Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, a real genius : Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Dr Ibram X Kendi, author and MacArthur Genius, plays our game about the Genius Bar at Apple Stores. Joining him are panelists Alonzo Bodden, Josh Gondelman and Amy Dickinson.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, a real genius

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, a real genius

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Ibram X. Kendi Michael Loccisano/Getty Images hide caption

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Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Ibram X. Kendi

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Professor Ibram X. Kendi, Ph.D., is a National Book Award-winning author and scholar whose book How to Be an Anti-Racist was a New York Times bestseller for many months and also the source of some controversy, making him one of the most beloved and condemned authors in the country. He's also a winner of a MacArthur Genius Grant and is the head of the Center for Anti-Racist Research at Boston University.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Peter Sagal: I have to start out by asking you about this amazing honor you received, one that few people get. You threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park. Well. And this was just a couple weeks ago, right?

Yes. And I was nervous.

Really? Because you got a MacArthur Genius Grant, best-selling book, National Book Award, but this got you nervous?

Yeah, I just didn't want to embarrass myself.

I saw the picture of you in your Boston Red Sox jersey. You were having a good time. But sir, and I don't want to put you on the spot about this, but you're used to being grilled. You grew up in New York. Are you, in fact, an actual Red Sox fan?

You're really going to ask me that in Boston?! I am curious about the Red Sox.

To get to something more serious and to sort of get into your work in your book, How to Be an Anti-Racist, which is a memoir, is a work of scholarship. You are remarkably honest about all the wrong ideas and your own judgment that you had growing up, which is one of the really great things about the book. And there's this moment in the book where you tell your college roommate down in Florida that you have figured out that white people are actually aliens. So my question is, who told?

So I actually saw this documentary that made that case. My mind was blown. I think it's probably been banned.

But you're like 'that explains everything. That explains, among other things, why they can't dance.'

You also write about growing up in Queens and you write about your obsession at that time [with] looking good. Do you still connect to sneakers? Do you still as you write in the book, you know, fix the scuffs on your kicks?

I'm not on that level. I mean, when I was a teenager, we'd go out, like, literally hurting. My feet would be hurting, but I just had to look fly.

One of the interesting things about the book is, as you again write about very honestly, there was no way in the world when you were, say, 15, that you yourself, let alone the people who knew you would have picked you for a future scholar, professor, MacArthur Grant winner. So does anybody, like from your youth ever be like, 'come on?'

All the time.

Are you enjoying living in Boston?

So actually, we are. And I think in many ways, especially as we look around what's happening in the rest of this country, it makes us enjoy Boston so much.

And given what we all know about Boston's history, you're probably amazed to find yourself now going, 'Thank God I'm in Boston.' That's serious.

We've had some MacArthur Genius awardees, and there's one thing I've never asked, which is like, how useful is that in, like, daily life? I'm thinking of, like, marital disputes, right? Because I'm married, and how great would it be to be able to say, 'Well, the genius thinks the dishwasher should be loaded this way?'

So it typically happens the other way around, 'How could the genius load the dishwasher like this?!'