He Redefined ‘Racist.’ Now He’s Trying to Build a NewsroomHistorians in the News
tags: racism, journalism, Ibram X. Kendi
Ibram X. Kendi and Bina Venkataraman met last summer when their big Boston institutions, Boston University and The Boston Globe, were grappling with protests over racial justice.
Ms. Venkataraman, the editor of The Globe’s editorial page, asked Dr. Kendi, the author of a book called “How to Be an Antiracist,” why he decided to found the Center for Antiracist Research in a city known for the backlash to busing and “where sports fans boo athletes of color,” she recalled in an interview. They started talking about their shared obsession with a different Boston history, 19th-century abolitionist newspapers. Then they wondered what it would mean to found, in 2021, a newspaper in the spirit of William Lloyd Garrison’s legendary The Liberator.
In particular, they wondered, what would it mean to bring to American racism the sense of urgency with which Garrison, in 1831, started the newspaper, abandoning a more gradualist approach to slavery. “On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write with moderation. No! no!” he famously began, saying that would be like telling “a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm.”
Now, with the backing of their institutions and a seven-figure budget, they plan later this year to start an online publication that blends reportage, opinion and academic research, some of which will appear in The Globe. They hope to revive the tradition of a generation of media that predates the formal division of news and opinion in 20th-century American journalism. And they want to channel the energy that has produced a year of newsroom conversations and arguments about racism.
“If you don’t have people agitating for urgent change, it becomes easy to just turn to other problems,” Ms. Venkataraman said in an interview. “And I think that’s sort of an inspiring framework for thinking about why you need a publication or platform like this now, because you need to keep it on people’s minds past the news cycle.”
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