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This event is the part of The African American Studies Department's yearlong series of virtual conversations on the historical, social and psychological, economic, and political consequences and implications of racial slavery, injustice, and structural inequality in America.

“For the horrors of the American Negro’s life,” wrote James Baldwin (1924-1987), “there has been almost no language.” Baldwin argued that the “unspeakable crimes” against our humanity have produced “unnameable objects”—objects that seem to accumulate with each passing generation, overwhelming the U.S. social landscape like grotesque scenes from an installation by artist Kara Walker. The American pastime of lynching; the “necropolitics” of sentencing disparities and lifetime incarceration of minors; the social policing and criminalization of Black bodies; the banal spectacle of police murder and the insouciance it produces with respect to the value of Black lives—all such horrors defy comprehension except for when viewed through the lens and within the logic of the American caste system. By interrogating the consequences and impact of racial trauma, this discussion panel attempts to mine the terrain of historical, structural, and political violence enacted against the minds and bodies of Black Americans with a particular focus on (1) identifying the costs of anti-Black racism to our personal and public health; and (2) developing strategies to address the root causes of racial trauma and the disparate impact of racial injustices and inequalities. For as Toni Morrison (1931-2019) reminds us, “W.E.B. Dubois’s observation about double consciousness is a strategy, not a prophecy or a cure.”

John B. Slaughter Endowed Reparations Series Details