Detroit Water Shutoffs, Ferguson Policing Practices, and the Role of Race in Public Life
This talk will take off from the author’s 25-year history as an activist/poet/educator in Detroit’s inner city to probe the way race continues to organize flash points of violence and abandonment in our contemporary context. After briefly tracing out my own journey of transformation as a white male “schooled” by black neighbors in urban politics over the course of two decades, I will “profile” the shadow side of modernity that has never yet ceased to trouble our public life together. Whether the result of complex bureaucratic decision-making such as Detroit’s Emergency Manager decision to shut off water to as many as 120,000 homes, or as immediate and physical as the shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri, race clouds our vision and exercises our emotions with profound effect. How might we face this collective “demon” and what might it take to relate otherwise?
Bio of Dr. James W. Perkinson
James W. Perkinson is a long-time activist and educator from inner city Detroit, currently teaching as Professor of Social Ethics at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary and lecturing in Intercultural Communication Studies at the University of Oakland (Michigan). He holds a Ph.D. in theology (but focused broadly on history of religions) from the University of Chicago, is the author of White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity and Shamanism, Racism, and Hip-Hop Culture: Essays on White Supremacy and Black Subversion, and Messianism Against Christology: Resistance Movements, Folk Arts, and Empire, and has written extensively in both academic and popular journals on questions of race, class and colonialism in connection with religion and urban culture. He is in demand as a speaker on a wide variety of topics related to his interests and a recognized artist on the spoken-word poetry scene in the inner city.