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Structural Racism in America: Watch, Listen, Explore

By Brooklyn Historical Society

Posted on June 8, 2020


Conversations to Inspire as We Grapple with Our Long History of Racism, Part 2

This is the second of three blog posts that share recordings of past conversations that took place live at BHS. You can see the first post — “Confronting a History of Injustice” — here, and the third post — “Processing Privilege and Moving to Action” — here. We hope they serve as prompts for each individual’s evolving insights about race. We hope that they spark frank discussion and spur action.

In the fight for racial equity, there are many systems in America that have racist roots and are entrenched in racism today that must be examined, reformed, or overhauled. From America’s police forces to its healthcare system, disparities and discrimination are pervasive. BHS has hosted numerous public conversations with experts, historians, journalists, and others that examine these institutions and the systemic racism they embody. We invite you to explore some or all of the ten programs listed below under the themes of Race and Law Enforcement; Healthcare Disparities; Housing, Urban Life and Discrimination.

Race and Law Enforcement

The Stacked Deck: Race and America’s Unjust Criminal Justice System with Khalil Gibran Muhammad and Nick Turner | Listen

October 10, 2019 – Biased policing. Discriminatory sentencing. Over-incarceration of black people. America’s long history of segregation and structural racism has led to today’s racialized criminal justice system. How do we address the roots of a system designed to perpetuate racial subjugation? Can we realize a just and equal future? Nick Turner, president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice, joined Khalil Gibran Muhammad, author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America, for this look at centuries of racial injustice, and how white Americans have reaped the benefits while black Americans have paid the price.

Chokehold: Policing Black Men with author Paul Butler | Watch

July 13, 2017 – On July 17, 2014 Eric Garner was killed in a taped altercation with the NYPD that stunned the nation. To mark the somber occasion of the three-year anniversary, Georgetown University Law Center professor and former federal prosecutor Paul Butler visited BHS and presented his latest work, Chokehold: Policing Black Men, an uncompromising view on institutionalized racial discrimination in our criminal justice system.

Criminalizing Poverty: A Dirty Truth | Watch

October 25, 2016 – Being poor is not a crime. Or is it? This program explored the intersection of economic justice, criminal justice, and civil rights with an expert panel including Alec Karakatsanis of Civil Rights Corps, Shannon Jones of the #swipeitforward campaign, Chinyeré Tutashinda with The Center for Media Justice, and gabriel sayegh of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice. Moderated by Alysia Santo from The Marshall Project.

Punishment Without Crime | Watch on C-Span

January 28, 2019 – When misdemeanors carry disproportionate punishments, and bail is unreasonably sought, the upshot is a tragically unjust justice system. This program brought together Alexandra Natapoff, author of the book Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Peter Goldberg, and Darryl Herring, Community Leader with VOCAL-NY, who dismantled the predatory nature of our inflated misdemeanor and bail systems, which too often target the low-income and communities of color. Moderated by BuzzFeed News criminal justice reporter Albert Samaha.

The Police Killing of Arthur Miller, 40 Years Later | Watch

June 14, 2018 – On June 14, 1978, Crown Heights community leader and businessman Arthur Miller was killed by police chokehold. Forty years later, MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid led a panel discussion featuring former New York City Council Member Al Vann, activist Thenjiwe McHarris, and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund representative Lumumba Akinwole-Bandele about what has changed—and what has not—with special guests the Miller family. The program was introduced by a series of oral histories from residents who remember this tragic event.

Healthcare Disparities

When Pregnancy is a Death Sentence: Race and Reproductive Healthcare | Listen

March 9, 2020 – Studies in 2000 showed black women are two to six times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy than white women. Twenty years later, nothing has changed. Author of Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth Dana Davis moderated a panel with Chanel Porchia-Albert of Ancient Song Doula Services, historian Deirdre Cooper Owens, and Assistant Commissioner of NYC’s Health Department Bureau of Maternal, Infant and Reproductive Health Deborah Kaplan about racial inequality in maternal healthcare.

The Color of Healthcare with Dr. Mary Travis Bassett and Harriet Washington | Listen

October 17, 2020 – Two giants in their field explored the complicated history and ramifications of our county’s race-based health inequalities. Dr. Mary Travis Bassett, former NYC Commissioner of Health and currently Director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, joined Harriet Washington, author of the award-winning Medical Apartheid and, most recently, A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault of the American Mind, to share insights, analysis, and thoughts on righting centuries of wrongs.

Housing, Urban Life and Discrimination

Gentrification 2.0: The Good, the Bad and the Blurry | Listen

January 15, 2020 – From Sunset Park to East New York, nearly every neighborhood in Brooklyn is ensconced in the gentrification debate. Beyond the posturing and the rhetoric is a nuanced history and present-day reality that’s neither all good, nor all bad. BHS brought together Matthew Schuerman, author of Newcomers: Gentrification and Its Discontents; Kay Hymowitz, Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of The New Brooklyn: What It Takes to Bring a City Back; and James Rodriguez, professor of history at Guttman and contributor to the book Racial Inequality in New York City Since 1965, to strive for a balanced examination of a heated topic. Moderated by Jarrett Murphy, executive editor of City Limits.

Richard Rothstein and Others Discuss Redlining and Its Repercussions | Listen

October 16, 2019 – Redlining—the systematically racist banking practice of denying loans to people of color in post-WWII urban neighborhoods—is often portrayed as a closed chapter in the nation’s history of structural inequality. Yet intense discrimination persists as non-white communities face continuous exclusion from the “American Dream” of homeownership, or are targeted by predatory lending practices, further widening the racial wealth gap. UC Berkeley’s Richard Rothstein, revealed the findings of his book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America, in conversation with April de Simone, co-creator of the Undesign the Redline project, Sarita Daftary-Steel, founder of the East New York Oral History Project, and Catherine Green, Founder and Executive Director of ARTs East NY and Founding Steering Committee Member of the Coalition for Community Advancement, moderated by Kai Wright, host of WNYC podcasts There Goes the Neighborhood, Indivisible, and The Stakes.

Whose Parks: Equity in NYC’s Green Spaces with Darren Walker, Tupper Thomas, Regina Myer, and Diana Reyna | Watch

March 22, 2017 – In our congested city, parks and green spaces aim to provide some respite for all. But do they indeed serve every New Yorker equally? Is sharing our green spaces more easily said than done? Tupper Thomas, former Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks, moderates a candid discussion with Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, former Brooklyn Bridge Park President Regina Myer, and Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna about parks, equity, and the complicated mediation between users.

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