Race, Injustice, Black Lives Matter: Recommended reading from faculty and staff

Record Staff

June 3, 2020

Editor’s note:

Given the heartbreak and anger that many in the College community are feeling in light of recent police brutality that is rooted in centuries of anti-Black racism in the U.S., the Record reached out to faculty and staff members for recommended educational resources on racism, inequality and other forms of injustice.

Each contributor shared unique lists accompanied by their own written thoughts, which we have included here. Where possible, we have hyperlinked the contributor’s personal website, where readers can learn more about the contributor’s work. The contributing faculty and staff, listed in alphabetical order, draw from expertise in diverse disciplines, including literature, art, Africana studies, social psychology, environmental science, political science and more. The list includes articles, books, poems, essays, films, music and podcasts. We hope that these selections curated by our teachers and mentors can help inform our understandings of current events in this time of tragedy and protest.

Swank, a media resource freely accessible to students at the College, offers a wide collection of movies and documentaries, including some in this list. Articles are hyperlinked when possible, and other scholarly works, including course syllabi, may be accessible through the College’s library login.

All the links for books will direct you to a Black-owned community bookstore across the country: AfriWare Books in Maywood, Ill.; Books and Crannies in Martinsville, Va.; The Dock Bookshop in Ft. Worth, Texas; Eso Won Books in Los Angeles, Calif.; Eye See Me in St. Louis, Mo.; Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury, Mass.; Loyalty Books in Silver Springs, Md.; Mahogany Books in Washington, D.C.; Malik Books in Los Angeles, Calif.; Source Booksellers in Detroit, Mich. and Uncle Bobbie’s in Philadelphia, Pa.

We hope you will support these and other Black-owned businesses.

To keep ourselves accountable as a predominantly white newspaper board and to ensure that we too are engaging with these resources, Record editors will read and interact with as many pieces as possible in this collection.

This is a growing list; if you are a faculty or staff member whose scholarship relates to this work and would like to contribute, please email jkh2@williams.edu.

Laylah Ali ’91

Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Art

This is a very good interview from “Democracy Now” with Tamika Mallory.

“Democracy Now” is an important news source that people/students don't often know about.

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Website: Laylah Ali

Michelle Apotsos

Assistant Professor of Art

Some immediate resources I’d recommend are as follows:

  • Codeswitch (podcast)
  • Identity Politics (podcast)
  • Racial Ecologies by Leilani Nishime and Kim D. Hester Williams
  • The Problem of Speaking for Others” by Linda Alcoff

  • We’re at the point where the very words people use to plead for their lives can be repurposed as shorthand for completely separate tragedies.

    –Codeswitch

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    Website: Michelle Apotsos

    Rashida K. Braggs

    Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Faculty Affiliate in Comparative Literature and American Studies

    I have listed below some books and films that may be helpful. Though there are many texts that come to mind, I’ve posted ones that may not have already come to the top of others’ lists:

    Books:

  • Claudia Rankine ’86, Citizen: An American Lyric
  • Keeanga-Yamatta Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
  • Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider
  • Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
  • Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy
  • Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

  • The past is a life sentence, a blunt instrument aimed at tomorrow.

    –Claudia Rankine ’86, Citizen

    Films:

  • Do the Right Thing,” directed by Spike Lee
  • “I Am Not Your Negro,” directed by Raoul Peck
  • 13th,” directed by Ava DuVernay
  • “The Hate U Give,” directed by George Tillman
  • When They See Us,” directed by Ava DuVernay

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    Website: Rashida K. Braggs

  • Franny Choi

    Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow in English

    Poetry collections:

  • Don’t Call Us Dead, by Danez Smith
  • Incendiary Arts, by Patricia Smith
  • Exiles of Eden, by Ladan Osman
  • Dispatch, by Cameron Awkward-Rich
  • Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, by Ross Gay
  • The Black Maria, by Aracelis Girmay
  • Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry by John Murillo
  • The January Children by Safia Elhillo
  • The Malevolent Volume by Justin Phillip Reed
  • 1919, by Eve L. Ewing

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    Website: Franny Choi

  • Steven Fein

    Professor of Psychology

    Although I certainly always encourage people to read Whistling Vivaldi [by Claude Steele], I think the social psych book I’d most recommend at the moment is by another Stanford social psychologist, albeit a much younger one. I’d recommend a book by Jennifer Eberhardt called Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do.

