Ibram X. Kendi, the controversial author of How to Be an Antiracist, has been revealed as not only a hustler of horrid ideas but also a poor businessman. Kendi was appointed the head and founder of Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research in 2020 following the aptly named “summer of love,” which saw riots in most major cities over calls for “racial justice.”
Now, Boston University is committing mass layoffs of employees, as the Center has lost the $43 million that was donated to it at its opening. There have also been several complaints about management practices. The Center is laying off much of its staff as it switches to a new model that it hopes will keep it alive. It is another profound case of fiat academia being inefficient and unproductive, as well as peddling half-baked half-dead ideas.
Kendi is not an original thinker so much as a wannabe-philosopher who repaints bunk ideas to drum up societal conflict. Kendi’s general philosophical thesis could be summed up simply as “Everyone is racist, and that extends to all of society. History can be understood as a white supremacist culture getting better at hiding its underlying racism.”
Kendi and other critical race theorists theorize that, throughout history, so-called advancements in the welfare of racial minorities are merely a white supremacist culture’s success at better hiding its racism. One can summarize it best with a quote from the thriller The Usual Suspects: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
The devil, for Kendi, would be “white supremacy” in culture. Every so-called advancement—from the outlawing of slavery to the end of Jim Crow laws—is simply this devil getting better at hiding itself.
This is not an original idea on Kendi’s part in any respect. One can trace these ideas back to the philosophical ancestor to critical race theory: Karl Marx. When one analyzes critical race theory, it becomes abundantly clear that it is a portrayal of Marxist conflict and power theory but with the dimensions of race applied rather than class. Rather than the bourgeoise class oppressing the proletariat, it is the white class oppressing the nonwhite classes of society.
A fundamental aspect of Marxist theory is that of the substructure, or base, and the superstructures of society. Marx posited that the fundamental relations in society are economic ones, between the working class and the exploitive capitalist class. The base creates the superstructure, which includes art, politics, religion, and other social relations that supposedly exist to reinforce the base. This is where Marx’s famed line “Religion is the opiate of the masses” comes from. Religion, as an aspect of the superstructure, exists to draw eyes away from the social relations that matter in the minds of Marxists.
The critical race theory about the “white supremacy inherent in culture” is much the same. The base for the theorists is race relations. These theorists believe that the oppressive white class has constructed society to necessarily maintain a power dynamic over the nonwhite classes. Political achievements, no matter how much they may benefit racial minorities, belong as part of the superstructure, and thus they must be some protective shell over the true social dynamics.
The Emancipation Proclamation, for example, would be seen as a means of preserving the base of society. Any and all political results short of revolution against the base are simply adaptations of the superstructure to protect the base. Kendi’s ideology ultimately becomes a revolutionary one. There cannot be a true advancement against “white supremacist culture” unless there is a true revolution, according to the critical race theorists.
Kendi posits that the solution to racism is “antiracism,” or active discrimination against the “oppressor class.” This reeks of Joseph Stalin’s extermination of the kulaks or of Maoist reeducation. Mao Zedong’s goals may be the most aligned to the goals of Kendi. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion” seminars, taught for much the same reasons as Kendi’s “antiracism,” reek of Maoist struggle sessions.
The modern kulaks of Kendi’s Marxist revolution are the “white supremacists.” According to Kendi, discrimination is needed to overthrow the base structure. The ideas of Kendi and the critical race theorists boil down to Marxist power dynamics, with a mixture of gnosticism and postmodernism. It is violent egalitarian ideology that attempts to paint history under one dynamic. It turns out that history is far more complex than that.
So, one should not be surprised at the squandering of millions of dollars by Kendi and his “antiracist” center. Marx has been repudiated by economists, philosophers, and history itself. All the critical race theorists seek to do is repaint Marxist power dynamics under a new lens. There is no sound backing to their ideas so it is no wonder they continue to fail, even in academia.
Kendi laments in a March 23 article: “The traditional construct of the intellectual has produced and reinforced bigoted ideas of group hierarchy—the most anti-intellectual constructs existing. But this framing is crumbling, leading to the crisis of the intellectual.”
Marxism can be best understood as the unproductive of society demanding a place at the top of a new hierarchy. They prey upon the productive members of society and redistribute the success of others to themselves through violent revolution. It is an ideology of envy and failure. Kendi is one such unproductive citizen, one who would have no reinforcement in any sane “marketplace of ideas.” It is no wonder at all that he has failed even in fiat academia.
Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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