Locally, Ibram Kendi Recalled For Honesty, A Gentle Disposition
By MIKE FORSTER ROTHBART • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Before Ibram X. Kendi was Ibram X. Kendi, he was Ibram Rogers and he taught at SUNY Oneonta.
Kendi, a history professor and now director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, has built his academic career on the study of racism. He views racism – rather than race itself—as a defining feature of American history and argues in his writing that this history is an ongoing “battle between racists and antiracists.”
This past year has been Kendi’s moment in the spotlight. With every new book, he has risen in stature, becoming – in a span of eight years since he became Kendi – a public intellectual and media go-to for commentary on race issues.
Kendi (then Rogers) came to Oneonta in 2008 as a 26-year-old graduate student. He got a one-year teaching fellowship, a joint appointment in SUNY Oneonta’s History and Africana & Latinx Studies departments. This gave him time to finish his dissertation, said professor emeritus Kathleen O’Mara in a Skype call from her home.
At the time, O’Mara chaired the ALS Department, and she remembers hiring him. From the beginning, “his honesty rang through, because you know, you’re used to, in academia, all these people who promise you the world,” said O’Mara. “We were struck by his honesty. He didn’t budge. He was honest, he told us straight up, ‘This is where I am, this is how fast I work. You know, I find writing easy, and I will get it done in a year.’ Okay? And he did.”