Jeff Chang speaks for Emma Norman Todd Distinguished Lecture Speaker Series
Chang has written 4 books, "We’re Gon Be Alright" (2016), "Who We Be" (2014), "Total Chaos" (2007) and "Can't Stop Won't Stop" (2005). These books follow themes of racial segregation, racism, hip hop and how these topics overlap.
Chang has been named for the Fredrick Douglas 200 as one of the “200 living individuals who best embody the work and spirit of Douglass.”
He was also named by The Utne Reader as one of "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World,” by KQED as an Asian Pacific American Local Hero, and by the Yerba Buena Center for The Arts as one of its 2016 YBCA 100 list of those “shaping the future of American culture.”
Chang began by speaking about Emma Norman Todd, one of the first Black students to attend Central Michigan University. He said he respected her balance of realism and optimism and encouraged people to try to achieve the same balance.
Chang spoke about the division between ideals and cultures, or “culture wars” and the kind of social environment it has created.
“We’re all tired," Chang said. "We all want an end to this. It can be hard to see the way out.
“Emma Todd would say don't worry, stay focused.”
Chang spoke about various harmful mindsets people have, including what he referred to as the zero-sum paradigm. He said this mindset is a black and white view of the world where there are only people who win and people who lose.
“Governments have shredded the safety net," Chang said "So once they've got a core they've pushed this ideology of every man for himself. And I do use that language advisedly, every man for himself, and this is increased social isolation and the fear that everyone's in competition with each other for fewer and fewer crumbs on the table.”
He pushed the idea that people need to work together and be willing to learn to overcome social issues that still persist today. He spoke about how in times of disaster people band together, and questioned why that togetherness doesn't sustain itself outside of disastrous circumstances.
“It's about beginning to think about the community that we want to create the world," Chang said. "One in which belonging extends to all of us, the belonging is suggested. We still have to account for the legacies of inequitable injustice. So this brings us to the word equity.”
Chang explained that as a society, equity is needed because of centuries of "institutionalized entrenched racism".
“The outcome of inequity is not to just transform the minority but the majority," Chang said. "Equity changes everything. But it's not something to be scared of, because it's all justice.”
In closing, Chang gave a call to action to the audience.
“We need you," He said. "We need you to address the issues that we have so far been unable to resolve. We need your new visions, visions that we'll be bringing to celebration will bring an end to the culture wars, the war, replace it with a culture that fosters justice, economic justice, environmental justice, racial justice, that helps bring about racial peace.”