What I'm Reading: ‘We Gon’ Be Alright’

December 11, 2016

Jeff Chang’s new book We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation (Picador, 2016) should, in my view, be required reading for all higher-education professionals — faculty and staff. Mr. Chang’s analysis of our accepted national ideals and ideations of diversity — including the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke 1978 Supreme Court decision, the culture wars, #OscarsSoWhite, #NotYourMule, #BlackLivesMatter, and the policy mechanics of resegregation — is illuminating and devastating. This slim volume of essays deepened my understanding of the multilayered work before us all.

Mr. Chang, who is executive director of Stanford University’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts, asks: "Who has the power to shape culture?" in relation to the arts and media. But this question is equally apposite to the work of educational institutions — we too are generators and purveyors of culture. The landscape he describes is the context and content for all of our work, as educators, as thinkers, as people in positions of authority.

By weaving together analysis, history, personal narratives, and data, Mr. Chang renders his insights and arguments accessible and actionable. If you are struggling to understand the perspective of young people of color on your campus who are demanding change, if you want to ground your understanding of this cultural and political moment in a longer view of "diversity" in America, if you wonder (secretly or out loud) why diversity matters, if you want to understand why diversity is not enough without inclusion and equity, if you want to engage your colleagues and students in nuanced conversations about race in America, you should consider reading and assigning this book.

Mariko Silver is president of Bennington College, in Vermont .