From Roger Berkowitz, Our Founder and Academic Director07-22-2021
Three events dominated the last year. The Covid-19 pandemic spurred online life and online education to an extent few could have predicted. Confined to our homes, many of us could nevertheless teach classes over Zoom, socialize with friends on House Party, and talk over Facetime. When the pandemic struck, the Arendt Center didn't close down. We pivoted into the digital space, expanding our already innovative Virtual Reading Group, hosting 200 members weekly at the height of the pandemic. We organized student-led events like the online "Race and Revolution Lecture Series" as well as virtual conferences, lectures, talks, and more, not to mention our weekly publication of original writings in Amor Mundi.
Read about our upcoming conference "Revitalizing Democracy: Sortition, Citizen Power, and Spaces of Freedom."
The second transformative event of 2020 was the rise of a second civil rights movement in response to the murder of George Floyd. The ensuing protests brought the Black Lives Matter movement from the fringes to the mainstream. The brazenness of the murder made it clear to everyone—to activists, to moderates, to many policemen, and eventually to a criminal jury—that our society still needs to confront the toxic combination of racism and police violence. It may be true, as John McWhorter has written, that the police soullessly murder people of all races. And yet it is hard to witness the rash of police killings of unarmed, restrained, and peaceful black persons over the last 24 months and not be persuaded that, whether conscious or unconscious, racial prejudice and a racialized imagination remain pervasive. It is simply no longer possible for moderates to console themselves with the fiction of race neutrality. We live in a racialized society and 2020 will be the year when that realization came to the mainstream.
As part of the Arendt Center's efforts to deepen our conversation about race and racism, we sponsored a series of talks and dialogues on "Race and Revolution." Speakers in the series include Bill T. Jones, Juliana Huxtable (Bard 2010), Kimberly Foster, Coleman Hughes, Reverend Jacqui Lewis and Kenyon Adams. You can watch the lectures in this series here.Finally, the long year 2020 reaching into 2021 is when fringe conspiracy theories like Qanon and the "big lie" that President Trump was the real winner of the 2020 election came to be believed by majorities of people in the Republican Party and substantial numbers of Americans. Amidst the counter-culture revolution of the 1960s, media and political institutions in the United States enjoyed an extraordinary authority and stability. There was widespread acceptance of official and elite narratives that characterized the world, even when those narratives were seen to be racist, sexist, elitist, and wrong. For decades now, largely contemporary to the spread of the World Wide Web, counter-narratives, conspiracies, and outright lies have moved from the fringes of society to the mainstream. The public, in all its plurality and dissonance, increasingly disbelieves and has contempt for those elites and experts who until recently expected to be trusted and believed.
Read an essay by Roger Berkowitz in LitHub on the danger of the loss of truth here.
We thank you in advance and look forward to seeing you at our future events.