students to adhere to a single view on how to combat racism.
Read the entire piece here.