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Melissa Harris-Lacewell, photo by Robin Holland
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May 18, 2007
In her conversation with Bill Moyers, scholar Melissa Harris-Lacewell talked about the new ways, including hip-hop, that younger African-Americans are dealing with racial inequality:

"What I'm suggesting is we are experiencing a new form of racial inequality. We could think of Jim Crow as a nail. And the protest against Jim Crow were a hammer. And a hammer is an extremely effective tool when you're dealing with a nail. Contemporary racial inequality is structural. It's undercover. It is connected with also with sort of black achievement which is also going on at the same time. Contemporary racial inequality is a screw, and if you take a hammer and start pounding on a screw, you just end up with a mess which means we have to live with the fact that a new generation is going to have to innovate a screwdriver to deal with the new problem. And that screwdriver might not look anything like the hammer. And we can't keep yelling at them to use a hammer for a new problem."

Melissa Harris Lacewell is Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University. She received her B.A. in English from Wake Forest University, her Ph.D. in political science from Duke University and an honorary doctorate from Meadville Lombard Theological School. She has recently enrolled as a student at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

She is author BARBERSHOPS, BIBLES, AND BET: EVERYDAY TALK AND BLACK POLITICAL THOUGHT. This text demonstrates how African Americans develop political ideas through ordinary conversations in places like barbershops, churches, and popular culture. The work was awarded the 2005 W.E.B. DuBois book award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. It is also the winner of the 2005 Best Book Award from the Race and Ethnic Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. Her academic research has been published in scholarly journals and edited volumes and her interests include the study of African American political thought, black religious ideas and practice, and social and clinical psychology. She is at work on a new book: FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO'VE CONSIDERED POLITICS WHEN BEING STRONG WASN'T ENOUGH. It is an examination of the connections between shame, sadness, and strength in African American women's politics.

Professor Harris Lacewell's writings have been published in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, LOS ANGELES TIMES, CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS and NEW YORK NEWSDAY. She has provided expert commentary on U.S. elections, racial issues, religious questions and gender issues for NBC, Fox, Chicago Public Television, Showtime, Black Enterprise, National Public Radio and many other radio and print sources around the country.

References and Reading:
Melissa Harris-Lacewell's Web Site
Harris-Lacewell's Web site hosts her blog writings and links to commentaries for NPR. Her recent areas of study include: "Faith of a Race: African American Religion and Contemporary U.S. Public Policy" and "The Politics of Hurricane Katrina" and "Black Women and Depression: Resisting the Myth of Strength."

"Obama the 'Magic Negro'"
In their conversation, Moyers and Harris-Lacewell refer to a parody by Rush Limbaugh of the title of this opinion piece from THE LOS ANGELES TIMES.

"Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes"
The companion Web site to PBS' INDEPENDENT LENS 2007 presentation includes a hip-hop timeline and glossary, as well as frank discussion of issues of masculinity, misogyny, homophobia and media literacy.

Related Media:
WATCH Will Power: from BILL MOYERS ON FAITH & REASON. Hip-hop playwright Will Power talks about ancient myths and modern truths.

Photo by Robin Holland

Published May 18, 2007

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