Although race and identity always have shaped U.S. politics, they reemerged five years ago in what was supposed to be Obama's post-racial America with new intensity, a political pivot and the unapologetic driver of Donald Trump's unexpected victory.
But the reenergized racial forces that propelled Trump to the White House did not spring out of a vacuum. The crowd-pleasing candidate merely marshaled spirits unleashed half a century ago in what was a culmination of the so-called "Southern strategy," the Republicans' effort to push race and identity to the political forefront. In its seventh show of the season, a panel of nationally known voices will discuss the role of race in American politics and how identity issues are shaping our daily lives.
Imani Perry is an author, columnist for The Atlantic and the Hughes-Rogers professor of African American Studies at Princeton University.
Perry’s work focuses on Black life, suffering and art while connecting slavery and Jim Crow to today’s epidemics of mass incarceration, police brutality and homelessness. She is widely praised for illustrating how the country’s present injustices are rooted in American history.
In myriad articles and the most recent of six books, South to America, Perry, a native of Birmingham, argues that racism often portrayed as limited to the South actually characterizes the entire country. “To be an American is to be infused with the plantation South, with its Black vernacular, its insurgency,” Perry writes in the book, “and also its brutal masculinity, its worship of Whiteness, its expulsion and its massacres, its self-defeating stinginess and unapologetic pride.”
But Perry is equally focused on highlighting the successes, triumphs and uplifting stories of Black individuals. Driven by the goal of making people “more fully recognize each other as human beings,”as she told the Pew Arts Center in a 2021 interview, Perry seeks to depict Black people across time and generations as wholistic beings, an effort to combat media stereotypes and expand young people’s expectations of what they can achieve.
dr. ibram x. Kendi
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is a professor, writer, and the author of the 2019 international bestseller, How to be an Antiracist, a self-help guide to fighting racism in society and in oneself that shaped conversations about race during the 2020 protests.
Hailed as “one of the most important scholars of his generation” by Al Sharpton in a Time magazine profile, Kendi has worked to advance national conversations about the historical roots of racial discrimination and its continued impact.
The author of five bestselling books, including the 2014 National Book Award- winning Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi’s work focuses on institutional rather than individual racism. But he has become a symbol of woke excess for conservatives who paint him as a paragon of liberal efforts to stoke guilt in white children.
An endowed professor at Boston University, he is the Founding Director of the Center for Antiracist Research, a contributing writer at The Atlantic, and a CBS News Racial Justice contributor.
Ali Velshi is a journalist and the host of Velshi on MSNBC, is the next panelist. Throughout his 20-year career he has focused on stories with complicated questions of race at their core, such as the fallout of the killing of George Floyd, the Syrian refugee crisis, Hurricane Katrina, and Donald Trump’s presidency.
A staunch defender of American democracy, Velshi has warned that efforts to mute conversations about race and social issues make room for misinformation that harms our republic. “People get bad information and then they make what end up being political choices because of it,” he said in the mini-series, Velshi Across America, “And in the background democracy starts to crumble.”
To fight this suppression, he hosts “Velshi’s Banned Book Club” to foster conversations about books some don’t want in schools and libraries, as well as invites scholars of race to his TV program. He has, however, expressed concern about sweeping conversations about identity that lack nuance, worrying that a “weaponization of culture” over-defines lines of identity and impedes Americans from talking to one another.
In addition to his keen insights on race, Velshi is widely sought-after economic analyst. He has shared his insights on The View, The Daily Show with John Stewart, and Oprah, and has written two books about business.
Roxane Gay is a columnist, culture critic and the author of five critically acclaimed books, including the bestselling 2014 collection of essays titled Bad Feminist.
A fiction and non-fiction writer, as well as a contributing essayist to the New York Time’s opinion pages, Gay focuses on personal experiences and current events through the lenses of race, body image, queerness, gender and politics – sometimes all at once.
Her brutally honest writing, which often explores trauma and the social factors that shape it, was praised by Time in 2014 as confronting “complex issues of identity and privilege” while being “accessible and insightful.”
Gay argues that suffering and reading about suffering engenders empathy and has suggested reading as a tool for mitigating racism. Gay currently serves as the Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University.