Political Science Department's Statement on Racism
“We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society” (Doctrine and Covenants 134:1)
Like many of you, we are devastated by George Floyd’s death--the latest tragedy in a long history of police violence against Black citizens. The subsequent protests ask us to confront America’s longstanding racial divisions and related political challenges. As political scientists, educators, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we feel a professional and spiritual obligation to condemn racism in all its forms and to advocate for justice, healing, love, and peace. We recognize the special burdens that our Black students carry and remind the Political Science community of our covenants to bear those burdens “that they may be light” (Mosiah 18:8).
While acknowledging our many imperfections, the Political Science Department strives to help students fulfill their civic responsibilities by providing the education necessary for informed political participation. Our faculty have compiled a list of resources from various church, campus, and civic leaders to help you fight for racial justice and bring us closer to a Zion community. We encourage you to study these resources because if we do not listen carefully to those we wish to support, we may be “tempted to serve in a way that we want to serve and not necessarily in the way that is needed at the moment” (Linda K. Burton, First Observe, Then Serve, October 2012 General Conference).
We are proud to have so many active, engaged, and civically-minded students in the department and on campus, and we are grateful that so many of you “have no more disposition” to contribute to the evil of racism. We hope you will now act on that desire by committing “to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).
Enter to learn; go forth to serve!
The BYU Political Science Department
Resources for Concerned BYU Political Science Department Students
What have church leaders said about racism and racial issues?
- President Nelson, Official Statement on George Floyd Events (June 1, 2020)
- Elder Holland, “A Perfect Brightness of Hope” (April 2020)
- Elder Ballard, “Children of Heavenly Father” (March 2020)
- President Hinckley, “The Need for Greater Kindness” (April 2006)
What have recent campus speakers said about racism and racial issues?
Forums and Devotionals
- Creating Justice by Bryan Stevenson
- Loving our Neighbors by Carolina Núñez
- Democracy Through Jazz with Marcus Roberts
- The Worth of Souls is Great by Kristin Matthews
Kennedy Center, FHSS Speakers, BYU Radio etc
- Faith in God: A Black Man’s Perspective by Aaron Paxton
- Rethinking Jim Crow Segregation by Nathan D.B. Connolly
- Segregation by Design by Jessica Trounstine
- Religion of a Different Color by Paul Reeve
- Race and Sport with a panel of former college athletes, scholars, administrators, coach
- Believe It or Not by Leonard Bagalwa
- African Healing and the Atlantic Slave Trade by James H. Sweet
- The Intra-American Slave Trade and Traffic to the Spanish Americas by Alex Borucki
- What it means to Celebrate Whiteness in America, with David-James Gonzales, Eric Ruiz Bybee, Grace Soelberg, and Don Izekor
- Becoming a Zion University: How Can We Nurture Diversity and Inclusion? by Ignacio Garcia
What are some of the readings and resources that Political Science faculty assign in their classes to teach students about patterns of racism and racial injustice?
- “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Fragmented Democracy: Medicaid, Federalism, and Unequal Politics, by Jamila Michener
- Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa V. Harris-Perry
- Deep Roots: How Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics by Avidit Charya, Matthew Blackwell, and Maya Sen
- Segregation by Design: Local Politics and Inequality in American Cities, by Jessica Trounstine
- White Identity Politics by Ashley Jardina
- Felony Disenfranchisement: A Primer by The Sentencing Project
What classes can I take if I want to learn more about racism and racial issues?
- POLI 323: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in American Politics
- SOC 323: Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
- SOC 112: Current Social Problems
- SOC 113: Multicultural America
- FHSS 351: Civil Rights Seminar: Black (Winter)/Latino (Fall)
- HIST 220: The United States Through 1877
- HIST 221: The United States Since 1877
- HIST 362: United States Immigration History
- HIST 367/383: Slavery/African-American History, 1865 to Present
- HIST 385: Latinos in the United States
- HIST 386/387: American Indian History to 1830/1830 to Present
- HIST 390R: Slavery & BYU (Part I of the BYU Slavery Project)
- GWS 222: Introduction to Global Women’s Studies
- SFL 354: Cross-Cultural Family and Human Development
- COMMS 481: Gender, Race, and Class in the Media
- MUSIC 204: Introduction to Jazz
- EL ED 203: Foundations of Multicultural Education
- SC ED 353: Multicultural Education for Secondary Education
- TMA 395: Race, Performance, and the Environment
What are examples of recent research that political scientists have done about race, policing, and criminal justice? (adapted from a list prepared by Dr. Hakeem Jefferson, Stanford University; for a 90 minute discussion with some of these authors, click here)
- Soss, Joe, and Vesla Weaver. "Police are our government: Politics, political science, and the policing of race–class subjugated communities." Annual Review of Political Science 20 (2017): 565-591.
- Francis, Megan Ming. "The Strange Fruit of American Political Development." Politics, Groups, and Identities 6, no. 1 (2018): 128-137.
- Eckhouse, Laurel. "Race, Party, and Representation in Criminal Justice Politics." The Journal of Politics 81, no. 3 (2019): 1143-1152.
- Laniyonu, Ayobami. "Coffee shops and street stops: Policing Practices in gentrifying neighborhoods." Urban Affairs Review 54, no. 5 (2018): 898-930.
- White, Ariel. "Misdemeanor Disenfranchisement? The demobilizing effects of brief jail spells on potential voters." American Political Science Review 113, no. 2 (2019): 311-324.
- Davenport, Christian. "State repression and political order." Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 10 (2007): 1-23.
- Jackson, Jenn M. Gendering Threat: Young People’s Perceptions of the Seriousness of Police Killings of Black Americans. Working paper, Syracuse University. URL: http://jennmjackson. com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/JMP-Gendering-Threat-Jackson. pdf, 2019.
- Harris, Allison P. "Can Racial Diversity Among Judges Affect Sentencing Outcomes?." Work. Pap., Pa. State Univ. https://www. allisonpharris. com/uploads/1/0/7/3/107342067/harris_diversitysentencing. pdf (2018).
What other books, articles, and resources can I read to learn more about racism and racial issues?
- Professor Wade Jacoby’s anti-racism reading list, built from some books he recommended for MLK Day gatherings and book clubs over the years
- “Race and the Priesthood” Gospel Topic Essay
- Winner of 2018 BYU MLK Essay Contest, “The Black Cain in White Garments” by Melodie Jackson
- What (and What Not) to Say to Black People at Church by Sistas in Zion
- “Racial Representation in Latter-day Saint Art” by Rebecca Haymore
- BYU’s Black Student Union
- The New York Times’ Anti-Racist Reading List
- Step-by-step “scaffolded” anti-racism guide
How can I get more involved outside of the classroom?
Keep in mind that most policies relating to public safety are decided at the local level. The good news is that making a difference at the local level is generally much easier than at the federal level!
- Political scientist Eitan Hersch writes about why it’s so important to actually participate in politics rather than just follow politics: Politics is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change. His argument is summarized in this shorter article.
- A guide for how to participate that draws on political science research about how to be most effective: https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-participate-in-government
Most importantly, look around you and think about your specific spheres of influence. You will be most effective in the spaces that you are deeply embedded in and if you join together with others in your efforts. And if you’re not Black, remember to put your energy right now into listening to and then uplifting and magnifying the voices and work of those who are.