How Structural Racism Works: Inaugural Lecture

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Last Wednesday, the Martinos Auditorium of the Granoff Center was filled to capacity with students, professors and guests, all of whom were there to attend a lecture by Professor Tricia Rose, the director of the Brown University Center for the Study of Race + Ethnicity in America. In the lecture, Professor Rose described — with the characteristic wit for which she is beloved by colleagues and students — her research and plans for an upcoming public engagement project designed to disseminate academic findings regarding structural racism to the general public. After an introduction by Provost Richard M. Locke that discussed structural racism across the nation, on college campuses, and at Brown itself, Professor Rose took the stage to introduce and summarize the titular “How Structural Racism Works.”

Describing the work as a “visual, cultural, emotional project”, Professor Rose began by acknowledging that, for many, structural racism is difficult to talk about. She proceeded to summarize the post-Civil Rights-era ideological war that has persisted in the United States for the past 40 years, waged between the descriptive reality of structural racism and the prescriptive belief of colorblindness. Colorblindness, long the dominant ideology in America, relies on the idea that race no longer matters and thus that race-oriented programs “to level the playing field suddenly become seen as special privileges”. Professor Rose described the thought process behind the average proponent of this ideology as such: 1) I, and most people I know believe in racial equality. 2) Laws have been changed to end racial discrimination. 3) I don’t see color. 4) I can’t be racist. 5) I get no special treatment based on my whiteness. 6) Therefore, it must be the  behavior of those discriminated against that is to blame.

Other conclusions include that “it must be in their culture” or that “they lack discipline”, stock phrases of colorblindness that work hard to obscure the structural racism that occurs everyday. Such thinking is “at the heart of disbanding/curtailing programs created to redress structural racism”, and relies on the passage of laws – rather than their implementation – as a litmus test for progress. To debunk colorblind ideology, Professor Rose cited just a small array of sources from the “extensive body of scholarly work” that proves the existence of racial disparity (i.e. a 16% unemployment rate for black people in the U.S. in 2010 compared to a nation-wide 11% at the height of the Recession).

Professor Rose also pointed out that colorblind ideology is so fully saturated in the media that, in a recent poll, 61% of whites responded with the belief that racial equality in this country had already been achieved. Responding to the emotional appeal of colorblind ideology, one of the main goals of Professor Rose’s project is to “tell the story of structural racism with that same level of emotional attachment, and sense of urgency… in the efforts to build a large, anti-racist community.” She went on to outline 5 major areas where structural racism is at play:

1) Housing

2) Education

3) Mass Media

4) Wealth/Jobs

5) Criminal Justice

While not specifying all the forms via which the project would be accessible to the mainstream, Professor Rose did speak  of her intention to give a series of spring semester lectures on her project that will address each sphere with more attention and discuss the interplay between them – as well as an additional summary lecture of the sort on Wednesday. Looking forward, regardless of one’s specific feelings on structural racism and/or colorblindness, “How Structural Racism Works” promises to be a useful educational resource and catalyst for discussion and action on a number of racial issues affecting Brown, wider college campuses, and the nation as a whole.


Know your Lecture Board candidates: Edward Snowden

Edward_Snowden-2A former CIA agent and NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden remains a figure who – over two years since his deliberate leaking of classified NSA and GCHQ documents – requires little introduction.

One of the most controversial figures in the world, Snowden rose to prominence in 2013 when journalist Glenn Greenwald and others published thousands of US government documents acknowledging the existence of widespread telecommunications surveillance programs extending not merely across the US, but in European countries and elsewhere. Greenwald later admitted that it had been an NSA contractor, working at the organization’s regional operations center in Hawaii, who had provided him with the documents.

Born into a family with a long history of service in the federal government (his grandfather was a rear admiral in the Navy), Edward Snowden is currently wanted by US authorities for theft of US government property and two counts of violating the Espionage Act.

Despite his ongoing process of seeking asylum in a number of Latin American countries, Snowden’s current inability to travel beyond the borders of his current haven of Russia will necessitate a Skype conversation in lieu of a physical presence if he is chosen as the speaker for next semester. Regardless of the measures necessary, however, Snowden should prove an extremely interesting and relevant candidate in today’s era of global surveillance and privacy concerns.

