MSU African American Studies program to hold symposium

Mississippi State's African American Studies program will sponsor a two-day "Whiteness Symposium" next week.

Open to all, the March 20 and 21 university programs will all take place in McCool Hall's Taylor Auditorium.

"Although the title 'Whiteness Symposium' might imply to some people that it is about 'racism' and the victimization of some people by whites, the meeting is not about that," said symposium coordinator Stephen Middleton. "This conference also is not about the victimization of African-Americans, Hispanics or Native Americans."

Middleton, African American studies program director, said the conference has been designed to show how these groups have and do control their own fates. Neither slavery, post-slavery Jim Crow laws "nor any other devices of oppression have permanently prevented them from making the gains they enjoy today," he added.

Symposium events include:

--Wednesday, the 20th, 6 p.m. A screening of "Crash," the multi-Academy Award-winning 2004 film that explores issues of race, personal agency, loss and redemption. Commentaries will follow by MSU faculty members Donald Shaffer of English and African American studies, and Ravi Perry of political science and public administration.

--Thursday, the 21st, 3 p.m. A panel discussion featuring author Anne Babson and Carly Houston, an English doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts. Babson, a writer and poet now living in Mississippi, has explored topics of race and "whiteness" in numerous anthologies and scholarly journals in the U.S. and abroad. Houston, a master's degree graduate in linguistics of Purdue University, is studying representations of nonstandard speech in American fiction, emphasizing portrayals of African-American English.

--Thursday, 6 p.m. A presentation on race and law by Ian F. Haney Lopez, John H. Boalt Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. The author of four books and a visiting law professor at Yale, Harvard and New York universities, he is a recent selection for an Alphonse Fletcher Fellowship awarded to scholars furthering the integration goals of Brown v. Board of Education.

For more information on the symposium, contact Middleton at Information on the African American Studies program is available at

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