    I’d also encourage students and others to check out the collective research publications of another person whom Claude Steele mentored, Phillip Atiba Goff, who does a lot of very important social psychological work on racial biases involving the police. Eberhardt and Goff are both really outstanding African American social psychologists who publish some really innovative research that shed light on some of the sources and consequences of systemic racism and biases in policing, as well as in a variety of other contexts.

    I just finished teaching my seminar this past semester, entitled [PSYC 341/WGSS 339] Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination, and my students and I spent the entire semester discussing the issues that the nation is now discussing this week. I like to begin the semester by discussing how important it is to understand how prejudice and discrimination operate on multiple levels, including individual, institutional, and cultural. Although social psychologists, among others, have been talking about systemic racism, in addition to individual racism, for many years, it has only been recently that systemic racism has begun to make its way into more national discussions, and I’m glad that we’re beginning to see more of that.

    I’d also encourage everyone to listen carefully to Springsteen’s “American Skin (41 Shots)” and Childish Gambino's “This is America” right now.

    Prejudice between groups is still a major cause of group segregation throughout the world.

    –Claude Steele

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    Website: Steven Fein

    Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer

    Chaplain to the College

    Yes, here we go again. This is not a new story – police brutality against an African American man. We take to the streets, looking for the next wave of activists. Many of us are not waiting for that wave, they are joining that wave. However, in addition to activists, I think we need to find the next wave of persons who will inspire the activists. Social injustice is a complex, three-dimensional puzzle of entangled pieces. This could be one reason for why it takes so long to change anything, especially systemic racism.

    For moving one piece of a three-dimensional puzzle could entangle two more pieces. Perhaps what we need are more people who can come up with new ideas. Perhaps locked in someone’s imagination is a new idea or thought that might disentangle the mess that has allowed for some police agencies to continue to target and harass black men and women.

    On the eve of the civil rights movement, when the Jim Crow laws seemed relentless, there were those activists who acted quietly, but their words and actions inspired other activists. Their writings and actions introduced new ideas into complex situations. Yes, we know Dr. King taught non-violence, but who was the one who introduced him to the concept of non-violence resistance? Yes, we know Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus but who inspired her to take that action?

    Here is a small collection of people who inspired some of the civil rights activists. These people were often activists in their own right, but gained far less notoriety than civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks.

    Ella Baker was a key person behind the scenes of some of the most influential civil rights organizations including the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Visit the website of her center to learn more about her groundbreaking work.

    Howard Thurman was one of the ministers/teachers who inspired Dr. King, especially his book, Jesus and the Disinherited.

    To learn more about Howard Thurman, you may also visit the PBS show: “Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story

    Another activist who inspired those who were able to bring about institutional change was Pauli Murray. Murray inspired Thurgood Marshall and Eleanor Roosevelt.

    Murray’s story is told in two books, The Firebrand and the First Lady: A Portrait of a Friendship – Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Struggle for Social Justice by Patricia Bell-Scott and in Murray’s posthumously published autobiography, Song in A Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage.

    And finally, of course Toni Morrison, whose last collection of writings, The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches and Meditations starts with a chapter titled “Peril,” which says the following:

    “Authoritarian regimes, dictators, despots are often, but not always, fools. But none is foolish enough to give perceptive, dissident writers free range to publish their judgments or follow their creative instincts. They know they do so at their own peril. They are not stupid enough to abandon control (overt or insidious) over media. Their methods include surveillance, censorship, arrest, even slaughter of those writers informing and disturbing the public. Writers who are unsettling, calling into question, taking another, deeper look. Writers – journalists, essayists, bloggers, poets, playwrights – can disturb the social oppression that functions like a coma on the population, a coma despots call peace, and they stanch the blood flow of war that hawks and profiteers thrill to.

