Why is race still an issue and what can the Civil Rights Movement tell us about today? Those are questions David Billings, author of Deep Denial: The Persistence of White Supremacy in United States History and Life, will attempt to answer at a discussion on Thursday, November 3 at Unitarian-Universalist Congregation at Montclair.
Billings is a United Methodist minister and anti-racist trainer and organizer with Undoing Racism: The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, based in New Orleans. Billings also works with anti-racist organizing groups across the U.S. and has also been a key factor in a growing anti-racist movement — the Anti-Racist Alliance — in the New York City area. One strong sector of the larger group is Northern New Jersey, Montclair in particular. For a decade or more, David and other trainers from People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond have been teaching “undoing racism” workshops in the area. Armed with new knowledge about systemic racism, workshop graduates return to their organizations and fight more strategic battles against racism. The November 3 event is a great chance to meet local people with success stories to share.
Part popular history, part personal memoir, Billings book Deep Denial: The Persistence of White Supremacy in United States History and Life, documents “the 400-year racialization of the U.S. and how people of European descent came to be called ‘white.'” The book focuses on the notion of white supremacy — something that has been making headlines with the election and Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign.
Billings starts each chapter with an intimate vignette from his personal life, beginning with his white, working-class boyhood in Mississippi and Arkansas. He then situates these moments in a broader historical context. Part I covers the origins and evolution of white supremacy from 17th century Virginia through World War II. Part II focuses on the Civil Rights Movement, how it emerged in the post-WWII era, and why it subsequently devolved from a vibrant community-led, issue-based movement into today’s bureaucratic, government-sponsored, needs-based, nonprofit industry. An epilogue discusses strategies for dismantling white supremacy and “undoing” racism in America.
Book Discussion: Deep Denial: The Persistence of White Supremacy in United States History and Life by David Billings
Monday, November 3 at 7 pm
Unitarian-Universalist Congregation at Montclair, 67 Church Street, Montclair, NJ, 07042