Amazon Funding Distribution of Ibram X. Kendi's 'Antiracist' Books in Public Schools

Company bought hundreds of copies of 'antiracist' scholar's book for Arlington students

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June 22, 2021

Amazon spent $5,000 to distribute hundreds of copies of "antiracist" writer Ibram X. Kendi's book to Virginia public school students as part of a program to promote black authors, according to emails between Amazon and school district officials.

The emails show Amazon employees reached out to Arlington Public Schools as part of "NeighborGood," a program to donate $100,000 to schools and other institutions that "empower black voices and serve black communities." Despite Amazon's offer to purchase Kindles or other equipment, Arlington Public Schools director of diversity and inclusion Arron Gregory requested copies of Kendi's Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. Amazon donated between 500-600 copies of the book to Wakefield High School and paid $10,000 to have Kendi's coauthor Jason Reynolds address students.

Asra Nomani, vice president of Parents Defending Education, the watchdog group that obtained the emails through a public records request, called Amazon's prioritization of "antiracism" efforts during a pandemic "shortsighted" in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.

"Instead of donating Kindles and hot spots to students in Arlington Public Schools, Amazon chose to spread the controversial ideology of critical race theory," Nomani said. "The shortsighted decisions during a pandemic, with so many students vulnerable, reflect the national crisis of school districts circumventing parents to indoctrinate students—in this case, with the help of corporate America."

Purchasing Kendi's book was one of Amazon's many Black History Month initiatives. The company also promoted work by black authors and created an "Amplify Black Voices" channel on Prime Video. Amazon came under fire for removing a top-rated documentary about Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas during Black History Month. The film was number one on Amazon's documentary list before it was pulled, and Amazon has refused to explain the move.

Stamped is billed as a young adult "remix" of Kendi's Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. Kendi, who also wrote the commercially successful How to Be An Antiracist, has become a lightning rod in the national debate over critical race theory.

Amazon public relations manager Justin Grayson oversaw the donation of Kendi's book and an accompanying study guide to Wakefield High School. The guide explains how Stamped "debunks the myths of several master narrative themes," including the notion that "America is a meritocracy" and that "truth and justice (or law and order) should be valued."

Amazon found a willing partner for its "antiracism" push in Arlington Public Schools, which has poured resources into "antiracist" training. The district required teachers to undergo equity training last fall, during which educators learned how to create an "actively antiracist learning environment." In an email to parents following the conviction of Derek Chauvin, Arlington superintendent Francisco Duran promoted resources from Learning for Justice, the educational arm of the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center.

Asked for comment, Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia directed the Free Beacon to Amazon, which did not respond to requests for comment.

Amazon isn't the only tech giant using book drives to boost "antiracism" efforts in elementary and high school classrooms. YouTube partnered with The Conscious Kid, an education and policy nonprofit set out to "disrupt racism in kids," to develop a playlist of videos for children "to counter anti-blackness and amplify black authors and stories." Google has also partnered with the group, which donated 120,000 "antiracist" books to thousands of schools across the United States in the 2020-21 school year.