American cauldron: Race relations

June 30, 2016 Bryan Craig

The nation is grappling with both the enormous question of who will succeed President Obama and what the nation’s agenda should be as of January 2017. Some of the most urgent questions will focus on the issue of race in America, in particular, police violence toward minority citizens, whether racism remains strong in the country, and whether “structural racism” is embedded in our institutions.

In conjunction with the First Year Project, this special American Forum episode offers advice for the next president by two leading voices in these issues: Michael Eric Dyson, a sociologist and author at Georgetown University, and Elizabeth Hinton, a professor of history and African American studies at Harvard and author of From the War on Poverty To The War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America.

In the first clip, watch Professor Hinton discuss the need to confront racism. She argues, “American inequality is not going to end until we really confront head on racism and the historical legacies of enslavement...We’re still dealing with the impact of slavery today. It has seeped into not only our policies, not only the ways in which we allocate resources, but the worldview of many of Americans. We have to deal with those legacies and the ways in which African Americans since emancipation have been structurally prevented from really being able to come up with their own solutions to the problems facing their own communities.”

In the second clip, Professor Dyson speaks about the opportunity lost by President Obama in dealing with racial tensions, saying: "The greatest power a president may ultimately have is a rhetorical one. That is to set the tone...And Obama has not even seized upon the historical capital available to him to articulate these visions in a different way...Ain’t nobody holding back Obama from executive orders, and from making speeches, and from intervening...."

Watch the full program here.