Professor of Journalism and author Robert Jensen will speak at Indiana University East on “Power and Politics in the Age of Obama: Is the United States Post-Racial?” at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 16, in Vivian Auditorium, located in Whitewater Hall. The lecture and activities are part of the university’s fall diversity project.
Tickets for the event are available in the Office of the Bursar, located in Whitewater Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
Wazir Mohamed, assistant professor of Sociology at IU East, and member of IU East’s Commission on Diversity and Equity, said Jensen is widely known in the academic world and in the community at large as an independent and fearless intellectual whose scholarship and scholarly presentations address the structures of division in our culture.
Mohamed added events such as Jensen’s visit are organized “to further the mission of the university, which is to create an inclusive and welcoming campus that celebrates and embraces differences and commonalities among our students and in the community.”
Mohamed further outlined that these events are being organized “in keeping with our learning objectives of ensuring that our students understand how hierarchies of power and difference are created, maintained and perpetuated in society.”
Jensen will also conduct several teaching sessions on October 16-17 at IU East and in the Richmond community. In his two day visit he will engage IU East students, faculty, staff, and community institutions on how to spot and address hidden racism or what Paul Kriese, professor of Political Science at IU East, calls “unconscious racism.”
Kriese explains unconscious racism as assumptions based on racial stereotypes. For example, he said, “If I am African American and I walk into a store where I have not been before, I am aware that I may be watched because one common assumption is that African Americans are more prone to theft than Caucasians shoppers. If I am a Caucasian shopper I walk into a store to shop with no such awareness. The facts are different but the assumption is still there. The assumption is based on racial stereotypes which are not accurate. But if I am not African American I do not have to think about this reality.”
Kriese adds that unless an individual is a target for unconscious racism, then people are not aware that it exists because this reality is not a part of their own reality.
“Assumptions do not have to be accurate all they have to be is practiced,” Kriese said. “This reality is what Jensen refers to as the ‘invisibility of race.’ But the invisibility is only for white folks, and it is all too real for those who are not white.”
Apart from the public lecture, Jensen will run a workshop for students on the topic of one of his many books, The Heart of Whiteness. He will also engage faculty and staff in an open dialogue on the topic “The Invisibility of Race.” This is in addition to discussion forums with officers of the Wayne County Sherriff Department and officials and departments of the city of Richmond on institutional racism.
Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He joined the UT faculty in 1992 after completing his Ph.D. in media ethics and law in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. Prior to his academic career, he worked as a professional journalist for a decade. At UT-Austin, Jensen teaches courses in media law, ethics, and politics.