This guide supports the February 2018 visit to DePauw by Dr. Menna Demessie, as part of Black History Month programming. At 8:00 p.m., on February 19 in Watson Forum, Dr. Demessie will give a public presentation entitled, "The Paradox of Racial Progress and Public Policy: Why Race and Racism Still Matter and What to do About It!"
In James Baldwin’s 1962 “Letter to My Nephew,” he says, “You know and I know that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too early.” From the Emancipation Proclamation to the Civil Rights Movement and two-time election of President Barack Obama has come great racial progress, yet America still wrestles with its inclination to celebrate racial progress before appreciating the spaces racial progress itself provides to come to terms with the ramifications of slavery and Jim Crow. Additionally, communities of color and policymakers responsible for ensuring the federal government makes good on its legislative commitment to justice and equality must grapple with present day racism aimed to curb racial progress. As America yearns to celebrate its perceived graduation into a “post-racial” era, it must confront Jim Crow Jr. who stands by her side holding a balloon in one hand while plotting how to bust the balloon with the other. Racial progress has birthed more opportunity for black people as much as it has fueled racist opposition to perpetuate inequality for black people in modern day. How so? Let’s talk about the paradox and what to do about it.
Dr. Menna Demessie is the Vice President for Policy Analysis and Research for the Congressional Black Caucus. Dr. Demessie completed her B.A. in Economics, Law and Society with Honors from Oberlin College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. She has published work on representation and civil rights and worked in various capacities on Capitol Hill.
The Africana Studies program is thankful to all programs, departments, and offices that supported bringing Menna Demessie to DePauw!