Speaker to Discuss Lynching and Anti-LGBT Violence

September 7, 2015

By Hayley Zablotsky / Honors Strategic Communication and Writing Double Major

koritha mitchellThis October, TCU will host Dr. Koritha Mitchell for a public lecture titled Lynching and Anti-LGBT Violence: Making the Connection.

Self-described as a “literary historian and cultural critic,” Dr. Mitchell is a scholar, author, and associate professor of English at Ohio State University.  Her research and work focus on racial violence in U.S. history and culture, black drama, and gender and sexuality studies.  She has published the book Living with Lynching: African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890-1930 and numerous articles including Love in Action: Noting Similarities between Lynching Then and Anti-LGBT Violence Now.

Dr. Mitchell has spoken at the Library of Congress and received a Certificate of Congressional Recognition.  Dr. Mitchell is also a professional development expert, working with various institutions ranging from the Ford Foundation to The American Society for Theatre Research to Vanderbilt University.  She is also an advocate of healthy living and started the Columbus, Ohio, chapter of Black Girls RUN!

Dr. Mitchell will visit TCU to give a public lecture Lynching and Anti-LGBT Violence: Making the Connection on Oct. 5 at 5:30 PM in 141 Moudy North.

In addition, Dr. Mitchell will visit the Women and Gender Studies (WGST) class titled Sex, Gender, and Disciplines taught by Dr. Wendy Williams and Dr. Catherine Coleman.  This class begins at 3:30 in Moudy South 164 and is open to all students for Dr. Mitchell’s talk.

Dr. Mitchell will reveal how the violence currently ​​plaguing LGBT​ communities ​has much in common with the brutal practice of lynching, which was at its height from the 1890s through the 1920s.  The lecture 1) exposes the main purpose of all violence; 2) explains why it is valid to compare lynching and anti-LGBT violence; 3) lists five major similarities between these forms of aggression, giving details about two; and 4) offers suggestions for how all citizens can act on these findings.  Mitchell equips audiences with historically grounded knowledge that she hopes will strengthen coalitions that will make environments safer for everyone.

Dr. Mitchell’s visit is part of TCU’s Women and Gender Studies’ Interdisciplinary Theme Semester focused on the ways violence intersects with gender and sexuality.  Her visit is co-sponsored by Campus Life, Center for Public Education, the John V. Roach Honors College, Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services, and Men’s and Women’s Programming.  These departments seek to involve the whole campus in this discussion.  This semester’s theme will encourage heightened awareness of and dialogue about violence and its relationship to gender and sexuality on our campus.  Dr. Mitchell’s lecture will further this discussion and awareness project.

In addition to Dr. Mitchell’s visit, the WGST department will host a variety of events considering genocide, family violence, sexual assault, and the links between masculinity and violence.

For the full schedule of WGST events, follow this link: http://wgst.tcu.edu/event/

For more information regarding TCU Women and Gender Studies, follow this link: http://wgst.tcu.edu/

For more information about Dr. Koritha Mitchell, follow this link: http://www.korithamitchell.com/

Below is a brief Q&A with Dr. Mitchell:

How would you explain your work/your area of study to a student who is not familiar with the field? What is important for such a student to know about you and what you do?
I am a literary historian and cultural critic who cares about reaching academic audiences and the general public.

I am a literary historian who is invested in understanding how families and communities survive and thrive even when they are constantly under attack. In this country, protection and benefits flow in the direction of people who are white and/or male and/or considered straight, middle-class, and able-bodied. For those who do not fit these categories, violence and aggression can flow in their direction as often as anything else, so I am interested in how people affirm themselves when their fellow citizens so often refuse to do so. I find that texts, whether written or performed, have been powerful tools of self-affirmation for targeted communities.

I am also a cultural critic who is invested in examining the most common discourses and practices (the most common words and deeds) of U.S. culture. I am interested in how our culture constantly justifies its violence and aggression toward marginalized groups. When working as they were designed to work, our institutions often rely on violence toward and repression of certain groups; excuses for violence and repression are so built-in that the easiest response is to blame victims. Everyone is encouraged to believe that the neutral, benign actors in any situation are the straight white men, so those who aren’t straight white men are viewed with suspicion regarding their motives and morals. Especially when stakes are high, one can use demographics to predict who will be protected and who will be vilified. Indeed, it’s often so easy to make these predictions that it would be funny if it weren’t so foul. I’m invested in reading this country’s most common words and deeds and equipping others to do the same. If nothing else, those who are not protected by American culture’s tendencies need to know that they aren’t crazy when they notice how violently unfair those tendencies are.

Another way I describe myself: I am an intellectual who uses her training in literature and her interest in performance to examine the most common discourses and practices of U.S. culture.

How did you first become interested in/involved with the connections between racial violence, drama, and LGBT issues? Why is this connection relevant/important? What should we learn from it?
Black feminism has always been a theoretical stance that accounts for how racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other oppressive ideologies shape all of our experiences. For example, these -isms have worked together to increase the likelihood that, if you’re a straight white man, you can be completely mediocre and still have remarkable success because you will get second, third, fourth, and fifth chances. These -isms conspire to ensure that you almost always get the benefit of the doubt, that someone is always assuming that you are qualified, that someone is always assuming that you have potential and are basically moral. It has never been racism alone that has achieved this outcome for straight white men. It has never been sexism alone that has done this for straight white men. It has never been heterosexism alone. It has been all of these (and more). It certainly has not been because straight white men are the best and brightest the country has to offer; these -isms have simply worked together to ensure that we have all been taught that they are the best and brightest.

How does your research pertain specifically to college students/young adults?
My work is particularly important for college students because they are the future, and I want to be a part of helping future generations make this country live up to its creed. Americans say we care about fair play. We need more people who are invested in fairness enough to acknowledge how -isms are preventing it and who care enough to work to change that.

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