    That is their peril…

    Certain kinds of trauma visited on peoples are so deep, so cruel, that unlike money, unlike vengeance, even unlike justice, or rights, or the goodwill of others, only writers can translate such trauma and turn sorrow into meaning, sharpening the moral imagination. A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.” (page vii-ix.)

    Morrison was speaking to our present situation: an administration that tries to control the media and brave writers who continue to challenge oppression, even before it has a name. I hope you find something new in this collection that you have never seen before, especially if it is a book or essay, picture or artwork that gives name to the unspeakable and therefore a new point on the roadmap to justice and peace. And perhaps you may find yourself naming the present horror and to give meaning to the newest piece of the complex three-dimensional puzzle that is the institutionalized racism that continues to haunt all of us, especially African Americans.

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    Website: Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer

    Vivian Huang

    Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies

    The Combahee River Collective Statement

    Collections:
    Danez Smith, Don't Call Us Dead

    (Huang: “A gorgeous, devastating collection of poems including ‘summer, somewhere’”)

    Books:
    Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? and Freedom is a Constant Struggle

    Audio-visual:

    No One is Disposable: Everyday Practices of Prison Abolition

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    Website: Vivian Huang

    Gretchen Long

    Professor of History and Faculty Affiliate of the Davis Center and the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

    I point you to the Charleston Syllabus and Baltimore Syllabus.

    Also to this timeline from the Root.
    Unprintable word at the end.

    The syllabi are copious, but there are some real winners of books and articles there. Dive in.

    I really hope that students will take the opportunity to enroll in classes at Williams that explore the history and reality of racism. Commit to attending scholarly talks or performances about race. Bring a friend. Keep learning.

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    Website: Gretchen Long

    Laura Martin

    Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Faculty Affiliate in History

    Books:

    Robert D. Bullard and Beverly Wright, The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities

    (Martin: “The book was published before the Covid-19 pandemic, but the parallels are clear: Racism shapes disasters, and it also shapes disaster response.”)

    David Naguib Pellow, What is Critical Environmental Justice?

    (Martin: “This book connects environmental justice scholarship explicitly to recent work in critical race theory and gender and sexuality studies.”)

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    Website: Laura Martin

    Aleksandar Matovski

    Sorkin Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science


    In terms of a reading list, I can offer my syllabus on protest movements that is centered on the civil rights movement.

    There’s a lot there, but watching the multipart PBS documentary “Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement 1954-1985” would be great for reference.

    In terms of racism, there’s a lot here — “I Am Not Your Negro” documentary is worth watching, and Du Bois’ Black Reconstruction in America is still essential reading.

    There’s been a lot of debate on the effects of riots, and this article has been very influential recently: “Agenda Seeding: How 1960s Black Protests Moved Elites, Public Opinion and Voting

    Another argument is here: “Moderate liberals’ weak case against riots

    In terms of motivational material, the song “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” (there’s a Bruce Springsteen version too) that is used in the documentary is very powerful in terms of lyrics and melody.

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    Website: Aleksandar Matovski

    The only thing that we did was right / Was the day we started to fight / Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on.

    —“Keep Your Eyes on the Prize”

    Brittany Meché

    Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow in the Environmental Studies Program

    For now, I can offer a few reading suggestions:

  • Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis
  • When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Cullors and Asha Bandele
  • The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter by Jordan Camp and Christina Heatherton
  • The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Muhammad
  • The Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence by Chad Williams, Kidada Williams, and Keisha Blain

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    Website: Brittany Meché

  • Nimu Njoya

    Assistant Professor of Political Science

    I chose this because it’s the words of Toni Morrison and because every word she ever wrote to me is love. Her last published novel is dedicated to me (it says, For You), and it’s one long letter of love that weaves through pain, trauma, self-doubt, agony, injustice, injustice, injustice, injustice. Injustice. What breaks through is love. Within this long love letter (God Help the Child), a series of shorter love letters make their way between two characters, finding their intended recipient even though the letters are never actually sent. This is from Booker to Bride in the novel, and from Toni Morrison who flew away from us but writes us every day:

    You should take heartbreak of whatever kind seriously
    with the courage to let it blaze and burn like the
    pulsing star it is unable or unwilling to be soothed into
    pathetic self-blame because its explosive brilliance rings
    justifiably loud like the din of a tympani.

