Amidst the contentious debate over President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, academic and best-selling author Ibram X. Kendi drew backlash over a series of tweets regarding the judge’s adopted Haitian children.
Democrats and left-wing activists are staunchly opposed to Barrett’s nomination, as she is deeply conservative and would shift the balance of power further to the right—making a six-to-three conservative majority on the top court. Lawmakers on the left have warned that reproductive rights, LGBTQ issues, health care and immigration issues could all be threatened by her appointment.
Barrett, a white woman, is the mother to seven children—including two Black children she and her husband adopted from Haiti. Some commentators, such as right-wing pundit Candace Owens, had suggested that this signifies she cannot be accused of being racist. Kendi argued, however, that adopting Black children does not necessarily mean a person is not racist, although he also did not call Barrett racist.
“Some White colonizers ‘adopted’ Black children. They ‘civilized’ these ‘savage’ children in the ‘superior’ ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity,” Kendi, a professor of humanities at Boston University, tweeted on Saturday.
And whether this is Barrett or not is not the point. It is a belief too many White people have: if they have or adopt a child of color, then they can’t be racist.
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) September 26, 2020
“And whether this is Barrett or not is not the point. It is a belief too many White people have: if they have or adopt a child of color, then they can’t be racist,” the academic wrote.
After receiving criticism, Kendi added a further clarification as he saw some were misconstruing his remarks.
“I’m challenging the idea that White parents of kids of color are inherently ‘not racist’ and the bots completely change what I’m saying to ‘White parents of kids of color are inherently racist.’ These live and fake bots are good at their propaganda. Let’s not argue with them,” he wrote.
Several right-wing sites published articles critically framing Kendi’s remarks. “The backlash is intense after left-wing author suggests Amy Coney Barrett adopted Haitian children to shield herself from accusations of racism,” The Blaze website titled an article. An article by The Federalist claimed that Kendi had called Barrett “a white supremacist.”
Ibram Kendi launches a cruel, racist attack against Judge Barrett and her family. But what else would we expect from a fraud like him? https://t.co/5wAzwy1RaS
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) September 26, 2020
“Ibram Kendi launches a cruel, racist attack against Judge Barrett and her family. But what else would we expect from a fraud like him?” GOP Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas wrote, re-tweeting Kendi’s post.
Newsweek reached out to a press representative for Kendi to ask for further comment, but he did not respond by the time of publication. In a Sunday tweet, Kendi appeared to push back against the criticism he had received.
“We should take it as a compliment when people attack us personally or when people misrepresent our work. Because that means they can’t challenge what we are actually saying or writing or meaning or doing. Take the compliments with grace and move on,” he wrote.
We should take it as a compliment when people attack us personally or when people misrepresent our work. Because that means they canât challenge what we are actually saying or writing or meaning or doing. Take the compliments with grace and move on.
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) September 27, 2020
Barrett has never made a political issue of her adoptive children. Colleagues and friends have publicly spoken highly of her parenting, pointing out that she is actively involved in her children’s lives and schooling.
In addition to his academic work, Kendi is also a correspondent for CBS News and a writer for The Atlantic. He serves as the director of Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research. Kendi is also currently working on a new project through a fellowship at Harvard entitled Bones of Inequity: A Narrative History of Racist Policies in America.
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