Jelani Cobb Speaks about the Roots of White Nationalism at 'Conversations on Race'

The Community Coalition on Race in collaboration with Seton Hall University and with a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities welcomed author and professor Jelani Cobb to present on the topic of white nationalism. He addressed this issue by reviewing our country's long history of devising ways to keep white people in power, all the while telling an origin story that claims a founding on the basis of freedom for everyone. Dr. Cobb delivered this story in a combination of personal and poignant anecdotes along with history, including things like how Black freedom was edited out of the Declaration of Independence, how racism is coded into the Constitution, the history of 'nativist populism' that organizes people around hate, and persistent practices that promote racial difference as the hostile 'other.' Dr. Cobb made the case that White Nationalism is the biggest terrorist threat in the United States today, that it has grown since the 2016 election, and that it speaks to a national fear among white people of being outnumbered. 

After Dr. Cobb spoke, attendees were sent to virtual break-out rooms that were intentionally racially integrated to discuss this question: Do you have a personal stake in race? If so, what is it? There were 18 small-group discussions, which were brief but robust. Some of the highlights included: the need to teach accurate American history that includes critical race theory and accurate accounts of slavery; people of color continue to face trust and safety issues; white nationalism is a threat to democracy; white people need to understand the power of privilege and its adverse effects; the emotional toll of racism and violence on people of color. Many participants expressed interest in more conversation on these issues. Dr. Cobb answered several questions selected from those offered by the attendees and agreed to provide written responses to additional questions that will be posted soon here on our website. 

Thanks to the nearly 200 people who attended this informative talk and to the 130 who participated in the discussions. The community's attention and willingness to address the difficult and painful issues of racism, racial inequities, and racial violence is needed if we are to effect change. The Coalition uses the results of these conversations to inform our work and advocacy.

Thanks to the Conversations on Race planning committee for organizing this event:

  • Kristin Mahoney, chair
  • David Harris
  • Dagmar Hobson
  • Rev. Forrest Pritchett
  • Audrey Rowe

Special thanks to trustee Tegan Culler for her Zoom support.

Thanks to Seton Hall for their collaboration and support.

We are grateful especially for the discussion facilitators who took the time to be trained and the risk in leading hard conversations.

Many thanks to the New Jersey Council for the Humanities which provided special COVID19 funding.


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