September 22, 2023
In Cancel Culture And Academic Freedom Identity Politics
Finkelstein comments: The media are now saturated with stories documenting Woke Guru Ibram X. Kendi’s financial mismanagement of his so-called Anti-Racism Center. I devoted a hundred pages of my recent book, I’ll Burn That Bridge When I Get To It, to exposing this preposterous preliterate charlatan. Below I excerpt the conclusion from that chapter.
An Excerpt from I’ll Burn That Bridge When I Get to It
Ibram X. Kendi is neither scholar nor activist. His “definitive history of racist ideas in America” reduces to a compendium of prepubescent binary name-calling. His guide to being an “antiracist” is an incoherent mishmash of woke pieties. The reality is, Kendi is the guru of a cult. The cult has its initiation rites and rituals. In public, for example, this cult requires each initiate to recite and post their pronouns. In its inner sanctums, the unburdening is more intimate. Here’s a peek behind the curtain at a session. Kendi the sinner recalls his pilgrimage to wokeness:
My journey to being an antiracist first recognized the intersectionality of my ethnic racism, and then my bodily racism, and then my cultural racism, and then my color racism, and then my class racism, and, when I entered graduate school, my gender racism and queer racism.
Although the struggle to purge oneself of racism is an eternal work-in-progress, Kendi’s has clearly scaled the exhilarating peaks of self-awareness:
I am a cisgendered Black heterosexual male—“cisgender” meaning my gender identity corresponds to my birth sex, in contrast to transgender people, whose gender identity does not correspond to their birth sex. To be queer antiracist is to understand the privileges of my cisgender, of my masculinity, of my heterosexuality, of their intersections. To be queer antiracist is to serve as an ally to transgender people, to intersex people, to women, to the non-gender-conforming, to homosexuals, to their intersections, meaning listening, learning, and being led by their equalizing ideas, by their equalizing policy campaigns, by their power struggle for equal opportunity.
The cult has its own epistemology. Here’s Kendi recalling his moment of epiphany in graduate school when the objectivity/subjectivity conundrum was solved:
In my first course with Mazama, she lectured on [Molefi] Asante’s contention that objectivity was really “collective subjectivity.” She concluded, “It is impossible to be objective.” It was the sort of simple idea that shifted my view of the world immediately. It made so much sense to me as I recalled the subjective choices I’d made as an aspiring journalist and scholar. If objectivity was dead, though, I needed a replacement. I flung up my hand like an eighth-grader. “Yes?” “If we can’t be objective, then what should we strive to do?” She stared at me as she gathered her words. Not a woman of many words, it did not take long. “Just tell the truth. That’s what we should strive to do. Tell the truth.”
Move over Kant. The initiates sitting cross-legged nod their heads in collective wonderment. It’s so simple! Objectivity doesn’t exist; everything is subjective; just tell the truth. Why didn’t we see that? Then again, isn’t it the mark of genius that it pierces the complex to the simple? But then, Cis-gender White Male, slunk in a shadowy corner, sheepishly raises his hand.
What’s the difference, O Wise One, between objectivity and telling the truth?
A disgruntled murmur sweeps the chamber. The ignorance! The effrontery! “Be patient, my son/daughter/intersexual progeny,” Kendi, unfazed, gently replies.
Your vision is still clouded by your cis-gender white male assimilationist racism; biological racism; ethnic racism; bodily racism; cultural racism; behavioral racism; color racism; anti-white racism; black racism; class racism; space racism; gender racism; queer racism; racism racism. You see, the road to wokeness is long and rocky. But it’s worth it. Look at me now! I am a National Book Award winner, and New York Times bestseller, and a MacArthur “Genius” grant winner. I’m feted at Harvard and the Hamptons. I am the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and the Founding Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. I get paid a cool half million dollars annually just for directing the Center. I can charge $207.00 per minute when I guest lecture.
“But ain’t that because you got them long dreads and crowbarred an X into your name?” Cis-gender, in a state of resilient, if desolate, desperation, boldly retorts.
You know how stupid white liberals eat up that Kunta Kinte shtick. Barack Obama wouldn’t have gotten past first base if he hadn’t, in the greatest career move in recorded history, changed his Christian name. What self-respecting white Hamptons hipster wants to hang with a Barry? That’s why Cory Booker—jeez, what a poor excuse for a name! and, for crissakes, he’s bald!—never stood a snowball’s chance in Hell. And I’ll tell you another thing, you’re just a gasbag gaslighting us. Those videos of you with crammed bookshelves in the background, those designer faux-horn-rimmed glasses, they don’t fool anyone. You read Du Bois like I read Maimonides. And you talk all this militant sounding shit, but at the end of the day, you ain’t demanding the one percent share the goodies on their table with the rest of us. You’re not shaking up the table. You’re not even demanding they grow the table. You’re just wanting that the one percent incorporate a sprinkling of the likes of you. You don’t worry let alone scare them. You’re just a fashion plate and an insurance policy. That’s why Dorsey threw your way a cool $10 million. Now he can hide behind the down-with-the-hood Ibram X. Kendi brand as he goes his merry way raking in a fortune while the rest of us are raking in misfortune.
The crowd is up on its feet thronging around him, fists rhythmically thrust in the air, chanting, Off the Cis-gender! Off the Cis-gender! But Kendi himself has discreetly exited the room. He’s headed for a business meeting with Netflix to plan its How to Be an Antiracist blockbuster trilogy,1 followed by a soiree at Jeff Bezos’ crib, to launch his new book, How to Fight Racism while Snorkeling in Maui, Skiing in Aspen, Sailing in Hyannis, and Screwing Your Warehouse Workers.