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People across the country, from presidential hopefuls and engaged voters to journalists and activists, are grappling with how to think and talk about racism in American politics.
In this Oct. 11 talk, Berkeley Law professor Ian Haney López, one of the nation’s leading thinkers on how racism has evolved in the U.S. since the civil rights era, discusses his new book, Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections and Saving America, offering insight and hopeful new strategy for defeating the right’s racial fearmongering and achieving bold progressive goals.
“… Republicans have been saying for 50 years, ‘Democrats only care about people of color.’ And now, whenever folks hear a conversation about race, about racial justice, they immediately default to a frame, ‘This is racial justice? That’s for people of color.’ We need to say expressly, ‘Racial justice? That’s for white folks, too.’
“Whites need to hear that they will benefit from being part of a multiracial coalition … When we tested this message with communities of color, they had far more confidence in a multiracial coalition when we said, ‘Whites will benefit,’ because that told people of color, ‘Oh, this isn’t just kumbaya and we’re all going to do this because we should.’ This is, ‘White folks need to save their families, and to save their families, they’ve got to work with us.’ And once they know that, people of color say, ‘Yes, this might work. This might work.'”
This talk was organized as part of a series of events under the banner of the 400 Years of Resistance to Slavery and Injustice initiative, UC Berkeley’s yearlong commemoration marking the anniversary of the forced arrival of Africans in the English colonies in 1619. The initiative was launched in the spirit of the 400 Years of African American History Commission Act, federal legislation signed last year that acknowledged the impact of slavery in the United States and called for a national commission to help support events around the country to commemorate the anniversary.
Watch a video of the talk below, and learn about upcoming 400 Years events on the Haas Institute’s website.