Ibram X. Kendi's $43 Million 'Antiracist' Center Under Investigation Over Fund Mismanagement Complaints

The think tank yielded underwhelming academic output over the years despite taking in tens of millions of dollars in grants and donations.
Ibram X. Kendi's $43 Million 'Antiracist' Center Under Investigation Over Fund Mismanagement Complaints
Ibram X. Kendi is seen in a New York City studio on March 10, 2020. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Bill Pan

Self-styled "antiracist" author Ibram X. Kendi's multi-million-dollar think tank at Boston University has been placed under investigation over complaints about alleged financial mismanagement and toxic work culture.

The Center for Antiracist Research (CAR), which raked in as much as $43 millions in grants and donations since its opening in 2020 amid widespread racial unrest following the death of George Floyd, has reportedly yielded little academic output, wasted its funding, and most recently laid off at least a third of its employees.

According to student newspaper The Daily Free Press, Boston University has received complaints "focused on the center's culture and its grant management practices."
"We are expanding our inquiry to include the Center's management culture and the faculty and staff's experience with it," Colin Riley, a spokesperson for the university, told the outlet.


The inquiry announcement comes after Mr. Kendi's center confirmed last week that it let go between 15 and 20 employees via a series Zoom meetings, in what it called a transition from its current "research-based approach" to "a fellowship model." A snapshot of the center's "our teams" webpage suggested that there were 45 staffers at the end of July.
The layoffs were initiated by Mr. Kendi and represented "a strategic pivot, not a response to any financial difficulty," Center spokesperson Lapal Cavallario said in a statement to The Boston Globe.

Meanwhile, some former employees have spoken out against Mr. Kendi's leadership, saying that the center is being mismanaged on a fundamental level.

Spencer Piston, a political science professor and faculty lead of CAR's policy office, told the Globe that internal problems "started very early on when the university decided to create a center that rested in the hands of one human being, an individual given millions of dollars and so much authority."

Saida Grundy, a sociology professor who worked at CAR until 2021, alleged that she was forced to work long hours. "It became very clear after I started that this was exploitative and other faculty experienced the same and worse," she said.

Another former CAR affiliate, social-work professor Phillipe Copeland, wrote on Facebook that he decided to quit because of "the mismanagement I witnessed." The professor said he was then told that he could no longer be part of the leadership of the "designing antiracism curriculum" fellowship he created, since he was no longer with the center.

"This excuse made no sense because there was already a faculty member serving on the leadership team with no affiliation with the center at all," argued Mr. Copeland, who is black. "Taking a program from the black faculty member that created it is apparently what BU considers 'antiracism' and 'diversity and inclusion.'"

In a statement posted Friday on X, Mr. Kendi called laying off CAR employees the “hardest decision” of his career, promising to try his best to support those affected and welcoming the university’s inquiry into the center’s operations.

With that said, Mr. Kendi also appeared to indicate that he is being unfairly treated because of his race.

“Leaders of color and women leaders are often held to different standards and routinely have their authority undermined or questioned,” he wrote. “I want to live in a world where all leaders of new organizations are given the time to make mistakes and grow.”

Big Donations, Little Output

Mr. Kendi, who rose to prominence among progressive activists as riots and anti-police protests raged across the nation, was hired in June 2020 by Boston University as a history professor, and soon founding director of the "antiracist" research center.
With a promise to "solve seemingly intractable problems of racial inequity and injustice," Mr. Kendi's center attracted generous donations from corporations, advocacy groups, and individuals seeking to advance progressive causes. Just six weeks after its creation, CAR received a $10 million donation from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, followed by $4.5 million from biotech company Vertex, a $1.5 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, and many other more.

According to 2021 budget records obtained by The Daily Free Press, at least $43 million in grants and gifts had been poured in to CAR by that time.

Despite massive funding for his center, it appears that Mr. Kendi has not published a research paper in a peer-reviewed academic journal over the past four years.

Most of his Google Scholar entries during the period are for translations of his previous books, particularly the 2019 New York Times bestseller "How to be an Antiracist" and its spin-offs, such as the 2020 picture book "Antiracist Baby."
Semantic Scholar, another academic publication database, lists an entry for 2022 in Modern American History, in which Mr. Kendi, along with other scholars, wrote in response to questions submitted by other people.

CAR's research projects, namely the "Racial Data Lab" and the "Antiracist Tech Initiative," have hardly been doing any better.

In March 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Racial Data Lab worked with The Atlantic to create a "racial data tracker," reportedly relying on a team of volunteers on The Atlantic’s part to do all the data collection. The tracker, which stopped updating a year later in March 2021, remains the Lab’s sole project.

The Antiracist Tech Initiative, with stated goals to “co-create research agendas, conduct antiracist research and engage with communities,” has so far published little more than a dozen interviews and two blog posts.

CAR did successfully partner with the Globe to launch a digital "antiracist" publication called The Emancipator. The publication remains active on the Globe's internet domain after the partnership ended last year.

Antiracism or Critical Race Theory?

Mr. Kendi doesn't identify as a critical race theorist, although his "antiracist" ideology mirrors the Marxism-inspired critical race worldview that interprets society through a Marxist dichotomy between "oppressors" and "oppressed," but replacing the class categories with races.
Like many proponents of critical race theory, Mr. Kendi sees deeply embedded racism in fundamental aspects of American society, including in neutral systems such as constitutional law and standardized tests, and blames "systemic racism" to be the root cause of "racial inequity," or different legal, economic, and educational outcomes between different racial groups.

According to Mr. Kendi, addressing this perceived inequity would require active discrimination against racial groups the ideology deems "oppressors." As explained in "How to Be an Antiracist," discrimination should be considered "antiracist" so long it is "creating equity."

"The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination," he wrote.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the university for further comment.