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AAA on the Hill: The State of Race in 2010 Podcast

A small portion of the RACE exhibit was on display

On Jan. 12-13, 2010, the AAA was joined by the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus in hosting a groundbreaking symposium, “A New National Dialogue on Race,” on Capitol Hill. The program brought together diverse leaders to discuss a vision for race dialogue, identify trends in racial disparities, and consider a social justice agenda for 2010 and beyond. A recording of the first panel is provided below, along with pictures and questions that panelists did not have time to answer.

The State of Race in 2010: Defining a New Dialogue
[Click here to listen – mp3]

Panelists discuss how leaders can foster sustained and productive engagement with entrenched and new issues of race and racism.  Where must the dialogues take place and how should they intersect with conversations about other aspects of our national cultural diversity?

Moderator: Dr. Leith Mullings (Graduate Center, CUNY)
Panelists: Dr. Sayyid M. Sayeed (Islamic Society of North America), Dawn Baum (Native American Rights Fund), Dr. John Jackson (University of Pennsylvania), Hilary Shelton (NAACP), Doua Thor (Southeast Asia Resource Action Center) Rinku Sen (Applied Research Center/Colorlines Magazine)
Discussant: Dr. Johnnetta Cole (Smithsonian National Museum of African Art)

Summary: Following Dr. Mullings introduction, Dr. Sayeed highlighted the intersections between racial and religious discrimination while expressing hope that Obama’s election is a step forward in recognizing deeply-rooted problems in our nation.  Dawn Baum applauded recent efforts to improve relations between Native American tribes and the US government, but reminded attendees that much progress remains.  Dr. John Jackson, Jr. gave an engaging talk stressing the need for a new way to discuss and think about race without the prompting of an overtly racist event.  Hilary Shelton gave a thorough account of the racial disparities plaguing our country and echoed Jackson’s call to replace beer summits with serious discussions.  Doua Thor discussed the implications of being labeled a “model [Asian] minority” and how this has created friction between and within communities. Rinku Sen critiqued attempts to remedy individual behavior, advocating instead for deep structural change.  Lastly, Dr. Cole tied these rich ideas together, and urged listeners to own all of their multiple identities as a way to cultivate understanding and improve dialogue.

Unanswered Questions [responses can be posted in the comments section]:

  1. Can someone speak a bit about race through the lens of immigration—where one group of people is often given priority and access to American shores yet another group is denied?  For example, Haitians and (vs.) Cubans.
  2. What structural changes should those in the racial justice struggle be advocating now, especially in light of the popular and judicial backlash against affirmative action programs?
  3. Each race obviously has its own scars, history and struggles.  Clearly, based on the panelists, many of you agreed that race is not biological.  Dr. Jackson mentioned that productive discussions about race cannot be on the backs of other races.  How do we have a productive conversation when so many times the conversations become about who suffered more and who endured more versus how do we identify a different approach to race?
  4. What would you suggest for an audience member to do to help rectify our racial problems?
  5. Rinku Sen – I appreciate you sharing with us.  It seemed as if your solutions are aligned with feminist views of changing the system or structure instead of conforming to it or tweaking it a little. I would like to learn more about your views on race and its relationship with class, gender and sexuality, as well as how to organize communities to overcome and change laws and treatment that are discriminatory. What literature have you written that best addresses this? Thank you.
  6. Dawn Baum – Does the writer Sherman Alexi create positive attitudes about Native Americans?
  7. I notice that there aren’t any white folks on the panel talking about their responsibility in this conversation.  Can a white person in the room please speak to that?

Answered Questions:

  • Being explicit about race is a double-edged sword, especially when trying to enlist the cooperation of white Americans, as that community often does not see themselves as “raced” and not “racist.” How does one approach that community when talking about race?
  • Please discuss the significance of race within the context of the International Committee to End Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and other UN committees and treaties.
  • How do we involve our children in the discussion of race?
  • I work with a large Afro/Latino community that does not identify with African culture and refers to it negatively. How can this conversation help in the issue of identity?

AAA President-Elect Leith Mullings with John Jackson, Jr.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) speaks with Yolanda Moses and Johnnetta Cole

Michael Blakey, Johnnetta Cole, and Hilary Shelton pose with Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA)

Michael Blakey, Johnnetta Cole, and Hilary Shelton with Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA)

3 Responses

  1. You wrote: Being explicit about race is a double-edged sword, especially when trying to enlist the cooperation of white Americans, as that community often does not see themselves as “raced” and not “racist.” How does one approach that community when talking about race?

    There is a re-framing that whites need to have about the history of our nation. I am appalled by the fictions and outright lies I was taught as a student . Learning about the medical and experimental brutalities, the reinslavement of blacks in the south after Reconstruction, the incredible misery of the wars against indigenous peoples in North America, and a host of other vicious policies and is a start.

    As a white person working on race and social justice issues in Seattle, I feel it is my responsibility to connect with other whites to share the message that racism hurts all of us. My community and work place are very diverse, yet that does not mean that racism is in the past tense. The existence of racism is evident in the experiences of people of color who walk the same halls and streets I do. I seek ways to explain the differences to whites with enough specifity without creating more pain and trauma for the people who told them to me. White folks are the ones who have to recognize their privilege and lose the myth that all Americans have the same opportunities.

  2. As with the dog that didn’t bark, I noted the absence of discussion of non-African-American entanglements in the debate on race.

    As a striver in the field of political anthropology and law, I find that race, even though an increasingly displaced field of academic relevance in some quarters, is being newly employed by the courts and legislators in relation to Native Americans, Hawaiians and Alaskan Natives (in the US), in relation to Aboriginal peoples (Indian, Inuit and Metis) in Canada, and as concerns the Aboriginees of Australia and the Mouri of New Zealand.

    The “one-drop” or Jim Crow rules that were adopted in the early 20th century as definitional and social devices to distinguish persons on the basis of race have been well studied. They have, however, been altered to some degree, and migrated to new tests and standards, implicating racial presumptions of association. These, whether associated with Afro-American or other ethnic associations, such as Ameri-indian, need to be studied much more than they are today.

    I look forward to hearing of the results of the conference, and wish only to solicit an exchange between interested practitioners and academics on the specific matter of the new usage of race in relation to Indigenous or Native American peoples.

  3. To me the healing of racism is when all respect the dignity of each other….living accordingly.

Comments are closed.


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