Ibram Kendi Twitter Blunder

Ideologies Have Tangible Effects

Recently, Ibram X. Kendi, professor at Boston University and author of bestselling book How to be AntiRacist, shared a study conducted by The Hill on white students’ enrollment at top tier universities. The study reflected that many white students lied about their ethnic background on their application forms, noting that “81 percent of students who faked minority status did so to improve their chances of getting accepted.” Kendi later quietly removed the tweet.

Many were prompt to point out the irony in Kendi’s retweet. The author came to particular spotlight in 2020 in the midst of the social upheaval related to the death of George Floyd, and along with fellow anti-racist proponent Robin DiAngelo, sold millions of books. Kendi has profited greatly from his claims that white supremacy is “baked” into the fabric of American society at every level, and that to adequately address problems of social injustice, whites need to acknowledge their complicity in their racism and recognize their “privilege.”

I have not personally read Kendi’s work, so do not want to mischaracterize him or his arguments, but it seems evident from The Hill report that his claims of widespread white privilege are exaggerated, or at least in grave need of nuance and correction. In fact, some have noted that Kendi accidentally refuted his own claims in sharing this report. Andy Ngo tweeted this in response to the incident:

“Race activist Ibram Kendi tweeted out a report claiming high numbers of white students falsely identify as people of color to reap benefits. He deleted the tweet after realizing it didn’t advance his argument that whites are privileged in every way.”

The report makes one wonder just why white students, if generally privileged, feel compelled to lie about their ethnicity to increase their chances of getting into school.

When I was doing my undergrad studies at Wheaton College, a premier evangelical institution near Chicago, the administration had developed an Office of Inclusion and Diversity, and mostly everyone considered this a step in the right direction. Wheaton’s enrollment history has been overwhelmingly white demographically; the diversity initiatives would seek to include and welcome people of all backgrounds as a part of the campus community. That’s a good goal. However, it has been pointed out by some critics that “diversity” can become truncated in meaning when it applies only to race. For instance, while Ivy League schools may boast of their racial diversity, they cannot likewise boast of any kind of class diversity. Students who go to Harvard have lawyers and doctors as parents even if they have different skin tones. In addition, the lack of ideological diversity on college campuses is shocking.

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt notes that it’s okay to have imbalance in ideologies on college campuses, but to see them so intensely skewed towards liberal progressivism is concerning.  According to survey from the Harvard Crimson, “conservatives make up just over 1% of the school's faculty.” If the ratio was 60-40, or 70-30, that wouldn’t be so bad. But if only a tiny fraction of faculty have different views from the status quo, then it is a recipe for indoctrination, not education. And when Kendi’s “antiracism” practically is the status quo, it doesn’t surprise me that white students are lying about themselves to gain academic opportunities.

Kendi’s Twitter blunder points to deeper social problem of how ideology, and not charitable discourse and actual data, are ruling today’s academic spaces and broader culture. When such ideologies have tangible effects, it is time to question the prevailing ethos and treat all human beings of every color as image bearers of God instead of members of contrived racial categories. Then, maybe love would do away any need for antiracism, and universities would be freed up to treat their applicants more fairly.

graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois with a degree in English Writing and is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University. He was born and raised in rural Oklahoma. 

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