“Conversation about the relationships among diversity, privilege and power” is the topic for the “Continuing Conversations on Race” to be held at the Princeton Public Library on Monday, June 6, 7:30 to 9 p.m. This topic was inspired by the talk that Melissa Harris Perry gave about Bayard Rustin at the Public Library in November 2010.

Ann Yasuhara and LeRhonda Greats will lead the discussion based on a couple of posts in the Nation by Harris Perry. In the controversial Cornel West v. Barack Obama Harris Perry writes that Professor Cornel West “offers thin criticism of President Obama and stunning insight into the delicate ego of the self-appointed black leadership class that has been largely supplanted in recent years….Since the inaugural snub, Professor West has made his personal animosity and political criticism of the president his main public talking point.”

Greats notes that Professor Harris Perry called Professor West out for his criticism of President Obama. “I think that is a prime example of diverse people who have some real power. All three of these African Americans have power, privilege and cover the diversity spectrum and now what are they doing with that power? I think the answer is complex and depends on whom you ask,” says Greats. “Professor West is holding President Obama to a very different standard than Professor Harris Perry — who is right?”

In an earlier (April 18) article in in The Nation, entitled “Are We All Black Americans Now?” Harris Perry quotes Cornel West on how privileged Americans saw their power erode after 9-11, when everyone in America began to sense the “collective intimidation” that black people experienced during the Jim Crow era. “National political elites used the devastating attacks to promote the ‘niggerization of the American people.’”

“The social, economic, and political conditions that have long defined African American life have descended onto a broader population, and it has been instructive to see how the nation responded,” wrote Harris Perry. “By embracing our collective blackness, perhaps we can find the fortitude and creativity necessary to face the continuing erosion of our national social safety net in the face of a persistent economic crisis.”

Until recently Harris Perry lived in Princeton, where she taught at the university, and she is now a professor of political science at Tulane University and the founding director of Project on Race, Gender and Politics in the South. Her new book, Sister Citizen, seeks to understand black women’s political & emotional responses to pervasive negative race & gender images.

All are welcome to this forum, which provides a safe and friendly atmosphere to talk about issues of relevance to our community and nation.