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]:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- What would you suggest for an audience member to do to help rectify our racial problems?
- 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.
- Dawn Baum – Does the writer Sherman Alexi create positive attitudes about Native Americans?
- 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?
- 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?