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Crystal Fleming    

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

An author, cultural critic and social scientist, Dr. Crystal Marie Fleming is committed to empowering people with the conceptual tools needed to understand, confront and challenge white supremacy. She is Associate Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at SUNY Stony Brook. Dr. Fleming’s passion for speaking truth to power, addressing injustice and promoting equality infuses her scholarship, writing and teaching. She has conducted research on racism and anti-racism in the United States and France, and collaborated on projects examining the experiences of ethnic and racial minorities in Brazil and Israel. She earned a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in Sociology from Harvard University and graduated with honors in Sociology and French from Wellesley College. Her research 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.

Her critically acclaimed book, How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy and the Racial Divide (Beacon Press), combines memoir, critical race theory, social commentary and satire to debunk common misconceptions about racism. The book was published in 2018 and earned a starred Kirkus review as well as a glowing write ups in Publisher’s Weekly, Bustle, ESPN/The Undefeated among others. 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. Building 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.

A public intellectual known for her frank talk and insouciant humor, Crystal'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. She is represented by literary agent Michael Bourret.

Dr. Fleming is also a bold, dynamic and influential voice on Twitter with over 40,000 followers and millions of readers. Her tweets on racism and politics have been cited in pop culture and media outlets such as The Nation, Hip Hop Wired, The New Republic, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Blavity, USA Today, BET and Buzzfeed.

Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Dr. Fleming grew up on the East Coast in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Currently, she lives with her partner and their adorable cat in New York City.

Speech Topics


HOW TO BE LESS STUPID ABOUT RACE

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.

REVEALING WHITE SUPREMACY: WHY WE NEED A RADICALLY NEW CONVERSATION ABOUT RACISM

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.

MINDFUL ACTIVISM: MEDITATIONS ON POWER, SPIRITUALITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

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.

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