The future of our democracy depends not on overcoming our racist past, but on embracing the history of those who struggle for equality, Harvard Kennedy School scholar Khalil Gibran Muhammad told a Rutgers audience Thursday while delivering his James Dickson Carr Lecture at the Busch Student Center in Piscataway.
“We can choose to build a new civic culture that sees our history not as an unfortunate diversion from the inevitable march towards progress, but rather as a necessary component to it,” the Rutgers alumnus and nationally renowned authority on U.S. racial justice said. “To see our democracy flourish is to demand new history lessons, new civics lessons and new origin stories, ones that are drawn out of the stories we keep forgetting and restoring.”
Muhammad, who earned his Ph.D. in U.S. history at Rutgers, reflected on his “special homecoming” and memories with Paul Clemens, a professor of history in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick, who was in the audience. He credited his alma mater for its approach to bias education and becoming a role model for other universities. He also touted the Scarlet & Black Project, Rutgers’ historical exploration of the experiences of African Americans and Native Americans at Rutgers, as well as the work of Marisa Fuentes, the Presidential Term Chair in African-American history at Rutgers-New Brunswick.
Hosted by Rutgers University–New Brunswick’s Division of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement, the annual lecture – named after Rutgers’ first African-American graduate – provides a forum for public intellectuals to discuss issues of diversity, access and equity in an open dialogue with the Rutgers community.
Muhammad is an award-winning author whose books have explored the link between race and crime in the United States. His work has been featured in The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, which explores the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans, and in Ava DuVernay’s 13th documentary, which explores the history of racial inequality in the United States.
Please view the Rutgers Today feature to read more.