The Common Text

The Common Text Program

Each year the university selects a text or texts to launch the academic year for incoming students. At Seattle University, a key part of our mission is “empowering leaders for a just and humane world.” The Common Text program welcomes students to our Ignatian-inspired process of inquiry that emphasizes meaning-making, intellectual risk-taking, and engaging in deep and critical conversations.

Incoming students receive the year’s Common Text over the summer and are asked to read thoughtfully. The issues raised by the text(s) will be incorporated into some classes and pursued in a year-long series of programs built around the themes.

This website introduces this year’s Common Text and provides resources to help you engage with the text as you read and prepare for the year. We will continue to add materials to the site, so check back regularly and be on the lookout for emails from the Common Text team with details on this year’s events.

Welcome to Seattle University, where we wrestle with big ideas!

Common Text 2020

Given the events of the past several months, with the renewed calls for justice in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others, and the new challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Common Text team wanted to give our incoming students a space to have deep and critical conversations about race, racism, and citizenship in the United States today. You’ll hear from writers, artists, educators, and health professionals, in the form of articles, videos, and podcasts, chosen for their ability to frame these conversations and as voices which speak to this historic moment.

These texts pick up where SU left off last spring, having read Ijeoma Oluo’s book So You Want to Talk About Race in Fall 2019, and help us to further understand this historic moment. They also anticipate another critical conversation about what U.S. citizenship means, to be continued in Fall 2021 when the Common Text will be Jose Antonio Vargas’s book, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.

We hope these texts offer new perspectives, prompt difficult but necessary conversations, and perhaps even inspire action. Please take the time to read, listen, and watch.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to our colleagues Ajay Abraham, Tapoja Chaudhuri, Jasmine Mahmoud, Tara Roth, and Hannah Tracy for providing questions, suggested readings, and feedback on the development of these materials.

Race and Racism: Framing Concepts

Please begin by viewing/listening to the following short videos and podcast to understand some of the impacts of racism in our everyday lives.

1. “Allegories on Race and Racism.” - Camara Jones

External Link (Links to an external site.)

Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD, is a family physician and epidemiologist and a senior fellow at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine. She is a past president of the American Public Health Association and worked as a medical officer with the CDC for 14 years. Her work focuses on the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of the nation.

Citation: Jones, Camara. “Allegories on Race and Racism.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDxEmory, 10 Jul. 2014.

2. “Is ‘Race Science’ Making a Comeback?” - Angela Saini

External Link (Links to an external site.)

Angela Saini is a British science journalist and author and BBC presenter, and the author of Superior: The Return of Race Science (2019) and Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong (2017). She spoke with Seattle University faculty member and journalist Ruchika Tulshyan about her book Superior on campus in Winter 2020. The co-hosts of Code Switch are Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby, both award-winning journalists.

Citation: Saini, Angela. “Is ‘Race Science’ Making a Comeback?” Code Switch, NPR, 10 Jul. 2019.

3. “Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat and Higher Ed.” - Russell McClain

External Link (Links to an external site.)

Russell McClain is a Law professor and the Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. He researches the psychological factors that affect academic performance, including stereotype threat and implicit bias.

Citation: McClain, Russell. “Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat and Higher Ed.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDxUniversityofMarylandBaltimore, 11 Dec. 2018. 

Race and Identity in the 21st Century

Continue by viewing and reading these pieces representing some of the lived experiences of BIPOC, immigrants and their families in the contemporary United States.

*Note: These and some other articles will ask you to log in to the Seattle University Library to access. Please use your SU login and password.

4. "What Is Owed." - Nikole Hannah-Jones

Access Article Here: (Links to an external site.)

Nikole Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the New York Times Magazine. She is also the creator of The 1619 Project, winner of the National Magazine Award for public interest. According to the magazine, The 1619 Project, started in August 2019 to recognize the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery, aims to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

Citation: Hannah-Jones, Nikole. “What Is Owed.” New York Times Magazine, 30 Jun. 2020,

5. “Racism, the Immigration Enforcement Regime, and the Implications for Racial Inequality in the Lives of Undocumented Young Adults.” - Elizabeth Aranda and Elizabeth Vaquera

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Elizabeth Aranda is a Professor of Sociology and Associate Dean at the University of South Florida. She describes her scholarship as examining “immigrant adaptation in an era when insecurities abound.” Elizabeth Vaquera was Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of South Florida when this article was published, and is now the Director of the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute and an Associate Professor of Public Policy & