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All students participating in the Reckoning initiative explored three shared readings in addition to the readings specific to their individual Reckoning course. Each text was chosen by the faculty to represent one aspect of the shared learning initiative’s themes: race, memory and what it means to be a public university.

 

Race

Coates, Ta-Nehisi.  2015.  “Letter to My Son.”  The Atlantic Monthly 316 (2): 82-91.

A segment of his book Between the World and Me (2015), American writer and activist Ta-Nehisi Coates structures this essay as a letter to his teenage son, Samori. Coates discusses his views on how a black man must grapple with the realities of racism in a white nationalist United States. Through his analysis, he discusses the enslavement of the black people and other acts of pillaging, violence, and oppression, as fundamental to power structures that sustain America’s illusory “greatness” and how these are embodied by people of color living in the contemporary moment. He emphasizes that racism “is a visceral experience.” At the same time, Coates refuses to say that race is fixed or inevitable. He argues that whiteness is a product of belief, entangled in suppressed knowledge about America’s social and economic legacy of exploiting others. The essay also delves into the complex discussion of racial privilege in this country through the lens of a father explaining this to his child.

 

Memory

Stevenson, Bryan. 2018. “Confederate Iconography in the 20th Century.” In Segregation in America, 106-112. Report prepared by the Equal Justice Initiative.

This essay is part of a report prepared by the Equal Justice Initiative called Segregation in America, which tells the story of national opposition to civil rights and racial equality in the U.S. White Americans concentrated in the South and influential throughout the country conducted a widespread, organized, and determined campaign to defend segregation and white supremacy during the American Civil Rights Movement. The mass opposition to civil rights was led by elected officials, journalists, and white leaders who espoused virulently racist ideologies, shut down public schools and parks to prevent integration, and encouraged violence against civil rights activists. Confederate iconography that saturates the American landscape has gained national attention in recent years, but many Americans do not realize that scores of Confederate monuments were installed in the 1950s and 60s as part of the mass opposition to civil rights and racial equality. More than 1500 Confederate monuments across the United States, including dozens outside the South, can be explored in an interactive map in this online report.

 

University

Purifoy, Danielle. 2019. “Shrieking Sam.” Scalawag Magazine. January 14, 2019.

This article by UNC postdoctoral scholar, geographer, and lawyer Danielle Purifoy helps historicize the Silent Sam confederate monument and its toppling on UNC’s campus, as well as the community’s and administration’s response.  It places the social activism resulting in the removal of the monument in the broader context of institutionalized racism and the legacy of white supremacy at UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as student movements against both in previous decades. The article also stresses the importance of recording this history now as it continues to unfold and we shape it.