Building an antiracist society

Posted February 2023

Through collaborative research and education efforts across multiple disciplines, the BU Center for Antiracist Research is building a world where racial equity and social justice prevail. Since its founding, the Center has developed the Racial Data Lab, collected meaningful COVID-19 statistics, and formed Research, Policy, Narrative, and Advocacy offices.

June 2020: The BU Center for Antiracist Research is established through the efforts of founding director Ibram X. Kendi and a small team. In the midst of the pandemic and in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the Center began its work remotely. In spite of such challenges and a dynamic racial landscape, the Center establishes a firm foundation with a dedicated staff.

December 2020: The Center teams up with BU’s first associate provost for computing & data sciences, Azer Bestavros, to launch the Racial Data Lab. This followed a collaboration with The Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project to create the first-of-its-kind COVID Racial Data Tracker, which traced the impact of the virus by race. The aim of the lab was to develop, maintain, and share the nation’s largest online collection of racial inequity data.

March 2021: The Center partners with The Boston Globe to develop The Emancipator, a multimedia digital publication that carries forward the legacy of 19th-century antislavery newspapers with editorials, video commentary, and community dialogue. Through The Emancipator, scholars, journalists and community members are changing the conversation on racial equity by focusing on decoding and unearthing solutions to structural racism.

April 2021: The Center hosts the only book festival of its kind, the National Antiracist Book Festival. The annual event brings together, showcases, and celebrates the nation’s leading antiracist writers. With every new year, the #AntiracistBookfest continues to assemble a vibrant crowd of authors and attendees to engage in a day full of antiracist dialogue that will educate, challenge, and inspire.

June 2021: The Center files an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court in Thompson v. Clark, arguing against a procedural loophole–the “indications-of-innocence” standard–which shielded police officers from accountability for pursuing false criminal charges when those charges were ultimately dismissed. The brief addressed a long history of police pursuing false charges against Black and Latinx people, frequently to cover up officers’ excessive use of force. The Court ultimately agreed with this brief, and other significant amicus briefs have followed.

October 2021: The Center for Antiracist Research holds the first Vertex Symposium. The event gathers policymakers, community leaders, and journalists, to discuss racial health and economic inequality during the pandemic. The 2022 Symposium focused on moving from denialism to climate justice and antiracism, and featured conversations with speakers such as Senator Ed Markey and Dr. Rosalyn LaPier.

April 2022: Renowned journalists Deborah D. Douglas and Amber Payne, co-editors in chief of The Emancipator, launch their new website. In collaboration with Center staff, the editorial team works to reframe the national conversation around race and hasten racial justice through evidence-based opinion and essays, videos, annotations, and events produced by and with experts from academia and the community.

June 2022: Two years after the Center’s founding, it releases a comprehensive report that aims to highlight the nation’s race and ethnicity data shortcomings—and offers solutions to fix them. Toward Evidence-Based Antiracist Policymaking: Problems and Proposals for Better Racial Data Collection and Reporting details the Center’s own experiences of trying to collect demographic data and gives a roadmap for pulling more robust information in the future.

October 2022: The Center for Antiracist Research, GenForward at the University of Chicago, and Black Voters Matter collaborate on The Other Swing Voter research project to explore how young people—and young people of color in particular—are thinking about our political system, voting, and power.

Thanks to over 10,000 donors, the BU Center for Antiracist Research is making an impact across the nation. In less than three years, the Center has made significant contributions to the effort to build an equitable society that ensures justice for all. As the Center continues to develop with new educational programs and the Antiracist Tech Initiative, there are many more milestones ahead.

Be part of the change—consider making a gift to the Center for Antiracist Research and help us make an antiracist society possible.

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