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On the entanglement of race, religion, and politics in America

January 23, 2023
Three Black speakers seated on stage during a panel discussion.HONORING THE LEGACY OF MLK: Valeria Sinclair-Chapman (left foreground), professor of political science at Purdue University, and Anthea Butler (right), chair of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, came as invited guests to the University of Rochester for a conversation about the entanglement of race, religion, and politics in America. Moderating the discussion was Jeffrey McCune Jr., director of the University's Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Former University of Rochester professors Valeria Sinclair-Chapman (left) and Anthea Butler (right) were the featured speakers at the University’s 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address. Held on January 20 in the Feldman Ballroom, the address was billed as “A Conversation Highlighting the Intersection of Social Justice and Religion,” with Jeffrey McCune Jr., the director of Rochester’s Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies, moderating the discussion.

Butler, a professor of religious studies and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania, noted how the injection of religion into politics has created division in the United States—a historical legacy that continues to this day. “What I want people to understand is that while people are talking about moral issues, they’re also talking about race, and you can’t escape that in America,” she said. “We have to start realizing it’s not about good or bad religion, it’s what people are doing with religion.”

Sinclair-Chapman, a professor of political science at Purdue University, added that institutions like universities play crucial roles in the movement against racism and oppression. “What kinds of questions do we need to ask? Where should we put our money that can bring these brilliant minds into leveraging against the questions that we’re actually facing in our local communities and frankly in the world?” she asked. “This is the work that we can do, and I think that it can begin— that it ought to begin—at a place like Rochester. This is exactly the place where it should begin. It should be like a beacon.”

Watch the 2023 MLK Commemorative Address

 

 

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