Taken altogether, these survey results aren’t terribly surprising: They’re backed up by the reams of data that show the extent to which African-Americans are far more likely to live in areas with concentrated poverty even when they are high earners, are more likely to go to segregated and underfunded schools, and more likely to be stopped by the police and searched once they are. Black folks are living objectively more difficult lives than similarly situated white folks.
But here is a sobering thought: What if the black respondents to the NPR survey, who almost unanimously assumed that anti-black discrimination was a given, were like the people in the Urban Institute study and actually underestimating the drag that discrimination exerts on their lives? As data becomes more accessible and granular, we can more easily see how race is often the only variable that explains disparate treatment. If these responses are how people feel about discrimination based largely on what they can glean from their own direct experiences and commiserating with relatives and neighbors, it’s not hard to imagine that the full picture is even less rosy than these data suggest at first glance.
– Gene Demby
Professor Ruha Benjamin presented at Future Perfect, a conference sponsored by the New York City based research group, Data & Society.
Full conference summary.
Future Perfect resumed with a presentation by Ruha Benjamin, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Benjamin used speculative ethnographic field notes to deliver her talk, entitled “Designer and discarded genomes: Experimenting with sociological imagination through speculative methods.” In order to “explore the antecedents and implications of the current era of genetic engineering,” Benjamin read a series of field notes from the Human Genome Project-Write initiative, a 2016 convening at Harvard for discussing the implications and logistics of producing synthetic human genomes. Benjamin subsequently read fictional field notes from 1816 and 2216 — 200 years into the past and future, respectively.
Benjamin drew attention to the changing standards of what constitutes “human life,” using her notes from 1816 to explore ideas of “humanity” as applied to enslaved peoples during the Middle Passage. Her 2216 notes explored speculative divisions between beings modified so that they no longer have to eat, and unmodified beings which still used food as an energy source. By doing so, Benjamin had the audience consider what part of “humanity” was discarded in the context of slavery. In the future, she asked, when we have the power to design “‘ideal’ genomes, what versions of humanity are discarded?” Benjamin concluded by observing that “fictions are not falsehoods, but re-fashionings.”
This talk by Wendy Laura Belcher is a condensed version of her article, “Same-Sex Intimacies in the Early African Text the Gädlä Wälättä P̣eṭros (1672) about an Ethiopian Female Saint,” which will be published in the journal Research in African Literatures in 2016.
What does it mean to be a racist?
Take an implicit bias test to find out – even the most well-intentioned among us might be surprised at the results.
So where do our unconscious beliefs and biases toward other racial and ethnic groups come from and how can they be changed?
Professor Stacey Sinclair joined radio host Marty Moss-Coane on WHYY’s Radio Times to explore the questions above, and more. Jack Glaser of University of California-Berkeley also participates in the discussion.