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Racial policing and the ideologies that construct the origin story of modern conflicts were the focus of African American history scholar Khalil Griban Muhammad’s talk at the 11th annual African American History Month Lecture on April 7 at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center.

Looking back on history, Muhammad said, the racial tension that led to race riots and lynchings seem long ago is the same debate and conversation facing society today.

“Turns out we’re having the exact same debate we had 110 years ago. It has not changed,” said Muhammad, the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

The lecture, Chancellor Carol L. Folt said, was an opportunity to learn from others experiences.

“We’re here to honor the need to have the conversation and make real progress on some of the most important issues of our time,” she said. “Having Dr. Muhammad here today is an excellent opportunity for our students who are here to be more informed.”

The annual event was hosted by the African, African American and Diaspora Studies, American Studies, Black Student Movement, Center for the Study of the American South, College of Arts and Sciences, Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, Gillings School of Global Public Health, History, Institute of African American Research, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Music, Office of the Chancellor, Office of the Provost, Religious Studies, School of Dentistry, School of Information and Library Science, Social and Economic Justice, Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.

In his hour-long lecture, Muhammad used the context of Michael Brown to illustrate the racial ideologies that are based in the past that Blacks required more aggressive policing. A key problem, Muhammad said, is the use of statistics as a way to justify actions such as stop and frisk policies when much of the crucial data is incomplete or does not exist at all.

“You are all deeply embedded in one of the most dominant narratives of racial struggle and strife in this country,” Muhammad said. “This is the story of the ‘Modern South.’ This is the historic frame that so often was discussed and attached to Michael Brown’s body.”

By Brandon Bieltz, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Published April 8, 2014