Harris-Perry Discusses Decade Of Challenges, Triumphs For African-Americans

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“We are kind of having a weird decade here in the U.S.,” said Melissa Harris-Perry, an author and host on MSNBC, at a lecture last night on the challenges African-Americans have faced during the past decade. “And I’m using the word ‘weird’ quite purposefully. I know it is a vague term, but I am meaning to be vague on purpose.”

The lecture was presented as a part of the New Directions in African Diaspora Studies lecture series by the African and African Diaspora Studies Program (AADS), in collaboration with the Office of Student Involvement, African Student Organization, Cape Verdean Student Association, and l’Association Haitienne.

Harris-Perry is a professor of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University, her alma mater, and an author of two books, Sister and Citizen: Shames, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America and Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, both of which were available for signing after the lecture.

She focused her lecture, “Crashing into Michael Brown,” on historic events that occurred between 2004 and 2014 involving black Americans. Harris-Perry began her lecture commenting on the Academy Award-winning film, Crash.
“We must start with 2004,” Harris-Perry said. “Crash is the ultimate post-racial film.”

Other events and people she spoke about were Hurricane Katrina, the Jena Six, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and the election of President Barack Obama.

“I do want to remind us that American ideals are never abstract,” she said. “Freedom, justice, goodness, equality, the shining city on the hill is built on the bodies of real people. There is a struggle for freedom.”

As a screen behind her showed pictures of defining moments in history for black Americans, Harris-Perry commented on the struggles of freedom, as well as citizenship, integration, voting rights, inclusion, safety in public and private life, and justice. These struggles are always interconnected, she said.

After explaining charts and graphs showing the change in unemployment rates over the years, Harris-Perry then stressed the importance of education.

“I don’t care what your grades are. Just finish. I don’t care how many loans you have. [If] there’s a ‘C –,’ just keep it moving, until you have a degree. ‘Whooo, Imma pay back those loans later,’” she said to a laughing crowd.

Her lecture also covered the problems caused by the racial makeup of neighborhoods in the United States.

“In a tangible way, democracy starts in our neighborhoods,” she said. “Our housing patterns are a white noose around a black inner city.”

She concluded her lecture with a message to the audience: The struggles that black Americans face today in post-racial America will not go away if people continue to see each other as problems.

Featured Image: Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff