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Building a Juggernaut Against Racism

Ibram X. Kendi is founding director of Center for Antiracist Research and best-selling author of How To Be an Antiracist

When Ibram X. Kendi thanked Twitter and Square cofounder and CEO Jack Dorsey for a $10 million donation to BU’s new Center for Antiracist Research, he called racism a juggernaut. “Racist policies + ideas are ubiquitous,” tweeted Kendi, a leading scholar of racism, best-selling author, and the center’s founding director. “We need juggernauts combating racism.”

The Center for Antiracist Research is quickly becoming an inexorable force—as is Kendi, who joined CAS in July. In 2020, he’s been interviewed by Oprah and just about every major news outlet in America, written a cover story for the Atlantic, and been profiled by GQ. At time of writing, two of his books, How To Be an Antiracist and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, were on the New York Times best-seller list, where they’ve been for months. Kendi also holds one of BU’s highest honors, the Andrew W. Mellon Professorship in the Humanities. The only previous holder of the endowed professorship was the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel (Hon.’74).

The Center for Antiracist Research brings together researchers from across BU and beyond to study issues such as education, environment, health, and justice with the aim of dismantling the racist structures that maintain inequities. Jessica Simes, a CAS assistant professor of sociology, is the center’s associate director of research.

“My hope is that it becomes a premier research center for researchers and for practitioners to really solve these intractable racial problems of our time,” Kendi said in June, just before joining the University. “Not only will the center seek to make that level of impact, but also work to transform how racial research is done.”

“Kendi’s vision for the center calls for multidisciplinary research and policy teams. Researchers across BU, from the law, social work, the humanities, computer science, communications, and medicine and public health, will collaborate with researchers from other universities, as well as data analysts, journalists, advocates, and policy experts.” Read more about Kendi’s plans for the center.

Dean Stan Sclaroff calls Kendi, who is also a professor of history, an exemplary teacher who “challenges his students to rethink current orthodoxies.” Sclaroff says he’s excited by the center’s potential.

“The center’s cross-disciplinary platform promises to connect and catalyze faculty and students from across the University to pursue a far-reaching agenda in historical humanities research, policy formulation, education, outreach, and advocacy on issues of racism and antiracism in the United States and the world,” says Sclaroff. “In addition, Professor Kendi brings senior leadership and vibrancy to areas of growing interest to our students. He will contribute to the strength and renown of our curriculum and programs in African American history—to the great benefit of students from across the University, the Boston area, and beyond.”