What We’re Reading: December 2015
Recommendations by the Winter Institute staff
We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future (book)
Has ‘Diversity’ Lost Its Meaning? (article)
Anna Holmes examines the ways in which the term “diversity” is used and its meaning diluted in the technology, publishing, and entertainment industries, for The New York Times Magazine.
Most people assume that racism grows from a perception of human difference: the fact of race gives rise to the practice of racism. Sociologist Karen E. Fields and historian Barbara J. Fields argue otherwise: the practice of racism produces the illusion of race, through what they call “racecraft.” And this phenomenon is intimately entwined with other forms of inequality in American life. So pervasive are the devices of racecraft in American history, economic doctrine, politics, and everyday thinking that the presence of racecraft itself goes unnoticed. That the promised post-racial age has not dawned, the authors argue, reflects the failure of Americans to develop a legitimate language for thinking about and discussing inequality. That failure should worry everyone who cares about democratic institutions.
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. “Just Mercy “is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.
Citizen: An American Lyric (book)
Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. In essay, image, and poetry, “Citizen” is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society. “Citizen” won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and was also nominated in the criticism category, making it the first double-nominee in the award’s history.
Susan E. Chase’s book can be useful to students and educators on campuses undergoing diversity initiatives. The author finds that both students’ willingness to share personal stories about their diverse experiences and collaboration among student organizations, student affairs offices, and academic programs encourage speaking and listening across differences and help incorporate diversity as part of the overall mission of the university.
The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies (book)
In this landmark book, Scott Page redefines the way we understand ourselves in relation to one another. “The Difference” is about how we think in groups–and how our collective wisdom exceeds the sum of its parts. Why can teams of people find better solutions than brilliant individuals working alone? And why are the best group decisions and predictions those that draw upon the very qualities that make each of us unique? The answers lie in diversity–not what we look like outside, but what we look like within, our distinct tools and abilities.