New head of Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture plans for upcoming year

By Will Vail

Even as students headed home weary from exams this holiday break, Dr. Waldo E. Johnson, Jr., associate professor at the School of Social Service Administration and family research scholar, was busy with other members of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture (CSRPC) planning for the upcoming winter quarter. Johnson has been working hard since being named the new head of the Center at the beginning of the academic year.

CSRPC, an interdisciplinary program dedicated to promoting engaged scholarship and debate about race and ethnicity, hosts a number of events on campus, including weekly workshops to discuss race, religion, and racial ideologies.

Johnson said he is excited to work on events for the next quarter. “I have enjoyed it, although it is very challenging,” he said. “I am lucky that the heads before me laid a solid groundwork that I can work with. I find it very simulating.”

Johnson said he hoped the CSRPC could be a jumping-off point for students and faculty to discuss race, culture, and identity. He added that the debate could “go beyond the black-white paradigm that most American scholars have focused on up to date.”

For many at the CSRPC, the questions brought up after the October “Straight Thuggin’” party and the campus-wide response to this demonstrated the need for an interdisciplinary group like the CSRPC to help create a more stable racial atmosphere on campus. Johnson said he believes many U of C students are not intentionally ignorant of their racial prejudices but rather “lack racial experience,” adding that the University should step in and provide such experience.

The CSRPC and other campus groups have been discussing the possibility of adding a comparative culture studies curriculum within the Core, which would confront issues not just of race but also of class and diversity. Proponents argue that such education could be translated into real world experience and help prevent insensitivities from occurring in the future.

A Core addition is not the only advancement the CSRPC has in mind; it also hopes to increase resources and mediators in dorms and outside the classroom. “Development is not necessarily only in the Core.” Johnson said. “Levels of discussion could begin as early as Orientation.”

“What is great about the Center is its full complement of various scholars, which in turn opens the possibility of new ways to think,” he added. “We want to be an intellectual haven for faculty and students to discuss these topics in whatever capacity they are comfortable.”

The CSRPC will host a day-long symposium in January in conjunction with the Center for Gender Studies titled “Wal-Mart, Race and Gender: Local Controversies, Global Processes.” By focusing on the recent struggle of some locals to keep Wal-Mart out of Chicago, the conference will examine the growth of Wal-Mart in Chicago, using it to discuss such growth on a global scale.

The Wal-Mart symposium will take place Saturday, January 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the International House Assembly Hall on 1414 E. 59th Street. Those interested can get more information by registering at