To mark the historic inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, Edge Hill University is hosting an online webinar discussing race relations in America and whether the new president can reverse the damage already done.

An End and a Beginning? Race Relations in the United States: The Trump Legacy and the Biden Presidency, brings together three leading civil rights authorities from the U.S to examine the lasting impact of the Trump administration on race relations as well as whether the Biden Presidency provides opportunities for change

The free online webinar, hosted by the University’s Institute for Social Responsibility (ISR) and International Centre on Racism (ICR), is open to the public and will be held on 19th January, one day before the inauguration takes place.

Professor Kevern Verney

Professor of American History Kevern Verney, who organised the event, explained: “Before Donald Trump was even elected his attitudes towards race and comments about immigrants were headline news for all the wrong reasons. Throughout his presidency he has continued a pattern of defending far-right groups while attacking any attempt to improve race relations by Black Lives Matter and other civil rights groups.

“As we turn the page and a new president is sworn in, the ICR are having this discussion to see whether the damage done over the last four years can be repaired and whether Biden is the man to do it; important questions for the future of the U.S.”

Speaking at the event will be: Professor Whitney Battle-Baptiste from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts; Associate Professor of Sociology Amherst Jean Beaman from the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Heidi Beirich who co-founded the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE). They bring a wealth of knowledge about the US civil rights movement and the black community’s struggle for equality.

U.S Presidential inaugurations often reflect the hopes and aspirations of an incoming President. In 2009 the inauguration of Barack Obama was met with optimism, both at home and abroad, as he pledged to ‘begin again the work of remaking America’. His taking office as the nation’s first African American President encouraged the hope of a post-racial America.

Eight years later, in his farewell address, the outgoing President acknowledged that ‘such a vision, however well intended, was never realistic’ and that race remained a ‘potent and often divisive force’ in American society.

In stark contrast, President Trump’s ‘American Carnage’ inaugural address offered a pessimistic image of a broken U.S society that reminded Kim Darroch, the watching British ambassador to the United States, of ‘zombie movies reincarnated’.

Racial conflicts and inequalities quickly became one of the hallmarks of his presidency after his failure to stand up to far-right groups in the wake of marches in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 culminating the murder of left-wing activists.

It is hoped that Joe Biden’s history of support for civil rights, his message of unity and, significantly, the election Kamala Harris as the first woman of colour to be Vice-President represents a shift back to supporting the civil rights movement and rejecting far-right ideology.

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To find out more about the work of the ICR and the latest blogs and opinion pieces click here