ibram x kendi

‘Antiracist’ Author to Keynote ODEI's Equity in Action Conference

Professor Ibram X. Kendi, an acclaimed historian and the author of the New York Times bestseller How to Be An Antiracist, will be the keynote speaker for the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s inaugural one-day virtual conference, Equity In Action: Cultivating Antiracist Universities. The event is taking place Monday, April 26, 2021, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Kha Yang

“This event is for all students, faculty and staff interested in engaging in brave dialogues and exploring what it means to be an antiracist institution,” said Kha Yang, associate vice president for inclusive excellence and head of the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at St. Thomas. “Our goal is to help members develop self-awareness, discover personal biases, engage in meaningful sessions, and explore various ways to take actions toward racial equity.”

Yang added, “Our conversation with Professor Kendi, and in subsequent breakout sessions, will allow us the space to discuss how we can integrate theory and practice of antiracism work through collaborative educational conversations about lived experiences, research and DEI practices.”

Racial equity is inclusive of our diverse racial demographics and we seek every day to celebrate and acknowledge all members, Yang noted. In light of February marking Black History Month, this is also a good reminder to pause and reflect, and for those who haven’t yet read Kendi’s book to begin doing so in preparation for his campus appearance at the Equity in Action virtual conference.

How to Be an Antiracist addresses how the past influences the present and the future when it comes to dismantling racism. Kendi takes readers on this journey with examples from his own life throughout this part memoir, part scholarly text.

In the book, Kendi includes reflections on his childhood and how he says he fell victim to believing that blacks are inherently inferior due to race – a racist ideology fed by a history of systemic racism in America. Kendi writes: “Racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas. Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” In summary, the difference between being an antiracist and not a racist is, in part, the difference between being active versus passive in a stand against racial bias.

Ernest Owens

Ernest Owens

“Kendi’s work makes visible the significant and egregious systemic racism I have experienced throughout my life,” said ODEI Faculty Fellow Ernest Owens, an assistant professor in the Department of Management at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, who has read Kendi’s book. “What inspires me is his honest look at how we as a nation can start seeing, arresting, then moving toward an antiracist society.”

As enticement for others to register to hear Kendi’s keynote address, Owens added, “Kendi’s work is a breath of air that will give us hope so we can create strategies to mitigate racism in our personal lives.”

The Equity in Action conference will also feature relevant artistic performances. In the afternoon, attendees will engage in discussions in breakout sessions and be invited to take meaningful actions.

The Office for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is requesting proposals for the afternoon breakout sessions.  Proposals are due by 5 p.m. CST on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, and should be submitted via email to odei@stthomas.edu. More details can be found here on submitting proposals, which will include the desired proposal format and additional learning goals for the conference.

This conference is complimentary to current St. Thomas students, faculty and staff. In addition to the University of St. Thomas community, the conference will be open to individuals at other institutions of higher education. Please see the registration link with program details. You must register to attend. Space is limited.