American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center (Antiracism Center), a collaboration between the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of International Service, has appointed award-winning scholars Malini Ranganathan and Christine Platt to lead the Center as interim directors.
Their appointments come at a critical time in the fight for antiracism in the United States. “Our community is witnessing — some are helping to build — the largest civil rights movement since the 1960s, setting off a long-overdue national reckoning with systemic racism,” says Max Paul Friedman, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The work of the Antiracism Center has never been more important, and it will have visionary leadership from the team of Christine Platt and Malini Ranganathan, both of them prolific, prize-winning authors and scholars. The College of Arts and Sciences looks forward to supporting their high-impact work in research, public education, and public policy.”
Christine BN Chin, dean of American University’s School of International Service agrees. “I’m very heartened and gratified that Malini and Christine are working together to move forward the important work of ARPC,” she says. “Both are tenacious and intellectually rigorous in their individual pursuits of social equity, and together, they are a formidable team. AU’s Antiracism Center is in excellent hands.”
Malini Ranganathan, associate professor in the School of International Service and a faculty fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Center in the School of Public Affairs, is the Center’s new interim faculty director. As a geographer and critical race theorist with a doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkeley, she has published and spoken widely on the history of transnational movements against racism and colonialism, urban spatial segregation, and environmental justice in both India and the US. Her research has also focused on segregation, environmental racism, and climate vulnerability in the District of Columbia.
As one of the key faculty involved in the Antiracism Center from its inception, Ranganathan has committed to assisting the university in continuing the center’s important work. "What we are witnessing in this country and in the world are some of the most significant protests since the civil rights and global anti-colonial movements of the 1960s,” she says.
“Personally, I am very inspired by the internationalist solidarities and multiracial coalitions emerging around the world. As a team of two Black and Brown women, we want to respond to this moment by amplifying the cutting-edge scholarship on race, empire, and the imperatives of antiracism at American University. We envision an inclusive space for antiracist research and advocacy, one that is committed to building bridges not just on campus but in the wider Washington, DC region and even beyond."
Christine Platt has returned to American University to serve as the Antiracism Center’s interim managing director and will be working closely with Ranganathan. A passionate advocate for social justice and policy reform, she holds a BA in Africana Studies from the University of South Florida, MA in African and African American Studies from Ohio State University, and JD from Stetson University College of Law. An award-winning author known for using storytelling as a tool for social change, Platt has written more than two dozen books that center on educating readers on the history of race and racism and eradicating injustices through the power of literature.
Platt formerly served as the Center’s managing director and played an integral role in its launch, development, and early achievements. Her scholarship in Black and diasporic history and culture, as well as her ongoing relationships with AU faculty, staff, and students, will be vital to its continued success.
Platt says she’s excited to return to AU's Antiracism Center to serve as part of the interim leadership team, especially during this revolutionary moment in history. “As the university begins its national search for the next executive director,” she says, “our work will have a renewed focus and purpose: amplifying the voices of AU antiracism scholars across various disciplines, as well as partnering with external leading antiracism stakeholders, advocates and activists. Now more than ever, it is important that we collaborate to eradicate racism, and hopefully, our collective work can be one effort in bringing about the change this country needs.”
Setting the Groundwork
Ranganathan and Platt have formed a Faculty Advisory Council for the Center. Members include Jordanna Matlon, sociologist and assistant professor in the School of International Service; Garrett Graddy-Lovelace, geographer and associate professor in the School of International Service; Jessica Owens-Young, assistant professor of Health Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences; Marcelo Bohrt, sociologist, assistant professor in the School of International Studies, and a faculty affiliate in the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies; and Amanda Taylor, assistant vice president, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and senior adjunct professorial lecturer in the School of International Service.
In addition, Ranganathan and Platt are in the process of naming faculty affiliates from different disciplines across the university to cohere the richness and depth of scholarly expertise on antiracism across AU’s campus.
The Center is also planning a series of events, the first of which is a timely and important faculty panel discussion, Antiracism and Decoloniality in the Humanities. The July 22nd Zoom event will bring together faculty across the College and SIS to discuss what antiracist and decolonial imperatives in the humanities mean, how these imperatives intersect with each other and with other critical frameworks, and how to continue to build solidarity across the arts, literature, history, and the critical social sciences at AU.
Other virtual events include a panel discussion centered on Blackness and Black lives and an Empowering Educators workshop featuring the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jason Reynolds. Additional events focused on antiracism efforts in health and the environmental are also being planned for the fall semester.
“There is so much work to be done,” say the interim leadership team. “And we look forward to partnering with AU faculty, students, and staff who are committed to this work, as well as advocates and activists in the wider region. We are humbled by the outpouring of support and eager to begin this transformative work, starting within our own AU community.”