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Professor Periloux Peay, from the Department of African American Studies at the University of Maryland, will present parts of his current book project.



Racial policy volatility is a permanent feature of America’s political development. In this book, I argue the racial political landscape in American states resembles a racial riptide. Riptides, by definition, are areas of extreme volatility along coasts - volatility created by strong, opposing currents that pose a massive threat to those who wade in the waters.The “riptide” represents the volatile waters that American minorities are forced to endure – amidst progress, there remains the ongoing danger of anti-transformative forces pulling them back into the depths of subjugation, terror, inequality, and violence. The challenge at hand is to present a single framework that encapsulates the full range of dynamics, pressures, and responses that shape state-level policy change in racialized areas.


To fully understand the volatile racial political landscape in American states, one must better understand racialized policy diffusion. Racialized policy diffusion is a selective form of policy emulation borne from a competitive social learning process where states derive social, political, and policy-relevant information from the innovations of those states most committed to advancing or rebutting the advancement of Black and brown communities. Three specific factors directly contribute to the volatile racial landscape in America. First, America is locked in racial competition between forces committed to advancing the minority condition and those seeking to preserve white supremacist racial hierarchies. Second, the variable levels of commitment to the aforementioned racial competition influence the racial environment. My final proposition is that racial policy conflict is contagious. I argue that, regardless of the outcome of the policy conflict, the natural byproduct of racialized policy diffusion is volatility. There are ultimately two forms of volatility at play. States that are most committed to the values and beliefs of either side of the conflict are typically racing, full speed ahead, to achieve their goals. Conflicted states, on the other hand, are pushed and pulled into the conflict, feeling pressures from both progressive and regressive combatants and routinely giving way to pressures from both sides.

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