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“So You Want to Talk About Race” — Why It Matters Now

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  • Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch
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It is particularly important to revisit the issue of race within this current moment because Americans need to make sense of what has happened and why. Through conversations and series like “So You Want to Talk About Race,” we need to reckon with the very real fact that what we have seen in the past few weeks, months and years is not new. A close reading of our history from sources most don't consider or are even aware of reveals very clearly that these are old struggles with new faces and in different historical contexts.

The questions however, remain the same. Who is an American? And, who has the right to access all of the rights, privileges and responsibilities that come along with being an American? Who possesses power and who is powerless? And, how do we continue to refine the practice of democracy so that it is not just rhetorical, but is in fact a reality that is truly accessible to ALL.

In my estimation, because of the length of time and the determined labor invested in the multigenerational elevation some and the marginalization of others simply of their race, despite any recent progression, we will be revisiting this moment for quite some time to come.

Join us for a new digital series “So You Want to Talk About Race,” where I sit down with New York Times best-selling author Ijeoma Oluo for a frank, honest exchange about how to discuss race, what talks on race don’t have to be and practical tools for having hard conversation on youtube.com/ArkansasPBS.

The “So You Want to Talk About Race” digital series is a jumping-off point for thoughtful discourse about race in America, but there are also many other avenues to wind through. Delve deeper with these reading suggestions:

Headshots of authors Daina Ramey Berry and Kali N. Gross and A Black Women’s History of the United States book cover

“A Black Women’s History of the United States” by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali N. Gross

A vibrant and empowering history, “A Black Women’s History of the United States” emphasizes the perspectives and stories of African American women to show how they are — and have always been — instrumental in shaping our country.

Beyond Respectability book cover and author Brittney Cooper’s headshot

“Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women” by Brittany Cooper

Charting the development of African American women as public intellectuals, “Beyond Respectability” traces the evolution of their thought from the end of the 1800s through the Black Power era of the 1970s.

So You Want to Talk About Race book cover and headshot of author Ijeoma Oluo

“So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo

Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy — from police brutality to the mass incarceration of Black Americans — has put a media spotlight on racism in our society. Still, it is a difficult subject to talk about. In “So You Want to Talk About Race,” Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to "model minorities" in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.

An African American and Latinx History book cover and headshot of author Paul Ortiz

“An African American and Latinx History of the United States” by Paul Ortiz

Spanning more than two hundred years, “An African American and Latinx History of the United States” is a revolutionary, politically charged narrative history, arguing that the “Global South” was crucial to the development of America as we know it. Scholar and activist Paul Ortiz challenges the notion of westward progress as exalted by widely taught formulations like “manifest destiny” and “Jacksonian democracy,” and shows how placing African American, Latinx, and Indigenous voices unapologetically front and center transforms US history into one of the working class organizing against imperialism.

Blood in Their Eyes book cover and headshot of author Grif Stockley

“Blood in Their Eyes: The Elaine Massacre of 1919” by Grif Stockley, Bryan K. Mitchell and Guy Lancaster

On Sept. 30, 1919, local law enforcement in rural Phillips County, Arkansas, attacked black sharecroppers at a meeting of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America. The next day, hundreds of white men from the Delta, along with U.S. Army troops, converged on the area “ … with blood in their eyes.” What happened next was one of the deadliest incidents of racial violence in the history of the United States, leaving a legacy of trauma and silence that has persisted for more than a century. In the wake of the massacre, the NAACP and Little Rock lawyer Scipio Jones spearheaded legal action that revolutionized due process in America.

The first edition of Grif Stockley’s “Blood in Their Eyes,” published in 2001, brought renewed attention to the Elaine Massacre and sparked valuable new studies on racial violence and exploitation in Arkansas and beyond. With contributions from fellow historians Brian K. Mitchell and Guy Lancaster, this revised edition draws from recently uncovered source material and explores in greater detail the actions of the mob, the lives of those who survived the massacre, and the regime of fear and terror that prevailed under Jim Crow.

The Combahee River Collective cover and headshot of author Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

“How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective” by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

The Combahee River Collective, a path-breaking group of radical black feminists, was one of the most important organizations to develop out of the antiracist and women’s liberation movements of the 1960s and 70s. In “How We Get Free,” activist-scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta edits the collection of essays and interviews by  Taylor, founding members of the organization and contemporary activists who reflect on the legacy of its contributions to Black feminism and its impact on today’s struggles.

WATCH NOW:

“So You Want to Talk About Race” Arkansas PBS Digital Series

LEARN MORE:

“So You Want to Talk About Race” on Arkansas PBS

About the author: Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch — cohost of the Arkansas PBS “So You Want to Talk About Race” digital series – is the James and Wanda Lee Vaughn Endowed Professor of History and Dean of the Graduate School at Arkansas State University.  She has written numerous articles on women’s Civil Rights and rural activism and is the author of “Crossing the Line: Women and Interracial Activism in South Carolina During and After World War II” (2014). She is also co-editor of “Arkansas Women: Their Lives and Times” (2018).  Her second monograph, “Better Living by Their Own Bootstraps: Black Women’s Activism in Rural Arkansas, 1914-1965,” will be published in June 1921 by the University of Arkansas Press.