Amazon donated hundreds of copies of the book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You to Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. in February and paid one of its co-authors, Jason Reynolds, $8,000 to speak virtually to faculty and students, emails obtained by Parents Defending Education revealed.
A public relations manager at Amazon Logistics reached out to the Arlington Public Schools’ chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer on February 9 to see if the district would like to participate in Amazon’s efforts to “to invest in education and technology by providing devices to students and families in historically underserved communities.”
In a follow-up email, the Arlington diversity officer requested 550 copies of Stamped with accompanying study guides “to really make this investment impactful.” He also listed a “few talking points to assist with closing this deal to team Amazon,” which included the fact that “Wakefield HS has 500 out of 800 African American high school students district wide.”
The Arlington diversity officer added that a virtual discussion with Reynolds “would satisfy” an event requirement put in place as part of the Anti-Defamation League’s new “No Place for Hate” (NPFH) program, which requires schools to get at least 75 percent of students to sign an anti-racism “pledge” to secure an official NPFH designation.
Schools that take part in the program “are expected to notify ADL when any incident of bias, bullying, discrimination or harassment occurs” and attempt to remedy these infractions or else the school’s NPFH designation could be rescinded, according to the NPFH Handbook.
Reynolds ended up addressing students and faculty virtually for 30 minutes and took questions for 15 minutes and was paid $8,000, or $177 per minute.
A final email from the Arlington Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion confirmed that the school secured $15,000 from Amazon to deliver the books to students. It added that the office will work with the town library to circulate books around to other high schools and programs, and will invite all the “comprehensive high schools and programs grades 9-12” to attend a the virtual talk with Reynolds.
Kendi is widely-credited with popularizing the so-called “anti-racist” framework, in which every person who is not actively committed to eliminating racial disparities — and every policy that does not explicitly further that goal — is perpetuating racism. He runs the anti-racism research center at Boston University, which received a $10 million donation from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last year.
Stamped argues that “the construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence,” according to the book description on Amazon.
A critical review by the Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada questioned the book’s assertion that the most passionate abolitionists and black advocates were not immune from racism, whether Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, or Harriet Beecher Stowe.
“Kendi’s engrossing and relentless intellectual history of prejudice in America, almost everyone is some kind of racist, whether wielding a whip or unfurling a protest banner,” Lozada writes. “I have greater difficulty embracing the notion that, as Kendi argues, progress on race is inevitably stalked by the advance of racism and that, on an individual level, falling short in specific instances somehow taints the whole of a person.”
“The old one-drop rule for determining race was based on prejudice and pseudoscience. A one-drop rule for determining racism seems only slightly less unfair, no matter how well-intentioned,” he concludes.