How to be an anti-racist author Ibram X Kendi received a MacArthur ‘genius scholarship’ | Books


Best-selling historian Ibram X Kendi received a MacArthur “genius grant” of $ 625,000 (£ 460,000) for his work on anti-racism in the United States.

Kendi, the author of the bestselling How to Be an Anti-Racist, is one of 25 new scholars to receive the MacArthur Foundation’s unconditional grant. The scholarships are awarded to “talented individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative endeavors and a marked capacity for autonomy”. Candidates are nominated by a large pool of experts and recipients chosen by a selection committee.

Kendi was cited by the foundation for his “dynamic and unusual constellation of scholarship, social entrepreneurship and public engagement”, with which he “transforms the number of people who understand, discuss and attempt to address the racial challenges of America’s longest standing “.

“When the inequality is normal and you do nothing to challenge that inequality, you are complicit in its maintenance,” Kendi said after learning about her grant. “To be anti-racist is to actively challenge the structures of racism in this country. If we are serious about dismantling racism, we must find a way to both analyze and study the structure of racism, while providing a way for individuals to dismantle that very structure that we seek to eliminate. Some people would call it idealistic, I don’t think it’s idealistic. I think this is the world that we should be focusing on creating.

This year’s other recipients range from landscape ecologist Lisa Schulte Moore to adaptive technology designer Joshua Miele. A few are writers, including author and radio producer Daniel Alarcón, poet Don Mee Choi and historian Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. Another is Reginald Dwayne Betts, who was jailed after being tried as an adult for auto theft at the age of 16, and became a lawyer and poet. He was cited by the committee for providing “a unique perspective on the lifelong impacts of incarceration and the injustice of a criminal justice system so heavily dependent on it”, through his “deeply moving” poems, its public defense work and its advocacy efforts.

Poet and lawyer Reginald Dwayne Betts. Photograph: Jessica Hill / AP

“When I was 16, I robbed a man in a car. I was arrested and sentenced to nine years in prison. So I spent nine years writing every day, reading every day, imagining that words would give me the freedom to understand what led me to jail. When you are trapped in a cell, literally words are your only lifeline. And I am committed to using them to find a semblance of hope, “Betts said.” If I write about prison every day for the rest of my life, the thing I really write about is this desire, this chase, this envy, this hope of freedom. I build libraries in prisons, because I believe that people who are serving a sentence deserve to have access to books that give us dignity.

Cecilia Conrad of the MacArthur Foundation said the group of fellows chosen this year “helps us to reinvent what is possible”.

“They show that creativity has no borders. This is happening in all fields of activity, among the relatively young and the more seasoned, in Iowa and Puerto Rico, ”she said. “Once again, we have the opportunity to exult in recognizing the potential to create objects of beauty and admiration, to advance our understanding of society and to foster change to improve the human condition. “

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