“The good news is that racist and antiracist are not fixed identities. We can be a racist one minute and an antiracist the next. What we say about race, what we do about race, in each moment, determines what — not who — we are.” On February 21st, Belmont Hill had the pleasure of hearing from Dr. Ibram X Kendi, the speaker of these words of wisdom. Dr. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, a New York Times best-selling author, and the youngest-ever winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction. He is also a 2020–2021 Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where he will continue work on his next historical monograph, Bones of Inequity: A Narrative History of Racist Policies in America.
The student body was honored to hear him speak, and we extend a gratitude of thanks to the school for making this possible. In the wake of the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, it is clear that the school has made diversity education a priority. There was no better person to teach us all about antiracism than the man who wrote the book How to Be an Antiracist.
Kendi’s words rang true for many students who have found themselves saddened, overwhelmed, angry, or confused in recent months. He clearly expressed the many truths that some deem as false or fake news. After hearing his speech, the students were able to come together and discuss the issues that Kendi presented. Students passionately gave their ideas on how the community could move forward in becoming antiracist. Overall, Dr. Kendi sparked great conversation within the Belmont Hill community and outlines what students can do to become a more inclusive and diverse community.
Dr. Kendi’s words were vital to continuing the discussion fostered by students over the summer and during DEI sessions on Thursdays. Belmont Hill students have learned that, in his words, “One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’” Students hope to actively confront racism both on campus and off, and make our school a safe place for all demographics.