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Duke Scholar at Drew Examines Link Between Race and Emotion

Also meets with students and faculty.

April 2019 – Duke University’s Eduardo Bonilla-Silva examined the link between race and emotion and how racialization produces race-specific feelings, during a talk at Drew Theological School.

“I have a personal interest in race and emotion because I have been feeling race all my life,” explained Bonilla-Silva, who was raised in Puerto Rico. “I have been feeling race before I even knew what race was.”

Bonilla-Silva, the James. B. Duke Professor of Sociology at Duke, delivered Drew’s annual Frederick A. Shippey Lecture, which educates students in the sociology of religion and honors former Theological School Dean Frederick Shippey. Among the attendees were his children, Melda Shippey Pike and Stuart Shippey, and a granddaughter, Rebecca Shippey.

Throughout the talk, Bonilla-Silva highlighted President Trump’s use of racialized emotions and pointed out that everyone feels the impact of racialized emotions. “We all feel differently depending on our position in the racial order,” he said.

“Emotions are a central part of the structure of racial affairs,” he added. “Racialized emotions cannot be fully appreciated without understanding a society’s racial structure.”

Bonilla-Silva also presented several theories about such emotions, asserting that they are as material and consequential as other practices of racial domination.

“We all feel race,” said Bonilla-Silva, explaining that racism is fundamentally about racial domination.

Bonilla-Silva further noted that “racists are created and recreated daily. It’s a never-ending process—if we don’t do anything, we stay the same.” He added that the “eradication of racism will require the elimination of objective practices.” His suggestions included de-racializing subjectivity and recognizing the many racial injustices in the past and present.

Beyond the talk, Bonilla-Silva met with undergraduates writing theses on his bodies of work and professors at the Theological School and in the Sociology Department at the College of Liberal Arts. Bonilla-Silva also explored the impact and ubiquity of race and racism with students in the Graduate Division of Religion.

“His generosity of time and spirit was extraordinary, and as a result much of our community was able to engage with him and his ideas in ways that we are rarely able with visiting scholars,” said Javier Viera, dean of the Theological School. 

Bonilla-Silva is the author of five books, including Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States and White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era.

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