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    Website: Nimu Njoya

    Ianna Hawkins Owen

    Assistant Professor of English

    Here is a list of texts I assigned for ENGL 152: Direct Action and Other Black Political Acts:

  • My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass
  • “The General Strike,” chapter in Black Reconstruction by WEB Du Bois
  • Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis
  • When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Cullors and Asha Bandele
  • “Strike and Fade” by Henry Dumas
  • Langston Hughes and the Futures of Diaspora” by Brent Hayes Edwards
  • “Africa's Sons With Banner Red,” chapter in Race Rebels by Robin D.G. Kelley
  • If We Must Die” by Claude McKay
  • Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in Why We Can't Wait by Martin Luther King Jr.
  • On the Bus with Rosa Parks by Rita Dove
  • “The Organizer” by Michael Thelwell
  • See What Tomorrow Brings” by Abba Elethea
  • Insights and Poems by Ericka Huggins and Huey Newton
  • Eva's Man by Gayl Jones

    Documentaries:

  • Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin (2003)
  • Pay It No Mind: Marsha P. Johnson (2012)
  • Free CeCe! (2016)
  • The Last Graduation (1997)

  • Here is the list of texts I assigned for the most recent offering of ENGL 132: Black Writing to/from/about Prisons:

  • Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr.
  • My Dungeon Shook” from The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • Excerpts from If They Come in the Morning, edited by Angela Davis
  • Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis
  • “Live from the Panopticon: Architecture and Power,” chapter from The New Abolitionists, edited by Joy James
  • Evidence” by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
  • “The Rebirth of Caste” and “The New Jim Crow,” chapters from The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • Model Prison Model,” poem from How to be Drawn by Terrance Hayes
  • “The Grand Jury and Police Violence Against Black Men,” by Roger A. Fairfax, Jr., chapter in anthology Policing the Black Man, edited by Angela Davis
  • The Regular Routine” by Nikki Jones
  • Several chapters from Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, edited by Eric Stanley and Nat Smith
  • “Policing (Dis)ability,” chapter from Invisible No More by Andrea Ritchie
  • “Foreword” from I Am Troy Davis by Jen Marlowe and Martina Davis-Correia
  • “Labeling the Hype: Coming of Age in the Era of Mass Incarceration” and “Creating a Youth Support Complex,” chapters from Punished by Victor Rios
  • “J'ouvert, 1996” by Jamel Brinkley
  • Testimonies from In This Place, Not Of It, edited by Robin Levi
  • Assata by Assata Shakur
  • Black Feminist Breathing Chorus: chanting meditations by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
  • “This Is Only Temporary,” short story from Shut Up You're Pretty by Téa Mutonji
  • “Dream House” by Herman Wallace, from anthology Hell Is A Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement
  • Angels with Dirty Faces by Walidah Imarisha
  • “What Is To Be Done” chapter from Golden Gulag by Ruth Wilson Gilmore

  • And these video clips:

  • Patrisse Cullors: “This Shit Works” (5 min)
  • Reina Gossett & Dean Spade, “Prefiguring the World You Want to Live In” (clip on vimeo: 5min)
  • Opal Tometi: “Uniting Racial Justice with Migrant Justice” (watch first 16mins)
  • I Use My Love To Guide Me” (clip on Vimeo)
  • The Attica Prison Uprising: Forty Years Later,” The Nation (18min)
  • Reina Gossett & Dean Spade, “Practicing Prison Abolition Everyday” (clip on vimeo: 11min)
  • The Hard Road to Abolition // Strategies to Win” (on vimeo)
  • Gossett & Spade, “What About the Dangerous People?” (clip on vimeo: 7min)
  • Gossett & Spade, “Gun Control and Producing Dangerousness” (clip on vimeo: 6min)

