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College of Humanities & Social Sciences

Opinions and Editorials

 Has America Made Racial Progress Over the Last 50 Years?


The twin crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and the struggle for racial justice have converged in recent months to place American institutions, both public and private, under tremendous stress. The Munro Institute felt it would be very timely to get perspectives from some people who have been engaged with these issues in public life since the 1960s.The Western community has two long-standing members, one a Republican, one a Democrat, who have been involved in civil rights issues for their entire adult lives. The Republican is the founder of our institute, the Honorable Ralph Munro. The Democrat, Dr. Larry Estrada, was a founding member of the Chicano Movement in the 1960s and has served Western in a number of capacities since 1989 (see bios below). We put this question to them for their perspectives.


Progress, But Not Enough, A Perspective from Ralph MunroSee the source image

Ralph Munro is a Western Washington University alumnus with a BA in Education and Political Science, and former member of the university’s board of trustees. He was Secretary of State of Washington from 1980 to 2001. Beginning in 1968, Ralph was played a leadership role in getting the state’s anti-discrimination law applied to the rights of the disabled. He has also worked to eradicate polio in East Africa with the Seattle Rotary Club and continues to promote preservation of wildlife. And as his essay indicates, he was involved in civil rights issues in state government from the late 1960s on. Mr. Munro is the founder of this institute which bears his name.


The Dearth of A Nation, A Perspective from Larry Estrada

Dr. Larry J. Estrada is Emeritus Director of American Cultural Studies and Associate Professor Emeritus of Social Theory and Comparative Cultural Studies at Fairhaven College, Western Washington University. He previously served Western as Vice-Provost and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Diversity. Dr. Estrada has also previously served as Mayor of the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, President of the National Association for Ethnic Studies and as Chair of the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs.



Understanding the Roots of Systemic Racism

In this troubled time of civic unrest, Dr. Vernon D. Johnson shares his thoughts on the Political Economy of Systemic Racism.  For those interested in a deeper dive into the issues, the essay illuminates "the way that political and economic forces are historically intertwined in public policies, social conventions and routine processes that have subordinated and marginalized African Americans."  You can also read Dr. Johnson's statement here about the killing of George Floyd and the need for reform in law enforcement agencies across the country.


Munro Director Interviewed for Seattle Times Article on Social Unrest and Learning

Speaking with the Seattle Times, Professor and Munro Director Vernon Johnson explains that public universities are addressing themes of diversity, equity and inclusion by incorporating social justice into courses across majors and disciplines. To read the full article, click here.