Raising our Voices on Race and Racism

Raising our Voices on Race and Racism is the result of a collaborative grassroots effort among faculty, students and community members at the University of Maine. Outraged by deeply rooted, systemic and recently resurgent forms of racism and racialized violence, we felt compelled to raise our voices on race and racism. While we recognize that we all have a lot more work to do, we hope that this series of publicly available mini lectures and community discussions might help to move the needle towards active anti-racist practice and pedagogy on campus and beyond.  

Mini-lectures were originally delivered live in the fall of 2020.  The two part webinar series was supported by Native American Programs, the McGillicuddy Humanities Center, the School of Social Work and the Departments of Anthropology, Philosophy, Communications and Journalism, and Political Science. For additional information, contact Cindy Isenhour at cynthia.isenhour@maine.edu.

Part I: The Construction, Institutionalization, and Experience of Race and Racism

Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism: U.S., India, Sri Lanka, Holocaust, and Today (12:48)

Dr. Douglas Allen, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy

What is race and how is it related to racism and anti-racism? In the U.S., that question usually elicits a simple response: Race is biological and is defined by skin color. Nevertheless, examples from throughout the world show that responses to that question are open-ended, complex, and must be contextualized. For example, there are skin-color dimensions to Indian racialized discourse, seen in inherited caste and lighter-skinned superiority, defined by Aryan socialization and British colonialism. This talk will also analyze perplexing racial constructions in Sri Lanka amidst the violent civil war, as “different race” was defined linguistically, and constructions of race and racism related to antisemitism, Nazi ideology, and the Holocaust genocide of Jews that had little to do with skin color. What relations express anti-racism today?

Affirmative Action for White People (15:38)

Dr. Amy Fried, Professor of Political Science

Who gets helped by the government? Focusing on research on a set of well-known, very popular policies — Social Security and the post-World War II G.I. Bill — this lecture will discuss how their design constituted what scholar Ira Katznelson calls “affirmative action for whites.” A key reason why these policies were designed in this way was the political power of the white South as part of the New Deal coalition. In contrast, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, almost immediately caused changes in health care delivery although racialized health disparities certainly remain. Policies often seen as racially neutral often are not, and policy designs are related to patterns of race and political power.

The Deception of Invisibility (13:02)

Dr. Judith Josiah-Martin, Faculty in the School of Social Work  

When we exist in majority environments, there is a level of assimilation often seen in the behavior of minority or under-represented groups that presents as conformity, peace keeping, “we are all the same”, non-direct eye contact, and/or passivity that over time leads to a loss of personhood and maybe even identity. This presentation will share a narrative of how and what that looks like for some individuals identifying as “black” and “female” in majority white environments.

Part II: Historical Roots and Contemporary Reverberations

The Doctrine of Christian Discovery Underpinning European Colonization (14:33)

John Dieffenbacher-Krall, Committee on Indian Relations, Episcopal Diocese of Maine 

Structural racism encompasses the entire system of racial and ethnic domination, diffused and infused in all aspects of society. The colonialism undertaken by Western Christendom enjoyed legal and moral approval from the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and Domination (DoD). This concept provided the legal and moral justification for European settlement of the Western Hemisphere and other regions. This presentation examines how the US inherited the rights of the “conqueror” and incorporated this religious concept into Federal Indian Law. 

The Penobscot Nation, Territorial Takings, and the State of Maine (15:49)

Dr. Darren Ranco, Professor of Anthropology & Chair of Native American Programs; Chelsea Fairbank, PhD candidate in Anthropology & Environmental Policy  

Drawing on a stronger understanding of the origin and significance of the Doctrine of Discovery in the Wabinaki Tribe’s relationships with the State of Maine and Federal Government, this discussion focuses on settler colonialism and how the Doctrine manifests itself in contemporary environmental justice issues.  Specifically, current Wabanaki-Maine relations, as illuminated in the case Penobscot Nation v. Frey are analyzed.  We illustrate the ways in which the ongoing structures of colonialism and racial hierarchies reveal themselves in our contemporary moment.

Racism & the Environment: Learning from Local Efforts for Institutional Change and Environmental Justice (17:54)

Dr. Bridie McGreavy, Associate Professor of Environmental Communication; Dr. Darren Ranco, Professor of Anthropology & Chair of Native American Programs; Nolan Altvater, McGillicuddy Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow 

This presentation will focus on environmental racism and highlight the importance of advancing systemic, institutional-level change for social and environmental justice. Through a dialogue-based approach, we will introduce environmental racism and describe our experiences studying and trying to address this form of racism across scales and contexts, and within emerging academic disciplines. We’ll then describe multiple efforts to bring environmental justice, decolonizing, and equity commitments to the University of Maine as an institution.