This Op-Talk was recorded on June 19, 2020 and may contain out of date information.
As part of a Juneteenth commemoration on Friday, Boston Globe editorial page editor Bina Venkataraman interviewed Ibram X. Kendi about how to build an antiracist movement — and about his appointment to lead a new antiracism research center at Boston University, scheduled to open July 1.
Kendi is the author of “The Black Campus Movement” and “How to Be An Antiracist,” among other works.
Among Venkataraman’s questions for Kendi: Why Boston? Given the city’s reputation for being unwelcoming to Black residents, what made the city appealing to him?
Kendi spoke about Boston’s history and about present-day activists determined to forge a better future.
“First and foremost,” Kendi said, “I was really attracted to Boston University. … and their commitment to really building a center for antiracist research.”
He noted the school’s connection to Martin Luther King Jr. and other critical thinkers — and the city’s role as a cradle of the nineteenth-century antislavery movement.
The fact that the city has had a poor reputation on matters of race in recent decades didn’t faze him, he said — reminding listeners that even when Boston was home to leading abolitionists, there were also virulent opponents here.
“That doesn’t really take away from the people who have been fighting against that racial disparity for decades if not their whole lives. … I’m always consistently looking for the signs of resistance and the history of resistance in a particular city … rather than whether it has racism. I’m more concerned about joining a community of people who are involved in that antiracist resistance today and who will be involved in it tomorrow.”
And, Kendi said, “As someone who’s lived in Philadelphia; in Providence, Rhode Island; in Washington DC; who grew up in New York City, I haven’t really lived in a place where I didn’t experience anti-black racism.”