On November 19, Stanford University’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts and African & African American Studies Program in conjunction with The Nation hosted a symposium on Race in the Post-Obama Era.
The first half of the symposium, moderated by H. Samy Alim, featured a conversation about Policing, Mass Incarceration & Racial Justice with Mychal Denzel Smith (The Nation), Rinku Sen (Colorlines), Isabel Garcia (Derechos Humanos) and Reverend Osagyefo Sekou (Fellowship of Reconciliation & King Research and Education Institute).
The second half of the symposium, moderated by Jeff Chang, featured a conversation about The Arts, Racial Justice & Cultural Equity with Favianna Rodriguez (CultureStr/ke), Jasiri X (1Hood), Jonathan Calm (Stanford Department of Art & Art History), Deborah Cullinan (Yerba Buena Center for The Arts), and Rita Gonzalez (Los Angeles County Museum of Art).
Read the framing essays for these two conversations, below and watch these two deeply moving and insightful discussions.
Thinking Freedom Now: Policing, Mass Incarceration & Racial Justice
In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. argued that the triple scourges of America and the world were racism, militarism, and poverty. What we have seen over the past decade is that police brutality and mass incarceration have brought together these three scourges in new and devastating ways for people of color, particularly for African Americans.
Few observers, at home and abroad, have missed the irony that what Michelle Alexander has called “the New Jim Crow” has vaulted into prominence at the precise moment an African-American family occupies the White House. At the start of President Obama’s term in office, polls showed a high level of optimism about race relations. Now four in ten Americans believe that race relations have become worse during Obama’s presidency.
The culture wars have returned, and these culture wars are about race. We have seen the cultural attacks of the birthers, and extremist hijacking of the debate over immigration. These wars mobilize support for racialized domestic policies towards people of color inside the United States, and also shape US immigration and foreign policies that impact people of color around the globe.
We have seen the number of deportations that destroy families and leave children to the violence of the streets reaching a record level—more than 2 million under Obama. Immigrant detention centers are now the fastest growing sector of the for-profit prison industry.
We have seen continued school closings in black and Latino neighborhoods and continued criminalization of youth and children of color and migrants. The school-to-prison pipeline only seems to have strengthened. Racial profiling like New York’s stop-and-frisk program and the intensified surveillance of Muslim houses of worship has intensified. And social media has now given us video after video of police officers—representatives of the racial state—brutalizing, shooting, and killing unarmed black, Latino, and Native American men, women, and children.