Imani Perry


On her book More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Racial Inequality in the United States

Cover Interview of October 06, 2011


It is my greatest hope that this book is a conversation starter. I want it to be in the hands of people who are open to re-thinking their individual habits about how they distribute the knowledge, access and benefits they have control over.

Hopefully it will also have a community life in which groups of people in schools and organizations will use it as a means of approaching the work they do with fresh-eyes and a passion for greater fairness.

I don’t believe that most readers will agree with every single conclusion I draw, but the body of evidence is rich and diverse enough that even if they find some disagreement with the book as a whole, it will give every reader something useful to work with in thinking through racial issues and other kinds of inequality.

I believe in muckracking journalist Ida B. Wells quotation, “The people must know before they can act.”  I also believe in civil rights leader Ella Baker’s quote “strong people don’t need strong leaders.”  Meaningful knowledge is key to participatory democracy and a strong people, and I hope to make a real contribution in this regard.

I also would be excited if the book inspires more conversation between scholars and policy makers across different fields and arenas. There are so many working in silos on similar issues with the same concerns and commitments, who never come across each other work much less converse.

I’m excited by translational or use-value research in both health care and education, because the research seeks to make intervention to improve life, and the intervention can change over the course of the project in order to better meet the goal. It would be wonderful if we more often approached policy with that kind of imagination, improvisation and pragmatism. I hope this book encourages a move in that direction.