Charis welcomes Barrett Holmes Pitner in conversation with Andrew Ifedapo Thompson for a discussion of The Crime Without a Name: Ethnocide and the Erasure of Culture in America. In this incisive blend of personal narrative and philosophical inquiry, journalist and activist Barrett Holmes Pitner seeks a new way to talk about racism in America. This event is co-hosted by the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History.
Can new language reshape our understanding of the past and expand the possibilities of the future? The Crime Without a Name follows Pitner’s journey to identify and remedy the linguistic void in how we discuss race and culture in the United States. Ethnocide, first coined in 1944 by Jewish exile Raphael Lemkin (who also coined the term "genocide"), describes the systemic erasure of a people’s ancestral culture. For Black Americans, who have endured this atrocity for generations, this erasure dates back to the transatlantic slave trade and reached new resonance in a post-Trump world.
Just as the concept of genocide radically reshaped our perception of human rights in the twentieth century, reframing discussions about race and culture in terms of ethnocide can change the way we understand our diverse and rapidly evolving racial and political climate in a time of increased visibility around police brutality and systemic racism. The Crime Without a Name traces the historical origins of ethnocide in the United States, examines the personal, lived consequences of existing within an ongoing erasure, and offers ways for readers to combat and overcome our country’s ethnocidal foundation.
Barrett Holmes Pitner is a columnist, journalist, and philosopher whose work has been published in The Daily Beast, BBC, The Guardian, and elsewhere. He is the founder of The Sustainable Culture Lab, a cultural think tank with the goals of influencing policy by working with legislators and decision makers, and impacting culture at a grassroots level through events, work, and cultural offerings. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Ifedapo Thompson is Assistant Professor of Political Science of Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at The George Washington University. Dr. Thompson’s research examines how threat and anxiety shift attitudes about American democracy. Specifically, he explores how racial demographic changes motivate stronger support for anti-democratic practices among the American public. He shows that partisan considerations are central to understanding how Americans process information about the changing U.S. demographic landscape, and how supportive they are of anti-democratic policies. Ultimately, Dr. Thompson shows that as the country diversifies, democratic considerations and overall support for American democracy are bound to shift dramatically among the mass public.
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In this incisive blend of personal narrative and philosophical inquiry, journalist and activist Barrett Holmes Pitner seeks a new way to talk about racism in America.