Dissecting Inequality: Difference and Disparity in the 21st Century - March 2015



The Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity hosted a three-day conference last March, featuring author Barbara Ehrenreich as a keynote speaker, to discuss the scientific nature of inequality and develop a new research agenda.

Ehrenreich, best known for her book “Nickel and Dimed,” explored the intractable prospects for upward mobility on the part of the working poor.

In addition to student presentations on social justice issues, an interdisciplinary group of scholars convened for panels on “Race, Disease and Health,” “K-12 Education and Access,” and “Income, Wealth and Social Class.” 

University presidents from Rutgers University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Shaw University offered remarks on “Higher Education, Equity, and Access.”

The final panel, on “Race and the Law,” featured African-American litigant Vicky Bennett and her attorney Ayesha Washington. Bennett had been employed by CSX railroad when she became subject to repeated workplace harassment based on her race and gender. Washington detailed the case, how she was able to prove the extent of the discrimination and win the case, which included Bennett’s vehicle being vandalized with a racial slur. Washington also discussed the overturning of the decision in Bennett’s favor when CSX appealed to a higher court.

The conference concluded with noted Stanford social psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt offering remarks about her research on the nature of race prejudice among police officers and her work with police departments around the country to counter implicit bias.

The scholars then met privately to begin to develop research priorities for Duke’s new research center focused on social equity issues.