The Academy Online II: Race and racism

Saturday 28 November 2020

The Academy is the boi charity’s annual, residential event where people from all walks of life gather together to cultivate themselves with lectures and seminars, based around good books, and in good company. While the regular, collegiate atmosphere of The Academy was not possible this year, the boi charity has taken the spirit and intellectual rigour of the event online. The first Academy Online took place in June (find out about it here). This November, The Academy Online will return to tackle the concepts of race and racism, in another special online event via zoom. We look forward to the Academy resuming in its regular format next year.


This is a free event via Zoom, with a suggested donation of £25 to the boi charity. Register here for tickets and please visit our donations page to find out how to support us.


For our second online event this year, we seek to uncover the political and intellectual history underpinning the return of race to the forefront of political discussion.

In the wake of Black Lives Matter, politicians and cultural figures have pledged to overturn racial injustice, examine implicit bias, and reassess national history. Radical policy demands, such as ‘defunding the police’, have gained momentum. Riots and looting have been justified as a new political tactic. Amid this, a new focus on race and racial identity has emerged. White people are encouraged to accept their inherent racism, with ‘white fragility’ becoming the insult de jour. Skin colour is said to determine privilege. The goal of previous anti-racist struggles such as the Civil Rights Movement – to create a society where race and racial distinctions no longer mattered – is dismissed as anachronistic and even racist.

This online event will look at how race and racial thinking historically emerged in the wake of, and as justification for, colonialism, slavery, and imperialism. We will examine why the defeat of Nazi Germany discredited racial thinking among intellectuals and elites, but racist policies lived on – and were challenged across the world. We will explore how anti-racist intellectuals from WEB Du Bois to Frantz Fanon, James Baldwin to Ta-Nehisi Coates grappled with ‘race’ as a concept – sometimes accepting it as a grim reality, often arguing to overturn it, and sometimes seeking to uncover its revolutionary potential. Turning to the present, we will examine how racial thinking has made a comeback in the work of contemporary intellectuals, and how this is being institutionalised under the guise of anti-racist policies. We will also examine the role of race through literature, and examine historically the origins and response to race riots.

PROGRAMME Saturday 28th November

10.30 – 10.45
Introduction and welcome
Jacob Reynolds
external affairs manager, boi charity; author, Beyond the Culture War

10.45 – 12.00
Lecture one:
Historical racism and the new language of racialisation
Dr Alka Sehgal Cuthbert
educator, researcher, writer; co-editor, What should schools teach? Disciplines, subjects and the pursuit of truth

12.30 – 13.45
Book club style’ discussions

Race Riots 1919 – 1992: from the First World War to Culture War
Dr Cheryl Hudson
lecturer in US Political History, University of Liverpool

DW Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation
Kunle Olulode
director, Voice4Change England; former creative director, Rebop Productions; member, African Odyssey programming board, BFI

The troubled universalism of WEB Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk
Brendan O’Neill
editor, spiked; host, The Brendan O’Neill Show; writer, the Sun and the Spectator; author, A Duty to Offend

The use and abuse of the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement
Nicolas Kinloch
author; history teacher; former deputy president, Historical Association; former teaching fellow, SOAS

14.00 – 15.30
Lecture two:
The new elite and the institutionalisation of identity 
Inaya Folarin Iman
founder, Equiano Project; board member, Free Speech Union
Frank Furedi
sociologist; public intellectual; author, Why Borders Matter


The books below will help prepare you to engage with the lectures, and may be referred to in the sessions, but there is no requirement to have read them. Use this list to whet your appetite for the day, or return to it afterwards to explore some of the themes raised.

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James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son
(Buy this book from Amazon UK)

W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
(Buy this book from Amazon UK)

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
(Buy this book from Amazon UK)

Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility
(Buy this book from Amazon UK)

Adam Fairclough, Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality 1890 – 2000
(But this book from Amazon UK)

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
(Buy this book from Amazon UK)

Barbara J Fields, ‘Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America
New Left Review, May/June 1990

Frank Furedi, The Silent War: Imperialism and the Changing Perception of Race
(Buy this book from Amazon UK)

Kenan Malik, The Meaning of Race: Race, History and Culture in Western Society
(Buy this book from Amazon UK)

Thomas Chatterton Williams, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race
(Buy this book from Amazon UK)