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Anthropologists Discuss Race on Capitol Hill

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November 18, 2009

Congressional Black Caucus Calls on AAA Experts

On Wednesday, November 18th, RACE Project advisors Michael Blakey (C William and Mary) and Alan Goodman (Hampshire C) traveled to Capitol Hill to participate in “A Discussion on Race and Politics,” sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). A celebration of the 25th anniversary of Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr.’s historic first run for the U.S. presidency, the event was part of the CBC’s Opportunities for All: Pathways Out of Poverty initiative. Other panelists included Lisa Crooms (Howard U School of Law), Khalilah Brown-Dean (Yale U) and Marc Morial (National Urban League). Speakers’ and audience members’ comments acknowledged the monumental sociocultural transformations that have taken place since Reverend Jackson’s 1984 presidential run, and addressed contemporary challenges in the area of racial justice.

Following introductions by CBC Chairwoman the Honorable Barbara Lee and a video tribute to Reverend Jackson, Goodman began the discussion by making the case for a shift in scientific paradigm and priorities from the exploration of race-as-genetics towards illuminating the biological consequences of race and racism. Blakey then presented on the “new American racism,” describing a current sociocultural and political environment in which efforts to highlight and redress historical and contemporary racism (e.g., affirmative action) are now defined by many as racist, while policies and practices challenging such efforts have become the new “anti-racism.” Crooms described current efforts designed to expand and align the U.S. Civil Rights legislative framework with a broader, global human rights agenda.  Brown-Dean ended the panelists’ presentations by discussing the potential influence on electoral politics of the country’s rapidly changing racial-ethnic composition, after which the panel addressed questions from the audience.  A number of AAA staff members and local anthropologists attended the event.

Dr. Michael Blakey is National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary where he directs the Institute for Historical Biology. Dr. Blakey specializes in biohistory, skeletal biology and has published many pivotal works, including articles on race and scientific racism in journals such as American Anthropologist and American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Dr. Alan Goodman is Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty at Hampshire College. He is nationally known for his work on human variation, race, genetics and racism, human adaptability, nutritional and medical anthropology, as well as skeletal and dental biology. He is an Associate Editor of The Encyclopedia of Race and Racism.

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