The historian on how he confronted his own racism and the lessons he learned along the way, the far right’s abuse of free speech, and why the rise of the Squad gives him hope
It is a moment that disturbs Ibram X Kendi to this day. It was the 90s, and Kendi – then in his final year of high school – was due to deliver a speech at a public-speaking contest held in Martin Luther King’s honour.
“When we think of American history in the 90s, we’re really talking about the period in which people in both political parties, people of all races were looking at the increasing violent crimes among black youth, particularly in urban neighbourhoods, as fundamentally caused by a problem with the black youth; the growing percentage of single-parent households,” he says, setting the scene. “We had people thinking that the cause of that was that there was something wrong with young, black mothers.”