News & Politics

The Quarantine Questionnaire: Historian Ibram X. Kendi

The antiracism scholar and AU professor is getting ready to release "Antiracist Baby" and writing, writing, writing.

What’s the best thing you’ve streamed? Most useful thing in your freezer? Dream day when this is all over? In search of inspiration—and, let’s be honest, a bit of voyeurism—we’re asking Washingtonians (current and recently former) how they’re passing the time and getting through quarantine. Here’s Ibram X. Kendi, the founding director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University, and author of runaway bestsellers about race, including How to Be an Antiracist and Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. This month, he and fellow author Jason Reynolds, who together recently published a history of racism for young adults, are hosting a virtual book club in which they discuss their book, Stamped, chapter by chapter.

Ibram X. Kendi. Photograph courtesy of Hachette Book Group.

Best book I’ve read: The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke by Jeffrey C. Stewart, not only a wonderful biography but a wonderful cultural and intellectual history of the early twentieth century, set on multiple continents and cities.

Best purchase: Cell phone and computer headphones for meetings, as I didn’t use them before but now so essential on my long meeting days. My wife got these headphones for me.

Quarantine goal: Finish as many writing projects on my desk as I can since when the nation opens back up, I’m going to have less time on my hands to write in solitude. I’ve been writing essays at The Atlantic on Covid-19 racial disparities. I’m also preparing for the launch of my next book, Antiracist Baby, a board book for little ones that’s coming out in June.

Favorite comfort food to make at home: Grits, which I consider my favorite because as my partner would say it is the only comfort food that I’m good at making. I think when I became vegan it was one of the few dishes that I could easily make vegan, so I honed my skills on it.

Go-to at-home cocktail: Oh, Sangrias, my favorite. I typically drink red Sangrias with frozen or freshly cut up fruit, often peaches, pineapples, or kiwi.

Worst part of the day: Doing the dishes, and there are more dishes now than ever!

Best part of the day: Morning after workouts when I feel rejuvenated and rested and can plan out my day. Making it my number-one priority, this is the first thing I do when I wake up.

Favorite quarantine activity: Without a doubt it is writing and reading, which were my favorite activities before the quarantine.

Working out or not working out: Been running three miles on most days and lifting weights.

Person I’d most like to spend a day quarantined with: I’d say, the incredible novelist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston. By all accounts, she was so fun and fascinating to be around, and I’d love to hear all the southern Black stories she collected or created.

Person I’d least like to spend a day quarantined with: Senator Mitch McConnell. Do I really need to explain?

Favorite place at home to quarantine: My bedroom where I do most of my work. I have a desk in my bedroom, and although it is steps from my bed, it doesn’t feel that way. It is quietest place in our home, and I prefer working without noise or interruptions.

Best coping mechanism: Staying productive, particularly considering the subject of my work and the racial disparities we’re seeing with Covid-19.

Dream day once this all ends: Being able to travel abroad to South Africa! We had planned to go this summer, but the pandemic cancelled our plans.


Kristen Hinman
Articles Editor

Kristen Hinman has been editing Washingtonian’s features since 2014. She joined the magazine after editing politics & policy coverage for Bloomberg Businessweek and working as a staff writer for Voice Media Group/Riverfront Times.