After BU College Republicans released a statement last week denouncing a series of tweets by Ibram X. Kendi, director and founder of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, student organizations and individuals on campus have acted in support of the professor.
The tweets in question concerned transracial adoption and were posted as a response to a now-deleted tweet from Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin arguing that Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett could not be racist due to her adoption of two Haitian children.
“Some White colonizers ‘adopted’ Black children,” Kendi’s tweet read. “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.”
In the tweets that followed his initial statement, Kendi wrote that whether his comments pertain to Barrett specifically is not the point. Rather, he meant this assumption is “a belief too many White people have,” and that “live and fake bots” on Twitter had distorted his message.
BU College Republicans released a statement on Instagram Tuesday denouncing Kendi’s message and calling for his removal “from any association” with the University.
The statement prompted a wave of backlash on social media by students, garnering more than 740 comments largely opposing BUCR’s sentiments. Students have sent executive board members emails denouncing the statement.
In response to requests for comment, BUCR stated via email that it is not releasing any further statements at this time.
BUCD President Cecilia Szkutak, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said the organization’s decision to release a statement denouncing BUCR was predicated on the executive board’s belief that BUCR’s initial statement supported reverse racism and invited harmful rhetoric into the BU community.
“We wanted to make it very clear that the type of thinking and language that was used in the BU College Republicans’ post is, one, not tolerated in BUCD,” Szkutak said, “and also just should not be widely accepted and it should be denounced by the BU community.”
BUCD Treasurer Bridgette Lang, a sophomore in CAS, said responses to BUCD’s statement have been “overwhelmingly positive.”
Lang said that while social media is not the best way to measure the response, the number of likes on BUCD’s statement have continued to increase. Students outside the organization have also reached out to her, expressing their support.
“I think that people are happy that we’re taking a stance,” Lang said, “and we hope that other clubs will also take a stance on the issue as well.”
Nick Hajjar, a sophomore in the Questrom School of Business, said he found Kendi’s tweets to be “very strong” and that he “couldn’t disagree more.”
“I thought it was racist,” Hajjar said. “I mean, I know some Catholic families that have adopted children of a different race, and he’s basically calling them all out as racist.”
In the last tweet within his thread, however, Kendi wrote:
“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.’”
Hajjar said he stands by BUCR’s statement and believes it was “brave” and “definitely warranted.”
“I can only hope that people could understand where we’re coming from,” Hajjar said, “because I really do think that his tweet was very extreme.”
Alex Puri, a senior in the College of Communication, said Kendi’s tweets were not calling out Barrett herself but were rather offering clarity around the assumption that white parents of Black adoptees cannot be racist.
“I don’t really agree with Kendi’s positions on a lot of issues,” Puri said. “I think he raises some important questions, but in this instance, I didn’t really have much of an issue with it.”
Puri added that he believes Kendi did not accuse Barrett herself of racism in any of his tweets.
“He was providing context about why adopting a Black child doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t racist,” Puri said. “He never once directed anything specifically at Barrett.”
BU spokesperson Colin Riley stated via email that he has declined media requests to address the matter.
Kendi declined to comment on the record about his tweets or subsequent student reactions but directed The Daily Free Press to Rachel Nolan, an assistant professor at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies.
Nolan, who has studied the history of international adoptions from Guatemala for nearly six years, said the issues Kendi brought up in regard to transracial adoption are well-known structural issues within the adoption sphere.
Nolan said the idea that someone who adopts Haitian children cannot be racist is refuted by the hundreds of adoption files she has read during her years of study.
“The people who were responding with the most upset to Dr. Kendi’s comments were naturally adoptive parents who felt personally attacked, and that’s understandable,” Nolan said. “It’s wrong because he’s critiquing the institution, not them, but it’s also understandable that they take it personally.”
Nolan added that even in academia, presenting on the topic of transracial adoption is “very difficult.” When asked whether she would like to see the University step in, Nolan said it doesn’t help anyone for the administration to wade into something controversial.
Nolan said she hopes the controversy will lead students to educate themselves on the history of domestic and international adoption.
“If Professor Kendi and I wanted to make people happy, we would have gone into public relations,” Nolan said, “not into being historians.”