  • Articles by Ianna Hawkins Owen (website):

  • When All Lives Matter
  • Facing and Fighting Transphobic Violence for Both the Living and the Dead: CeCe McDonald and Brandy Martell
  • Before Us The Open Grave: Responses to Bay Area Police Brutality and the Defense of Black Life
  • We Are Not Here For Ourselves: Alan Blueford, Protocol, and Black Life
  • Creating Outside Agitators
  • Write Back Soon: Mass Incarceration and ‘Writing Intensive’ Vulnerability

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    Website: Ianna Hawkins Owen

  • Rowan Ricardo Phillips

    W. Ford Schumann Distinguished Visiting Professor in Democratic Studies

    This is a situation that is immediate, historical, and obviously deeply intertwined with our uncertain future. Therefore, some reading is required that tackles the myriad of subjects head on, some is required to tie together disparate historical threads, and some is required to be visionary. The most important thing is to read voraciously and to be empathetic.

    Reading lists:
    Chicago Public Library Reading List

    Music:
    Teju Cole's Spotify playlists

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    Website: Rowan Ricardo Phillips

    Shanti Pillai

    Assistant Professor of Theater

    Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferals of information.

    —Paulo Freire

    Books:

  • Alex Haley and Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference
  • Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
  • Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
  • Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
  • Paul B. Preciado, An Apartment on Uranus: Chronicles of the Crossing
  • Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
  • Roderick Ferguson, We Demand: The University and Student Protests

  • Be the change that you wish to see in the world.

    —Mahatma Gandhi

    Audio-visual:

  • Adrian Piper, Deconstructing Race in the Indexical Present
  • Frank Wilderson, Afro-pessimism And Modern Slavery (podcast)
  • Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Coco Fusco, Couple in the Cage
  • Marlon Riggs, Tongues Untied (video available on Kanopy through our library)
  • Stuart Hall, Race the Floating Signifier (video available on Kanopy through our library)

  • There is no point in making yourself believe everything is going to be alright. In doing your best, you can leave this world a better place.

    —Sadhguru


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    Website: Shanti Pillai

    Bernie Rhie

    Associate Professor of English

    Here are a few resources that come immediately to mind, esp. having to do with the connection between meditation/spirituality and the work of anti-racism and racial justice:

    1. "The Spiritual Work of Black Lives Matter": an episode of the podcast On Being recorded in 2016, featuring one of BLM's co-founders, Patrisse Cullors (along with fellow guest Dr. Robert Ross and On Being host, Krista Tippet).

    Here is the episode description: "Black Lives Matter co-founder and artist Patrisse Cullors presents a luminous vision of the spiritual core of Black Lives Matter and a resilient world in the making. She joins Dr. Robert Ross, a physician and philanthropist on the cutting edge of learning how trauma can be healed in bodies and communities. A cross-generational reflection on evolving social change."

    When we show up on the freeway, when we chain ourselves to each other, that’s an act of love. That act of resistance is an act of love, that we will put our bodies on the line for our community and really for this country. In changing black lives, we change all lives.

    —Patrisse Cullors

    2. The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming our Communities Through Mindfulness, a book by Rhonda Magee.

    About the author: "Rhonda V. Magee is a professor of law at the University of San Francisco. Also trained in sociology and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), she is a highly practiced facilitator of trauma-sensitive, restorative MBSR interventions for lawyers and law students, and for minimizing the effects of social-identity-based bias. Magee has been a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society and a visiting professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley."

    3. Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing by David Treleaven. An excellent book on how to practice and teach mindfulness in a trauma-sensitive way. Includes some good discussions of the trauma that can result from just living in a racist, white supremacist society. I attended a workshop with Treleaven on trauma-sensitive meditation instruction, which was excellent. His approach informs the way I now think about and teach meditation myself.

