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Examining Race in America: Series Overview

Examining Race - Open

When Confederate flag-waving protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol building in early January, many in the world were still reeling from the May 2020 murder of George Floyd. Many were still remembering images of a Black man losing consciousness as a seemingly unfazed white police officer kneeled on his neck, and other officers stood nearby.

These contradictory images leave so many people with so many sobering questions.

How did we get here? Is this what America has become? Is this who we are?

Governors State University Community Health Professor Joseph Day acknowledges those questions, and points to the racial tensions that may have contributed to the recent events at the U.S. Capitol just days before a new president would be sworn in.

“As Americans, we have the capacity to rise above, yes, but this is who are right now,” Day said. “Just a look at all the race riots of the past where whites came and took from Blacks—Jim Crow, redlining—even what Europeans took from Native Americans,’’ he said, citing written and unwritten laws that oppressed African American and indigenous people.

Day researches racial trends affecting minority health, including poverty and environment. In “Examining Systemic Racism in America,” eight Governors State faculty scholars, including Day, explore the impact systemic racism has on the pillars that support American life—education, environment, food resources, health care, and policing.

This series of videos and podcasts comes more than 100 years after Dr. Carter G. Woodson helped establish the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The Association was designed to promote the achievements and accomplishments of a formerly enslaved people. As we celebrate Black History Month in February, we acknowledge the progress of African Americans, as well as the nation they helped build. We also remember that it was only 57 years ago that Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. longed for the day when he would not be judged by the color of his skin.

Dr. King's words still resonate with many on the GSU campus. These words also create a natural space for social justice initiatives such as the Institute for Politics, Public Service, and Social Justice (IPPSJ) at Governors State University. The 12-member Institute was created in 2017 with the help of Public Administration Professor Dr. Susan Gaffney.

Gaffney said the nation’s explosive racial tensions over the last year have confirmed the need for the Institute and re-affirm its vision to, in part, provide government entities and nonprofit organizations with solutions related to racial inequity.

“I would consider the IPPSJ to be a trendsetter because we focus on current events such as the racial and economic breakdowns in this country and have been committed to finding workable solutions for our students and the entire Southland community.”

Visit “Examining Race in America” and click through the series of stories featuring IPPSJ members and other faculty who explore the impact of and solutions to systemic racism in education, environment, access to food, health care, and policing.  Embedded in each story is a link to a video or podcast of a Governors State scholar addressing their research and expertise.

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