Netflix has canceled two projects based on books by critical race theory advocate Ibram X. Kendi, including one animated show aimed at preschoolers.
The entertainment giant announced last year that it would adapt Kendi’s works for the screen with three different projects to give audiences of different age groups “a timely and thoughtful examination of racism.” According to a report by Variety, however, only one will move forward as the other two meet the chopping block.
One of the two canceled projects is “Antiracist Baby,” which is based on Kendi’s 2020 picture book of the same name. The project had been envisioned as a series of animated musical shorts that would use “earwormy songs to empower kids and their caregivers with simple tools to uproot racism in ourselves and society.”
The ideology of “anti-racism” gained prominence among racial justice activists in the summer of 2019 amid widespread riots and racial tensions sparked by the death of George Floyd. Critical race theorists and self-avowed anti-racists claim America’s social, legal, and economic systems are inherently racist and argue that the nation can only be salvaged from this racist past through “anti-racist” policies, such as racial quotas, race-based benefits, and race-based redistribution of wealth.
According to Kendi, there is no such thing as being non-racist or race-neutral. In other words, one must support “anti-racist” policies and actively identify and confront perceived racism in everyday life in order not to be a racist.
“Babies are taught to be racist or antiracist—there’s no neutrality,” the Boston University professor wrote in “Antiracist Baby.”
The other axed Kendi project is a documentary adaptation of “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You,” a book co-authored by Kendi and Jason Reynolds. Aimed at the young adult readers, the book examines how “racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted” in American society.
“Racist thought is not just alive and well in America,” it argues. “It is more sophisticated and more insidious than ever.”
The only project that gets to proceed is one aimed at adults—a hybrid documentary and scripted feature based on Kendi’s 2016 book “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.” It will be directed by Roger Ross Williams, the first black director to receive an Academy Award for his documentary short “Music by Prudence.”
Although Netflix insisted that the reason to cancel the Kendi projects was “creative rather than cost related,” according to Variety, the decision comes as the company expects more severe losses of subscribers and revenue.
In the first quarter of 2022, Netflix reported a net loss of 200,000 subscribers, marking the first time it lost subscribers in the past decade. In addition, Netflix projects it may lose some 2 million more subscribers in the second quarter. The streaming service currently has about 75 million subscribers in the United States and Canada.