    4. Ruth King and Kamilah Majied are leading a free two-hour long meditation retreat this Sunday, June 7, from 3-5 p.m. Eastern Time on Zoom, called "Black Wellness in the Era of COVID-19: A Retreat For and With Black People."

    From the description of the retreat: "We are painfully living through what the emerging data confirm: that Black people are dying at disproportionate rates and experiencing more negative economic, legal, health and safety consequences due to COVID-19 and the ensuing Shelter in Place mandates. This is having a profound impact on our communities and on each of us personally and professionally. We also know that the causes and effects of these difficult times are deeply rooted in generations of injustice and neglect. Yet our well being depends on our response as leaders. It is time that we gather as Black practitioners, educators, artists, activists, and leaders and share the wisdom of our beautiful collective community. We invite you, our beloved Black community, who do so much holding, caring, and leading, into a space of learning about how meditative practices can help us awaken to and sustain our physical, emotional, social, and communal wellness. All the practices offered in this 2-hour session will seed your capacity to further nurture wellness in the Black communities you practice and lead in, thus enabling you to feel more fortified in guiding your respective communities towards surviving and thriving through the pandemic and beyond."

    Ruth King, who is a meditation teacher in the Insight Meditation tradition, is the author of an excellent book on meditation and anti-racism called Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out. I bet this retreat will be wonderful. For more info about the retreat, including info about how to register, click here.

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    Website: Bernie Rhie

    Neil Roberts

    Chair and Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Faculty Affiliate in Political Science and Religion

    [Linked is the] syllabus for the capstone seminar, "[AFR 450] Sylvia Wynter, Black Lives, and Struggle for the Human."

    In addition, one of my earliest publications has been useful these last few days to scholars and activists thinking through race, racism, and protest, specifically on the question of violence.

    This tweet provides information.

    The direct link to the open access article is here.

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    Website: Neil Roberts

    Mason Williams

    Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies and Political Science

  • Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit
  • Elizabeth Hinton, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America
  • Matthew Lassiter, “Impossible Criminals: The Suburban Imperatives of the War on Drugs

    While racial inequality and violence have a long history in the United States, the specific form they have taken in American cities is a product of the 20th century — of redlining, employment discrimination, and changes in policing practices. Tom Sugrue’s classic history of postwar Detroit shows how racism in housing and labor markets produced racial isolation and deprivation — setting the stage for the riots of the late 1960s and laying the groundwork for today’s urban inequality. Elizabeth Hinton’s landmark history of the war on crime is an essential starting point for understanding the role police play in contemporary American cities. And Matt Lassiter’s article on the war on drugs in suburbia details the flip-side of racial inequality: It was simply politically impossible to police affluent suburbs the same way as urban neighborhoods. This is “white privilege” embodied in governance: Middle-class white parents had the political and cultural power to stop destructive practices that Black communities could not.

  • Keeyanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “Of Course There Are Protests. The State Is Failing Black People.

    Street politics of the kind we are seeing in cities across the country is, among other things, a response to the perceived failure of normal political processes and institutions. In this recent op-ed, the historian Keeyanga-Yamahtta Taylor (whose book Race for Profit was recently a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize) shows how the current protests reflect, not only outrage at police violence and the devastating impact of Covid-19 on communities of color, but also the failures of the democratic state which facilitated these injustices, and the seeming incapacity of American politics to offer meaningful opportunities to address them.

  • Ann Petry, The Street

    A bestseller in its own time but too often overlooked during the postwar years, Ann Petry’s literary thriller The Street tells the story of Lutie Johnson, a single mother struggling to raise her son amid the lures and snares of World War II-era Harlem. Petry’s unflinching and richly psychological novel brings to life the daily experiences of racism, sexism, and poverty which would see Harlem erupt during the 1943 riots while offering an incisive commentary on the American dream.

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    Website: Mason Williams

  • Graphics by Rebecca Tauber. Article design by Nigel Jaffe. Compiled by Jeongyoon Han, Nigel Jaffe, Dominic Madera, Tali Natter, Bellamy Richardson, Rebecca Tauber and Kitt Urdang.