Between Race and Ethnicity: Greek-America in the Times of Black Lives Matter

Event time: 
Monday, March 22, 2021 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Online () See map
Event description: 

With ritualistic consistency, the Greek-American community commemorates Black History month with the iconic Times cover of Reverent Martin Luther King and Archbishop Iakovos at the entrance of the Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Archbishop stares majestically down directly into the camera, marking his stance and status in the present, while Martin Luther king , head turned up and to the left, gazes into the future. It is a compelling and evocative photograph. There are other photos as well that show the two men in more intimate moments and sharing the same vision. The reactions of the Greek community were not so consonant. The Times cover, as iconic as it may be, is not the full picture.
In light of the recent Black Lives Movement and the wide support it enjoyed beyond the African American community and the world at large, this panel will discuss the history of Greek-American and African American relationships before and after and the Civil Rights movement and their current configuration during the Trump presidency and the Black Lives Matter movement in particular. The reactionary dismissal of BLM among conservative Greek Americans on social media embraced the All Lives Matter mantra by referencing their own “slavery” under the Ottoman empire. Besides being historically inaccurate and exaggerated, the All Live Matter response also underscored and veiled the ethical indifference of its advocates to social justice questions and rendered these analogies as ground for a new kind of reverse-empathy; Whereas Archbishop Iakovos’s experience of oppression as a “third class citizen” of Turkey animated his support for civil rights, the recent arguments of historical analogies between the Greek and African American experiences of oppression have been mobilized paradoxically to justify a dismissal of or, at least, an indifference to calls for the recognition, condemnation, and eradication of systemic racism. This panel will seek to discuss and demystify some of these reactions, and the movement more broadly.
Panelists Include:
Matthew Jacobson- William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies & History, African American Studies, Yale University
Yiorgos Anagnostou- The Miltiadis Marinakis Professor of Modern Greek Language and Culture, The Ohio State University
Despina Lalaki- Marilena Laskaridis Visiting Research Fellow in Modern Greek Studies, University of Amsterdam 2020-2021