I know that many of us want to help correct race-related flaws in our society, but it can be difficult to know where to start. The new Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University is poised to make a significant impact and may provide vehicles for people like you and me to be helpful. Ibram X. Kendi started this project, and he was recently named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world. The center puts forth the premise that racism “is pervasive. It is baked into our social lives, and the operations of institutions and governments at every level.” This is why progress seems daunting. The roots and tendrils of racist policies have grown and spread over hundreds of years, and the policies are hard to reverse. The mission of this new, carefully constructed non-profit is to provide the data, the discourse, and the decisive action steps so that we can make a difference in achievable ways.
Kendi’s book How to Be an Antiracist made a big impression on me and I have been excited to get involved with the center. I recently met with Henry T. Geng who is the individual donor liaison. Henry’s conversation along with the center’s website and newsletter paint a picture of how the mission and structure are aligned to foster success. I will give some examples of how the center’s work may help people like you and me to make an impact in the course of our professional and social lives. I will provide links at the end of this article for you to learn more on your own, should you so wish.
The Center for Antiracist Research is organized in four functional groups: research, policy, narrative, and advocacy. If you have read Kendi’s work, you know that he is a researcher at heart, unearthing substantial information before expressing his analysis and opinions. This focus on research serves as the fulcrum for the center’s efforts to make systemic change. For example, the center has already launched the COVID Racial Data Tracker, quantifying COVID-caused deaths along racial lines.
Graph Published by The Center for Antiracist Research
Clear data of this kind can provoke new policies, like vaccine distribution that correlates with racial discrepancies. This data can also inform a fact-based narrative. Having just read this information, you and I can now state that COVID has killed Black people at 1.5 times the rate of white people in the United States. This research-policy-narrative connection will help people to become more effective advocates as we seek to change policy.
Advocacy is where I see myself and people I know fitting into the ecosystem of The Center for Antiracist Research. Consider this quote from the website: “Racial injustice is rooted in bad policy, not bad people.” I am encouraged by this declaration as I am tired of pointing at “racists” and hoping that their personal transformation will heal our country. I want to pitch in and make a difference on a systemic level. I believe that I have influence, directly or indirectly, in the areas of education, disability policy, health care, and voting rights. I may have influence in other areas as well. The center plans to work through advocates to advance research-informed policy initiatives at all levels of governance to create a more racially just and equitable society. I look forward to being part of that extended community and will be interested to see how this non-profit evolves.
There are a few ways that people can get involved with this new center in the near term. The first is to attend a center-hosted virtual National Antiracist Book Festival in April featuring over 30, live author presentations. This will provide an educational opportunity for those of us who want to become better informed of the issues and current state of research.
The second is to make a donation. If you choose to donate, I have a request. Please use one of the fields in the online donation form to state that you learned about the center from me. I want to make a difference volunteering with this group and I would like my name to come up on their radar.
Finally, I am providing a set of links below for you to learn more about the center and its current initiatives. Let us join hands together in the important effort to reverse systemic racism.
- BU Center for Antiracist Research: https://www.bu.edu/antiracism-center/
- The COVID Racial Data Tracker: https://covidtracking.com/race
- National Antiracist Book Festival: https://www.bu.edu/antiracism-center/narrative/national-antiracist-book-festival/
- Donating to the Center: https://tinyurl.com/1542fo2x