(Left to right) Bret McCabe and Lester Spence
After taking a moment of silence to mark Prince’s birthday, Johns Hopkins University political science professor Lester Spence kicked off last night’s Talking About Race event, “Neoliberalism and Black Politics,” by quoting Jay-Z: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” The hip-hop encapsulation of the neoliberal ethic helped launch a discussion of the role this mentality has had in black culture and political movements.
The diverse and energetic crowd gathered at the Turpin-Lamb Theatre on the Morgan State University campus were treated to a far-ranging conversation between Spence and Johns Hopkins Magazine senior writer Bret McCabe that began with an explanation of the origin of neoliberalism, charted its impact on public policy, and arrived at an examination of class dynamics within African-American communities.
Spence pointed to the neoliberal turn in Black politics, or the pervasive idea that successful people get ahead by “hustling” and poor people stay poor because they’re just not hustling hard enough. Several audience members joined the discussion, raising questions about charter schools, the role of Hopkins as a neoliberal institution, and the presidential race.
OSI’s next Talking About Race event, on “Confronting the New Islamophobia” takes place June 23 at the same theater. More information here.