Boston University announced Thursday that one of America's pre-eminent scholars on race and racism will join the school's faculty.
In a statement, the university said Ibram X. Kendi will establish and lead the new BU Center for Antiracist Research.
"This center will bring together researchers and practitioners from across the University and the region to engage around issues of racism and racial justice," BU said, adding that its mission "in Kendi's words, will be 'to solve seemingly intractable problems of racial inequity and injustice.' "
The need for such a center has been magnified "as we have all experienced painful reminders of the persistence of racism and racial inequities in our society," the university said.
While the school said Kendi's hiring was "almost a year in the making," it came during a national moment of reckoning: Protesters have flooded cities across the country for days in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, as the U.S. grapples with endemic issues like systemic racism and police brutality.
Kendi described his reaction to Floyd's death in a "BU Today" interview.
"I was like many Americans, completely outraged—outraged that somebody who’s supposed to be protecting people decided to use his power to kill someone, when that person was clearly in distress," he told the school publication. "Sometimes with police shootings, it's very fast. In this case, there were nine minutes in which any one of the four officers could have made a different decision and thereby done their jobs, saving someone's life."
The announcement also comes a day after BU President Robert Brown apologized for a university-wide letter on racism that critics said was not forceful enough. Brown later sent a follow-up email to students and staff.
Kendi is author of the bestselling book "How To Be An Anti-Racist" — one of a number of titles on race and racism that have been flying off shelves recently. Kendi held a book event at the Coolidge Corner Theater in August 2019, which the university said led to a series of conversations with BU leadership and faculty members, namely provost Jean Morrison.
He also in 2016 became the youngest-ever winner of the National Book Award, earning the honor for "Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America."
Kendi is currently a professor at American University in Washington, D.C., and was the founding director of the school's Antiracist Research and Policy Center. BU said he will formally join the faculty this summer after completing the school's appointment process for new professors.