The Ibram Kendi Videotape … Finally Revealed

Ibram X. Kendi


As reported in several prior posts on this site, the Fairfax County School Board paid Ibram X. Kendi $20,000 for a one-hour Zoom appearance in August 2020 at the kick-off session for the school year.  Fairfax County schools spent an additional $44,000 to purchase his books.

Fairfax Schools Monitor wanted to see what the school officials said about Kendi, and what words of wisdom he conveyed, that warranted paying him $333.33 per minute.  (Not a bad rate of pay for someone who preaches that to love capitalism is to love racism!)  So, in mid-November of last year, we asked for a copy of the Kendi videotape pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.  The School Board refused our request.  Why?  Because the Board had not only agreed to pay Kendi a whopping fee; it had also agreed that Kendi would have sole “intellectual property rights” in what he said, thereby preventing the Board from disclosing the videotape of his presentation.

In mid-January we filed suit in the Fairfax County General District Court to challenge the Board’s refusal.  The Board’s attorney fought us tooth and nail, raising every possible technical objection, as well as opposing our request on legal grounds.  After three hearings, the court finally issued its ruling last week, on May 11.  It agreed with the Board’s argument — erroneously we believe — that the School Board’s contract with Kendi gave him the right to prohibit copying of the video.  Fortunately, the court also ruled that Kendi’s rights would not be violated by viewing the video without copying it.

I went to the Board’s headquarters this morning to watch the video.  Here is a summary, followed by some comments.

Summary of the Kendi Video

The contract between the School Board and Kendi stipulated that Kendi would speak for 45 minutes, followed by a 15-minute Q&A session.  That format wasn’t followed.  After an introduction that summarized Kendi’s qualifications, the full hour consisted of questions by one of the school system’s Assistant Superintendents, Nardos King, and answers by Kendi.  Kendi participated from his home in Boston.  (His cute four-year-old daughter made a brief, unplanned appearance.)

Much of what Kendi said reiterated things he has previously said in his books and other publications.  A summary of his race-related writings is in “Who Is Ibram X. Kendi.”

He made the following points in his Q&A with Nardos King:

  • “Anti-racism” means working actively to create equitable outcomes.  Being “not racist” isn’t the same thing.  Unless we actively work to end racism, we are condoning racism.  Those who benefit from racism want us to do nothing.  We need to actively teach our children to be anti-racists.  Children must learn that the cause of inequity is bad policy, not bad behavior by some.
  • When asked to give an example of “anti-racism,” Kendi hypothesized a situation in which a school system has collected data showing that black and brown students tend to be suspended from school at a greater rate than other groups.  It should be recognized that there is a racist reason for this disparity.  To see the disparity and to do nothing about it condones racism.  Taking action to eliminate the disparity is anti-racist.
  • The interviewer asked what advice Kendi would give the audience of educators.  Kendi responded (i) that the curricula should be studied to ensure that it is reflective of a multi-cultural citizenry, (ii) that teachers should be responsive to different learning styles, and (iii) that the rules for dealing with misbehavior in schools should be careful not to treat different racial groups differently.
  • Kendi believes that the core, or cradle, of racism is not ignorance, hate or bad behavior of individuals, but rather “self interest,” i.e., defending policies that are in one’s self-interest.  Policy and power are at the core of racism.
  • On standardized testing, Kendi said that white and Asian American parents are more likely to send their kids to test-prep courses and/or to tutors, giving those kids an unfair advantage.  Having money shouldn’t confer advantages, Kendi said.
  • The questioner asked how Kendi would handle admissions at Thomas Jefferson High School if he were in charge.  He responded that he would start with the question, “What is an intellectual?”  His answer is that being an intellectual is not based on how much you know but rather on your desire to learn.  Desire to learn isn’t differentiated by race.  Kendi would structure admissions on an assessment of students’ desire to learn.
  • Later in the hour, Kendi was asked about criteria for admission into an AP math class.  If a test of preparedness for the advanced instruction is currently used, what would Kendi do?  He responded with a somewhat rambling statement to the effect that if certain groups were currently under-represented in the AP class, he would make room for them, and if this goal is achieved, it would be an anti-racist result.
  •  Kendi says that policy makers must be cognizant of the “intersection” of various “identities.”  For example, being a black man is not the same as being a black woman; policies might discriminate against the two groups in different ways.  So, to deal with discrimination against black women, you need to understand sexism too.  Sexual identity is another “intersection.”
  • When asked what schools should do to authenticate student voices in the aftermath of George Floyd, Kendi said students should be part of the conversation.  For example, to understand why black students are suspended from schools at a greater rate than whites, talk to them and understand their stories.
  • When asked how to respond to parents who tell educators they don’t have a right to teach “anti-racism,” Kendi said he’d ask them, “Are you saying we should teach a racist curriculum?”  They’d respond, “No, we want you to just be non-racist.”  I’d say, “I don’t know what a ‘not-racist’ person is.  In order to be not racist, you have to be anti-racist.  I would also tell them that anti-racism education benefits all races … the more cultural literacy a person has, the more successful they’re likely to be.
  • How can we judge whether a school is racist or anti-racist.  Kendi’s answer: “Data.”  (I think he meant that data showing racial disparities in outcomes demonstrate the need for anti-racist measures to eliminate the disparities.)

