Brandeis University recently hosted the 2022 Gittler Prize award ceremony at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management for this year’s recipient Carol Anderson. The award ceremony consisted of a public lecture given by Anderson regarding the consequences of racist rhetoric in American politics and the biases from which they originate.
The Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize recognizes outstanding scholarly contributions in regards to racial, ethnic and/or religious issues. Anderson was chosen for her work regarding structural racism and racial history in the United States. She is the author of several books, including “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide,” “Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African-American Struggle for Human Rights and One Person” and “No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying our Democracy.” Currently, Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory University.
Anderson first addressed the myth that the 2020 election of President Joe Biden was fraudulent. This claim was first pronounced by Russell J. Ramsland Jr., a Republican from Texas who ran for a position in office as a congressman of the 32nd Texas Congressional District but ultimately failed. He is currently a cybersecurity analyst at Allied Security Operations Group and has filed numerous unsubstantiated election-relation lawsuits against the 2020 election.
According to a Washington Post article, when the Republicans faced midterm losses in Texas in 2018, Ramsland proposed the myth to numerous Republican politicians, including Don Huffines and Pete Sessions. However, the notion of a stolen election mainly gained traction after former President Donald Trump lost the election in 2020 and was perpetuated largely by Trump supporters.
Anderson cited that about one-third of Americans today still believe that the election in 2020 was illegitimate. She posed the following question in response: “How do you have a democracy when such a large swath of people don’t believe in a democracy?” Anderson described how Republicans who believed the 2020 election was stolen, such as Newt Gingrich, cited that voters from Atlanta, Philadelphia and Milwaukee stole the election—cities that all have a sizable Black population. She drew the conclusion that Trump supporters specifically “don’t believe in a mutliracial, multiethnic, multi-religious, multilingual democracy.”
Another idea that Anderson imparted was the relationship between gun violence and white supremacy. In her book “White Rage,” she asserts that the foundation of the Second Amendment is in anti-Blackness. “Its foundation is in identifying black people as inherently criminal, inherently violent, inherently dangerous and an inherent threat to the white community,” she explained during her lecture. Anderson explained the correlation between Americans that subscribe to this belief about Black people and their support for the right to bear arms. She noted that due to this stance, “As a nation, we have been willing to accept being unsafe in our schools. We have been willing to accept being unsafe in our grocery stores, in our theaters, in our amusement parks, because of this overriding fear, because of this anti-Blackness, our unwillingness to begin to rethink what real security looks like, what real safety feels like.”
At the conclusion of her speech, Anderson emphasized, “We should not be afraid of democracy. We should not be afraid of the people who are voting. We should not be afraid of not being afraid.”
In addition to the Gittler Prize award ceremony, Anderson has taken part in visiting classes at Brandeis and giving talks regarding media about her work. Some of the classes Anderson visited include Introduction to African and African American Studies (AAAS 5a), Civil Liberties in America (POL 116b) and Power and Violence (ANTH 156a).
Overall, Anderson’s reception of the Gittler Prize and her participation in campus events has generated scholarly discourse about the interconnection between anti-Blackness and trends in American politics, as well as actionable steps to preserve a democracy that values diversity.