Race and Power monument

Leadership for Society
Race and Power

In the Fall of 2020 and Winter of 2021, Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Prof. Brian Lowery hosted a series of critical and high visibility conversations to examine the way race interacts with structures of power, and how systemic racism manifests itself in institutions and our daily lives. Each conversation is available here and as a podcast.

Session 1

Jan 04, 2021; 6:15pm PST

Creating Race

Race is often treated like a reality rooted in biology. In this session we explore race as an idea created by societies. We ask: How was the idea of race created? What function did it serve? Is race understood the same everywhere? Professor Brian Lowery explores the origins of the concept of race and how it manifests itself in different parts of the world. He talks with Andrew Curran, an expert on Colonial Europe, and Sidney Chalhoub, an authority on race in Brazil.

Andrew Curran

Andrew Curran

William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities, Wesleyan University

Sidney Chalhoub

Sidney Chalhoub

Professor of History and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University

Session 2

Jan 11, 2021; 6:15pm PST


Justice in America has never been blind. From slavery and lynchings, to mass incarceration and police shootings, American society has undervalued Black lives. What will it take for America to live up to its principles of liberty and justice for allProfessor Brian Lowery talks with Loretta Lynch, the nation’s first female African American attorney general. They discuss what it would take to reimagine community policing and what she learned about peace and reconciliation during her experience advising the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda in charge of prosecuting those responsible for the 1994 genocide.

Loretta Lynch

Former Attorney General of the United States

Session 3

Jan 18, 2021; 6:15pm PST


When we talk about race we typically focus on racial minorities. Today, it seems much less uncomfortable to talk about what it means to be white. In this session we jump in. What does it mean to be white? Who gets to be white and why? Professor Brian Lowery  talks with Ian López, the author of White by Law and of Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America (2019). They discuss how the concept of whiteness was constructed, how current law maintains unequal outcomes, and ways to overcome the political weaponization of whiteness.  

Ian López

Director, Racial Politics Project, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Public Law Berkeley University

Session 4

Jan 25, 2021; 6:15pm PST

Environmental Justice

Challenges to the environment disproportionately affect communities of color. Have healthy environments become a privilege? In this session we discuss the environmental justice movement. Professor Brian Lowery talks with two environmental justice expert Leslie Fields of the Sierra Club and long time environmental advocate Tamara Toles O'Laughlin formerly with 350.org. They discuss the disproportionate negative impact of our economy on communities of color.

Leslie Fields

Leslie Fields

National Director, Policy Advocacy and Legal, Sierra Club

Tamara Toles O'Laughlin

Environmental Advocate and former North America Director of 350.org

Session 5

Feb 01, 2021; 6:15pm PST

Education: Still Separate and Unequal?

By some measures schools are more racially segregated today than they were in the 70s. How do we account for the continuation of this educational divide, what are its consequences, and what, if anything, can we do about it? Professor Brian Lowery talks with The President of the University of California system, Michael Drake, and Stanford’s resident expert on educational equity, Sean Reardon. They talk about the causes, patterns, and consequences of social and educational inequality, and discuss what can be done to reduce these inequalities. 

Michael Drake

Michael Drake

University of California President

Sean Reardon

Sean Reardon

Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Education Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR)

Session 6

Feb 08, 2021; 6:15pm PST

Urban Design: Making Space for Equity

America, like the rest of the world, continues to urbanize. The planning decisions we made in the past haunt us in the broad inequities we experience today. How can we make better decisions for the future? Professor Brian Lowery talks with Mitchell Silver, Commissioner at the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and Richard Rothstein, the author of The Color of Law. They lift the veil on how city planning decisions have historically been made, discuss how some communities’ have been denied easy access to jobs, safe space for recreation, and how neighborhoods are still segregated to this day.

Mitchell Silver

Mitchell Silver

Commissioner, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

Richard Rothstein

Richard Rothstein

Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute; Senior Fellow (emeritus) at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Session 7

Feb 22, 2021; 6:15pm PST

Music: The Roots of Our Rhythm

Music connects us, but like many things also seems to fall along racial cleavages, telling us where and to whom we belong. But, creativity rarely respects arbitrary barriers. In this session we explore the contributions of Black people to music across a range of genres. Prof Brian Lowery talks with Bruce Conforth, Professor of American culture and Founding curator of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They talk about the many contributions Black people have made to almost every popular music genre, and the impact African American music has had on almost every corner of the world.

Bruce Conforth

Bruce Conforth

Retired University of Michigan professor of American Culture; Founding curator of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Author of "Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson" and "African American Folksong and American Cultural Politics: The Lawrence Gellert Story"

Tobe Nwigwe

Tobe Nwigwe

Rapper, Performer

Session 8

Mar 01, 2021; 6:15pm PST

Food: Reparations on the Menu

Food is life. Food is personal and communal. Food is deeply entwined with who we are. The history of race can be seen in our diets and the hands that touch the food we eat--68% of farmworkers and 50% of food service and preparation workers are people of color. In this session we discuss the racial history and politics of food. Professor Brian Lowery talks with Tunde Wey, the NOLA-based Nigerian chef who turns food into political performance art and charges black and white customers different prices to mirror wealth disparity in America. They talk about ways food crafts our identity and the role that people of color play on a day to day basis in our relationship with food.

Tunde Wey

Tunde Wey

Chef, Activist, Author

Session 9

Mar 08, 2021; 6:15pm PST

Sports: Leveling the Playing Field

Games are serious business. From the schoolyard to professional leagues, sports are a ubiquitous presence in our society. Few areas have been as explicit in the popular conversation about race as sports. From ideas around genetic aptitude and ability, to conversations about who should discuss racial politics, sports has often been at the cutting edge of discussion. Professor Brian Lowery talks with Nneka Ogwumike, basketball player for the Los Angeles Sparks and President of the Women's National Basketball Association and with RC Buford, the CEO of Spurs Sports and Entertainment. They explore the role of sport and athletes in advancing the cause of racial equity.

Nnemkadi Ogwumike

Nneka Ogwumike

President of the Women's National Basketball Players' Association. 2016 WNBA MVP, WNBA Champion, and 1st overall pick of the Los Angeles Sparks in the 2012 WNBA Draft.

RC Buford

CEO of Spurs Sports and Entertainment

Session 10

March 15, 2021; 6:15pm PST

Health: Unequal Treatment

Is healthcare a privilege or a right? What factors contribute to the disparities in health among racial/ethnic and gender groups? What would a truly equitable healthcare system look like? Professor Brian Lowery talks with Dr. Toyin Ajayi, a co-founder and Chief Health Officer at Cityblock Health, an organization dedicated to reimagining  healthcare for underserved urban populations. They discuss the various elements that contribute to underserved communities lack of trust in healthcare institutions and about the limitations of the fee-for-service healthcare model in a COVID world.

Toyin Ajayi

Toyin Ajayi

Chief Health Officer, Cityblock Health