Jason J. Dorsette is a Black man with a family full of civil rights activists and leaders with a rich history in the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). As he described, “I was a country boy from the Jim Crow South and went to Oregon.” The NAACP of his upbringing did not exist here in Corvallis; literally, there was no collegiate branch in the Pacific Northwest when he arrived in 2014. Feeling like he didn’t belong, he helped to start the Oregon State University-NAACP branch in February of 2015 and continues to be involved in a variety of ways on campus and in the community. We briefly discussed his PhD research – Race Spaced Theory – that provides a geographical lens on Critical Race Theory. Because Jason is such a busy person, we had to keep the interview brief, but we hope to have him on the show again. As a reminder, the Corvallis-Albany NAACP branch is hosting the Freedom Fund as a fundraising event on November 6th at the Student Experience Center on Oregon State University’s campus. Hosted by Lisa Hildebrand and Adrian Gallo.
Links & Further Reading:
- Early in the interview, Jason mentioned how Oregon was established as an anti-Black state. Read about Oregon’s Black Exclusionary Laws, why Oregon is considered a “White Utopia”, how Portland is the whitest big city in America, or you can listen to an Oregon Public Broadcasting story titled “A racist history shows why Oregon is still so white”.
- Due to time limitations, we couldn’t dive too deep in his research. But because Critical Race Theory has been in the news, consider reading/listening to a couple resources below. In an article in the New Yorker titled The void that critical race theory was created to fill, the origins of CRT could be credited to Derrick Bell: “a forty-year old civil rights attorney [who] became the first Black professor to gain tenure at Harvard Law School”. He left the school in 1980, nine years after gaining tenure, because he was frustrated at the lack of additional Black professors being hired. In his absence, law students protested, noting the classes he taught needed a Black professional of his caliber. Harvard rejected the students’ requests. Two students at the time, Kimberley Crenshaw and Mari Matsuda, designed an alternative course to supplement the lost learning that Derrick Bell provided. The textbook Crenshaw and Matsuda used for their alternative course was a book produced by Bell titled: Race, Racism, and American Law. That alternative course at Harvard from the 1970’s as well as other contributions from legal scholars and theorists from around the country, led to the start of Critical Race Theory. As Lauren Michele Jacon writes: “The core premises of critical race theory—that the invention and reinvention of race enable the status quo, and that liberal solutions prove insufficient—have been applied in recent decades within fields from education to disability studies.” More colloquially, CRT uses history and law to understand why – even after the Civil Rights era laws – Black people and African-Americans continued to face ongoing discrimination enabled by the state. For a more recent understanding of how CRT has been mis-represented, consider reading the Slate Magazine article titled “This Critical Race Theory Panic is a Chip Off the Old Block”, by Gillian Frank and Adam Laats.
- Juneteenth – The Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863 to free enslaved people, allowing them to fight in the civil war. The war concluded in 1865, but the Confederate states were still not freeing slaves. It was not until the 19th of June in 1865 that Union soldiers rode into a remote area of Texas to formally announce their freedom. A quarter-million enslaved people resided in the state of Texas, but they likely had no idea they were freed two years ago. Juneteenth celebrates this more well known and advertised emancipation that spread across the Confederate states. Consider reading about Juneteenth in the Atlantic Magazine pieces titled: The Quintessential Americanness of Juneteenth by Van R. Newkirk, or What the Push to Celebrate Juneteenth Conceals by Kellie Carter Jackson.
- NAACP Freedom Fund is being held on November 6th at the Student Experience Center at OSU’s campus. You can also watch past keynote speakers at the Corvallis/Albany NAACP Branch YouTube channel.
Did you miss the interview on Sunday night? Listen to Jason’s interview on Apple podcast (released every Monday)!