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Crystal Fleming      

Critical Race Theory Scholar, Author, Professor of Sociology & Africana Studies

Crystal Marie Fleming is Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies and Associate Faculty in the Department of Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies at SUNY Stony Brook. She is an author, public intellectual, and expert on global racism and white supremacy.

Fleming holds a Ph.D. and a masters degree in sociology from Harvard University and graduated with honors in sociology and French from Wellesley College. Her scholarship appears in journals such as The Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Poetics, Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race and Mindfulness.

Fleming has conducted research on racism and anti-racism in multiple national contexts and collaborated on empirical projects in the United States, France, Brazil and Israel. Her first book, "Resurrecting Slavery: Racial Legacies and White Supremacy in France" (Temple University Press, 2017), uses critical race theory to significantly advance scholarship on racism in France and Europe. Based on her award-winning dissertation, the book marshals ethnographic data, archival research and in-depth interviews with French activists and descendants of slaves to examine how commemorations of enslavement and abolition both challenge and reproduce the racial order.

Her book, "How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy and the Racial Divide" (Beacon Press), is a critically acclaimed primer on systemic racism that combines memoir, critical race theory, social commentary and satire to debunk common misconceptions about race.

And her latest book, "RISE UP! How You Can Join the Fight Against White Supremacy," is a YA nonfiction work that explores the roots of racism and its modern day legacies while empowering young people with actionable ways to create a more just and equitable world. It was published in October 2021 by Henry Holt for Young Readers. She is currently co-editing a fourth book, "Beyond White Mindfulness: Critical Perspectives on Racism, Health and Wellbeing," forthcoming with Routledge and completing a fifth project, "Words to Remake the World: A People's Dictionary for Social Change," under contract with Beacon Press.

A public intellectual known for her frank talk and insouciant humor, Fleming's provocative writing and speaking engage a broad range of scholarly and personal topics, from racism and white supremacy to politics, spirituality, feminism, (bi)sexuality and philosophy. Her essays and op-eds can be found in popular venues like Newsweek, Vox, The Root, Everyday Feminism, Black Agenda Report, Black Perspectives and Huffington Post. Additionally, her writing on race and politics has been cited in media outlets such as The Nation, Hip Hop Wired, The New Republic, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Blavity, USA Today, BET and Buzzfeed.

Fleming is a powerful speaker and workshop facilitator as well as a bold and influential voice on Twitter with almost 70,000 followers and millions of readers.

Speech Topics


What can mindfulness bring to social justice movements? And how can knowledge about inequality and power deepen our spiritual practice? In this deeply personal talk, Crystal shares critical reflections from her years of meditation and spiritual exploration of Christian mysticism, Buddhism and Hinduism. She recounts how meditation and conscious awareness of the present moment can help us see our ego, collective identities and social conditioning more clearly – and unpack our biases, stereotypes and emotions. Crystal also discusses how concepts like transcendence, interconnectedness and compassion can be powerful tools for linking personal healing to social activism.


There is only one type of racism that has ever been institutionalized in the United States and it has a name—white supremacy. Yet talking openly about the social, political and economic dominance of people defined as ‘white’ has become something of a taboo. For many, the term ‘white supremacy’ feels radical and shocking. This wasn’t always the case. The frank talk about white racism that animated anti-racists protests, debates and even scholarship in the 1960s and 1970s came to be largely replaced with the empty rhetoric of “diversity and inclusion” and the watered down politics of post-racialism. Even the word ‘racism’ itself is often used as a euphemism to avoid acknowledging white supremacy. But if we are ever going to radically transform our society, we will need a bold new conversation about racism—one that doesn’t shy away from naming the specific form of racial oppression that systematically channels social, political and economic resources to people on the basis of their “whiteness” while exploiting and marginalizing people socially defined as “non-white”. This talk reveals the urgency and importance of expanding our collective understanding of white supremacy beyond extremism like neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Drawing on her expertise and empirical research on white supremacy in the U.S. and Europe, Crystal shows how white supremacy is deeply tied to European colonialism, patriarchy, modern capitalism and the destruction of our ecosystem.


Bringing critical race theory from the Ivory Tower to the masses, Crystal explains how systemic racism exposes us all to racial ignorance and provides a road map for transforming our knowledge into anti-racist change. Racial stupidity – in the form of misconceptions, misrepresentations and denial – is clearly an epidemic. And this is not a coincidence or a mistake: living in a racist society means that we absorb harmful ideas, stereotypes and biases. When left unchallenged, racial stupidity fuels discriminatory behavior, devalues the lives of black and brown people and reproduces the white supremacist status quo from one generation to the next. This wide-ranging talk unveils the historical roots of racial stupidity and explores how racial non-sense manifests in pop culture, (mis)education, media, politics and personal relationships today. But recognizing racial stupidity is not enough—we have to actually do something about it. Crystal seeks to inspire and empower those of us committed to building a more just society by showing how to leverage our racial literacy for anti-racist activism.

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