UC News Center
At a recent UC Berkeley book-launch event, sociologist Michael Omi described his colleague john a. powell as “two persons rolled into one” — “john the theoretician, who draws on a range of disciplines to rethink notions of race, racial identity and racism,” and “john the grounded and practical policy analyst.”
Both sides of the scholar are expressed in “Racing to Justice,” a new collection of essays by powell, as they do in his vision for the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, which he came to Berkeley to direct earlier this year. (He spells his name in lowercase in the belief that we should be “part of the universe, not over it, as capitals signify.”)
In the book he argues the country has not achieved a post-racial society and that there is much work to do to redeem the American promise of inclusive democracy. Culled from a decade of writing about social justice and spirituality, these meditations on race, identity, and social policy provide an outline for laying claim to shared humanity and a way toward healing Americans and securing their future.
“Racing to Justice” challenges readers to replace attitudes and institutions that promote and perpetuate social suffering with those that foster relationships and a way of being that transcends disconnection and separation.
Internationally recognized civil-rights scholar, powell has served as national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union and executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State, to name just two of his past roles.
At Berkeley, he holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion and professorships in African American studies, ethnic studies and law, where he teaches an advanced civil rights course.
Powell’s parents were sharecroppers in the South before moving to Detroit, where his father worked at General Motors, his mother as a nurse.
The sixth of nine children, he earned his undergraduate degree at Stanford and his law degree at Berkeley, and did a postgraduate human-rights fellowship at the University of Minnesota. He has two biological children, two stepchildren and a granddaughter.
For an interview with powell, go to http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/12/11/john-powell-profile/