Don’t forget to vote for Snowden or for the other Lecture Board speaker candidates here!

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Students organize Blackout at Brown and teach-in in solidarity with Mizzou

A few hundred students, dressed mostly in black, stood by the Van Wickle Gates at noon today to take a photo to show solidarity and support for Black students at the University of Missouri. Attendees remained huddled, some under umbrellas, to listen as several Black students, one by one, took to a megaphone to share their stories. They spoke about the institutional racism they had personally experienced, about the University’s refusal to value their existence and acknowledge their identities, and called for institutional changes to prevent future traumas and actualize equality on campus.

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Many students spoke about their own experiences with racism in the classroom. A first-year spoke about being in an MCM class in which the professor, after quoting a text, repeatedly used the n-word to refer to Black bodies. “It happened five times before I had to walk out,” he said. After tweeting about the incident, the student has met several times with school administrators, and said his professor sent out an email acknowledging her use of language. “But it wasn’t an apology. It was an excuse.”

Another student expressed frustration with having to continually meet with administrators about the perpetuation of institutional racism by faculty members. “I’m here because I’m tired,” they said. “I haven’t done schoolwork in months, but I’m meeting with administrators.” Others elaborated on the discomfort that many Black students feel in classrooms with professors that have made racially charged comments or have criticized the work of activists on campus. “Ken Miller, David Josephson, Ariella Azoulay, Glenn Loury — these people aren’t being punished, but we are.”

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In reference to the email sent by President Christina Paxson P’19 and Richard Locke, one student asked, “Why did they all of the sudden send out that e-mail after Mizzou and Yale?” The letter, titled “Promoting a Diverse, Inclusive Academic Community,” was sent this Tuesday to the community. “Are they scared [of losing their jobs]?” the student continued. “They should be. I’m very tired of institutional racism. If it doesn’t stop, if free speech isn’t removed from this discussion, she should be afraid.” Another student added, “I just want to say that our humanity is not up for debate.” One speaker pointed out that it took a year for the University to put a “Do not touch” sign in front of the only slavery memorial on campus, although “white children played on it the day after it was put up.”

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Narragansett Brewing Co. releases the Reanimator Helles Lager and the Double Chocolate Porter

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As the Brown population begins to delve fully into midterms, and the golden hues of New England’s most beautiful season arrive in Providence, it’s a good time to take a step back and explore the uniquely quirky Ocean State in which students live for 4 years: trips down to Newport, hikes in Lincoln Woods, drinking Narragansett beer. The best part? One of those activities can be done without leaving one’s dorm room!

It gets better. Narragansett, already a RI favorite, has recently released two fall beers inspired by various aspects of the smallest state in the union. Enter the Reanimator Helles Lager and the Double Chocolate Porter.

The Reanimator Helles Lager, an altered version of Narragansett’s previously retired Bock beer, is the third in the brewery’s series of beers inspired by the horrific short stories of Providence local and legend HP Lovecraft. Like the previous two iterations of the Gansett-Lovecraft collaborative series, the brew is inspired by an individual story — in this case, “Herbert West – Reanimator”, a tale about a doctor obsessed with reviving the undead. The can features art designed by a local Providence designer Aaron Bosworth. As far as taste goes, the Reanimator could almost be a pale ale; it’s aggressively hoppy and floral, with an enduring sweetness throughout every sip. Many of Lovecraft’s stories center around beings the mere sight of which will drive a person mad, and at 6.5% ABV, a few of these beers will accomplish the same effect with a lot less effort.

The second recent release is the Double Chocolate Porter, a collaboration with Kingston-based Allie’s Donuts, a local RI favorite. Narragansett has a history of partnering with iconic Rhode Island brands — namely, Del’s Lemonade and Autocrat Coffee Milk — for products like its Lemon Shandy and Coffee Stout. Their latest creation is ostensibly the brewery’s best effort at making a beer taste “donut flavored,” which is fine, because chocolate is weird enough already as a beer flavor (much less “double” chocolate). In actuality, the Double Chocolate Porter — as its name would suggest — is a sweet, chocolaty, heavy beer with a bitter aftertaste and the tiniest hint of vanilla. At 5.5% ABV, the beer isn’t terribly strong, and generally heavy enough that drinking more than a can or two at once would be a tall order.