Comments on the Kendi Video

Having finally viewed the $20,000 videotape, my reaction was that a $2,000 payment would have been a huge overpayment.  Kendi’s appearance required no preparation and no travel.  He merely gave off-the-cuff responses to an interviewer’s questions, sitting in his den at his home.  He didn’t give an inspirational speech.  His low-energy answers probably put half his audience to sleep.  He said nothing original.  He didn’t need to know anything in particular about the Fairfax County school system.  Some of his answers were rambling and non-responsive to the questions that were asked.  To make matters worse, the interviewer didn’t press him with any follow-up questions; she merely thanked him for whatever answer he gave and then moved on to the next question.

The School Board’s decision to pay Kendi $20,000 for a one-hour Zoom call is what’s most significant.  The Board knew his views beforehand.  It obviously thought Kendi was an important guru who needs to be heard by school principals and administrators, whatever the cost.  In fact, Kendi’s opinions are based on unproven assumptions, logical fallacies and superficial analysis, and are divisive as well.  See, e.g., What’s Wrong with Critical Race Theory, Part 1” and “Part 2.”  Other scholars would have been willing to challenge Kendi’s views for free, or for a fraction of Kendi’s fee, but the School Board saw no need to get their input as a balance to Kendi’s race-centric view of society.

When the judge ruled last week that citizens could watch the videotape at the School Board offices, but not get a copy of it, I was considering an appeal to the Circuit Court.  Having seen it, I think an appeal would have an even greater chance of success than I thought.  I had assumed that Kendi made a formal, prepared 45-minute speech, as the contract called for, and I believe that the judge assumed the same thing.  The text of such a presentation might arguably be copyrightable.   But that’s not what’s on the video.  As indicated, the session was merely an informal session in which Kendi gave extemporaneous responses to a school official’s questions.

Nonetheless, I have decided not to appeal.  The video is so poor that it’s not worth the effort.  If others are interested, they can now view the video themselves at the School Board headquarters in Merrifield, as I did today.  I will use my time for more meaningful investigations and reporting about what’s being taught in the Fairfax County school system.  Among these will be another legal challenge, based on the School Board’s recent withholding of documents on the basis of dubious claims of attorney-client privilege.

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  1. Karen Quiner on May 18, 2022 at 11:40 pm

    Wow. What a scam!
    You showed that the emperor has no clothes.

  2. Franz Roland on May 19, 2022 at 6:00 am

    Kendi Just reworded critical race theory (CRT).
    These school boards across the country need to be replaced. Over the years they’ve slowly filled every seat with activists who don’t care about math or science or technology or English but more so about social grooming and creating democrat voting young adult men & woman! Look at how they handled Covid! If parents didn’t fight back, our children would all have been
    Endlessly shot & boosted w this experimental drug & masked up in class breathing their own poisonous air, which had been shown to cause liver damage & Hepatitis. They couldn’t care any less about our children’s health or education. One of my children in FCPS came home one day & said her English teacher spoke on how “everyone has a right to free healthcare”, & that “Medicare for all” was her solution? Just teach the courses, we parents will teach our children everything else. thank you!

  3. Zia Tompkins on May 19, 2022 at 7:08 am

    Thanks so much for running this to ground! What a scam!

  4. Bruce Petersen on May 19, 2022 at 7:32 am

    It clearly is time for a new school board in Fairfax County. When are the elections?

    • Mark Spooner on May 19, 2022 at 3:16 pm

      All 12 Board seats will be up for election in November 2023.

    • Gloria on May 22, 2022 at 7:33 am

      They all should be made to resign!

  5. Kim Berlin on May 19, 2022 at 8:13 am

    Thank you for all the effort involved in shedding light on this incredible waste.

  6. Rebecca D on May 19, 2022 at 8:31 am

    Thank you for summary. Not surprising that our school board would waste time and money on an agenda that provides nothing to students and teachers.

  7. Peter Brown on May 19, 2022 at 9:57 am

    They should have given you a right of reply to Kendi’s comments, AND paid you $20…000 for your time!

  8. Beth on May 19, 2022 at 11:12 am

    Thank you for the work you are doing. I pulled my kids out of FCPS and they are in a private school. I’m following FCPS closely because I’d like for them to go back to public school, once the ideologues are gone and they go back to having higher academic standards.

  9. CB on May 19, 2022 at 4:20 pm

    Once again, THANK YOU Mark for all the time you put into your investigations.

    And thank you for never giving up on the Kendi trail. It is great to finally hear of the content of the meeting despite the absurdity of it all…

  10. Sandy Ivy on May 19, 2022 at 5:01 pm

    Great praise for your tenacity and caring! I’m hoping there will be decent people running for school board next time and it will be advertized who they are so we can spread the word to vote for them.

  11. mike on May 19, 2022 at 6:34 pm

    Thanks for all your effort to bring this to light.
    I’m sure most or all of you have seen/read the article from the FCPS social studies teacher about the disastrous effects of lowering standards. And the Governor was given the State of Education in Virginia report today and it is not pretty!
    We have to stop this madness and reverse course before its too late.

  12. Missy Pratt on May 19, 2022 at 10:46 pm

    Fantastic summary Mark! Thank you for being so diligent in your pursuit of transparency and accountability. You are doing what is so necessary, and yet most of us cannot do. We are all indebted to you. Please continue your pursuits. We are behind you!