About the Center for “Race,” Culture and Social Justice

The Center for “Race,” Culture and Social Justice was established at Hofstra University in January 2017 under the auspices of the Provost’s Office in order to promote diversity and cultural awareness in faculty hiring, curriculum, and professional development. The Center’s directors will work in collaboration with a Faculty and Student Advisory Board, and with an Executive Board that incorporates other members of the Hofstra community including student services and secretarial services.

Among the Center’s goals are to:

  • Expand the demographic profile of Hofstra faculty to include more faculty of color.
  • Minimize discrimination, cultural insensitivity, and bias.
  • Advocate policies to encourage and incentivize faculty to improve their pedagogy and advance their professional development through ongoing diversity training.
  • Support development of curricular offerings across all schools and disciplines, to enable students to embrace diversity, and to continue doing so as Hofstra alumni.
  • Support faculty research, scholarship, and publications on “race”, culture, and social justice.

The Center aims to highlight the centrality of “race” as a privileged category of analysis and academic inquiry. It will help to promote scholarship and teaching on “race” and social justice across the curriculum, and it will work collaboratively with multiple departments and units on campus to foster an inclusive atmosphere among students, faculty, and the Hofstra community at large. Envisioned as a constructive space for dialogue and action, it will foster reflection on the functioning of “race” at the local, national, and global levels.

Placing “race” in quotation marks seeks to recognize the mythical nature and scientific baselessness of the concept of “race,” while also acknowledging its importance as a social and political construct. The American Anthropological Association promoted this convention in their 1998 Statement on “race” in the following terms:

“Historical research has shown that the idea of “race” has always carried more meanings than mere physical differences; indeed, physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans put on them. Today scholars in many fields argue that “race” as it is understood in the United States of America was a social mechanism invented during the 18th century to refer to those populations brought together in colonial America: the English and other European settlers, the conquered Indian peoples, and those peoples of Africa brought in to provide slave labor.

From its inception, this modern concept of “race” was modeled after an ancient theorem of the Great Chain of Being, which posited natural categories on a hierarchy established by God or nature. Thus “race” was a mode of classification linked specifically to peoples in the colonial situation. It subsumed a growing ideology of inequality devised to rationalize European attitudes and treatment of the conquered and enslaved peoples. Proponents of slavery in particular during the 19th century used "race" to justify the retention of slavery. The ideology magnified the differences among Europeans, Africans, and Indians, established a rigid hierarchy of socially exclusive categories underscored and bolstered unequal rank and status differences, and provided the rationalization that the inequality was natural or God-given. The different physical traits of African-Americans and Indians became markers or symbols of their status differences.”