Both the Reanimator Lager and the Chocolate Porter can be found in 16 oz tallboys in liquor stores throughout Rhode Island and the rest of New England.

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Startup@Brown: A review

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With all the well-deserved hype around the events of this weekend’s Better World by Design, now in its eighth year, it was easy for many students to forget about the newcomer to the already-ample lineup of fall conferences at Brown: Startup@Brown. Organized and run by Hack@Brown (Valentin Perez ’18 is lead organizer for both) and the Brown Entrepaneurship Program, Startup@Brown was a weekend-long conference in Alumnae Hall and Smitty B focused on connecting students with startups. Through a series of speeches, fairs, office hours and workshops taking place from the 26th-27th, Startup@Brown gave students a crash course in entrepreneurship. Blog checked it out to see just what exactly startup culture is all about, and whether its correspondent’s idea for a chain of nightclubs inside giant floating zeppelins could make it to an initial seed round.

The conference opened with a keynote by Eveline Buchatskiy, director at Techstars Boston, on the general path of beginning a startup, and was followed by lunch and the general startup fair. At the fair, roughly 20 startups and startup-related firms gathered to speak with students and recruit potential candidates for internships and jobs.

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The Startup Fair

The general atmosphere was one of enthusiasm. According to Jason Miller, a representative from data software firm Cloudera, “the fact that [Startup@Brown] was selective was really special. It was branded well, and it makes sense why the companies you invited are here.” Miller also emphasized the extent to which Brown alums and students are enmeshed within startup culture across the country. At Cloudera, “two of the core engineers went to Brown, and about almost a third of our entire data science department is Brown-educated.”

This recurrent theme — Brown’s close relationship with the technology industry and startup culture — often helped make the event feel like less of a professional networking event and more of a gathering of friends and former fellow students united by an interest in entrepreneurship. Brown student and Startup@Brown attendee Hans Wang ’17, a CS and Economics dual concentrator, noted that he’d “seen a lot of former TAs here with the companies.”

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An interview with Startup@Brown lead organizer Valentin Perez ’18

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Even in an era of startup culture, where buzz terms like “disruptive innovation” and “knowledge economy” dominate headlines, College Hill stands out for its potential for digital creativity and innovation. The presence of both Brown and RISD on this elevated land has given rise to events like Hack@Brown and a Better World by Design, programs dedicated to the marriage of tech and aesthetics. And yet, for all these opportunities, there remains a notable lack of events focused solely on the startups themselves–with all the creative, financial, and corporate challenges that actually “starting up” a startup entails.

Filling this niche was the idea behind Startup@Brown, a self-described “weekend-long conference from Sept. 26–27 at Brown University that brings together innovative startups and talented students.” Blog sat down with Startup@Brown’s lead organizer Valentin Perez ’18, a sophomore dual-concentrating in CS and Applied Math. Originally involved with both the Brown Entrepreneurship Program and Hack@Brown, Valentin talked to us about some of his influences, the goals of the conference, and what attendees can expect from the first ever Startup@Brown.

What led to your decision to revive Startup@Brown?

I was looking through a Google Drive with photos from Hack@Brown and happened to see a logo for Startup@Brown, so I asked what it was. I’m really into startups. The original creators–Mackenzie Clark and Molly Long–had the idea together, but it had never fully happened because they didn’t have the time to follow through with the event. For me, when I saw it, I asked and they explained what happened and I told them that I had actually been thinking of doing something like this, partly because of my involvement with the Brown Entrepreneurship Program. I was thinking it could be a collaboration between the Brown Entrepreneurship Program and Hack@Brown. Then Atty and Sharon (Atty Reddy ’17 and Sharon Lo ’16, co-directors of Hack@Brown) put us in contact with the CS department in May and that’s when we started talking about what the event could end up being. Jeff Huang, a professor in the CS department, and Ugur Cetintemel, the department chair, were all excited about it, and said that we could take the lead of organizing it as students and that they would sponsor the event. They helped us a lot with contacts and people in the tech world. It was also super useful to have Lauren Clarke, who is the manager of the Industrial Partners program, helping us. After that I just started cold-calling startups. It was a pretty cool experience because some didn’t reply and some replied right away. Sometimes the CEO would even respond.

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