Crucial conversations

From innovative research to seminars with prominent stakeholders and intellectuals, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America broadens the dialogue on today’s pivotal issues.

“Crises are rich opportunities,” asserts Tricia Rose, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA). “For example, after the last presidential election, many people across the political spectrum were confused and concerned about the state of race and the anti-immigrant tenor of the public conversation. They also wanted to learn more and consider pathways forward.”

So the CSREA, a leading voice on complex and important social issues, responded with a range of programs. One was “ARTivism: Power, Healing, and the 2016 Presidential Elections,” an art exhibition that encouraged students to recognize their own power when it comes to elections, and to express their thoughts and feelings about belonging and the current political state of affairs.

Next the center funded a dialogue by two respected scholars on immigration and the move to ban Muslim immigrants. Later in the year, CSREA organized a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals teach-in that complemented its five-part year-long “Critical Migrations and Refugee Studies” lecture series and a symposium on “Immigration and the Politics of Belonging.”

And then...Charlottesville happened.

“We felt it was important to explore this painful event in enriching ways that only research units committed to accessible real-world application can,” says Rose. “And the white supremacy march at the University of Virginia offered a striking opportunity for reflection and learning.”

The result was a conversation with Shannon Sullivan, chair and professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. An expert on race and white identity and herself a southern white woman, she was invited to talk about her book entitled “Good White People: The Problem with Middle-Class White Anti-Racism.”

“The Parent’s Weekend forum was called ‘Good White People after Charlottesville,’” remembers Rose. “I opted for an interview style format in order to include the audience in the conversation from the start. We were packed! Professor Sullivan did a wonderful job engaging the insights of more than 200 Brown parents and students. The conversation was filled with such grace and patience, it was fantastic. I learned so much.”

As did many of the attendees.

We feature scholars who are committed to sharing complicated ideas in ways that can be easily understood. Our approach is to help create a welcoming space for the necessity of uncomfortable learning. You can’t stay comfortable and do the work that needs to be done.

Tricia Rose Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America

“What I remember most,” says Stéphanie Larrieux, the center’s associate director, “is not only the hugely diverse audience, but also the steady stream of people at the reception afterwards who wanted to talk about their experiences. One father said: ‘Here I am trying on new language with other parents. Something is happening in this process that's live; it’s allowed me to connect differently.’ Others said it helped them better understand what their children were talking about when they come home on break after taking a class.”

That reaction is exactly what the CSREA hopes to achieve.

The center takes pivotal issues in society and brings in experts as well as stakeholders and activists in order to convene conversations that are informed and accessible. “We want great ideas to be connected to community,” explains Rose. “So we feature scholars who are committed to sharing complicated ideas in ways that can be easily understood. Our approach is to help create a welcoming space for the necessity of uncomfortable learning. You can’t stay comfortable and do the work that needs to be done.”

The long-term vision?

“To have a national—even an international—reputation for expanding understanding about race and ethnicity in a way that is accessible as well as hard hitting and truth telling,” says Rose. “One that changes the conversation about race in a productive way and allows us to live up to our potential.”

That vision dovetails perfectly with the ideals of Building on Distinction, the strategic plan on which the comprehensive BrownTogether campaign is based, because “studying race and ethnicity in the United States,” she says, “is at the heart of creating a just society.”

Tricia Rose is the Chancellor's Professor of Africana Studies, Associate Dean of the Faculty for Special Initiatives, and Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America.

 

Interested in supporting the work of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America? Please contact:

Shelley Roth
Regional Development Director
[email protected]

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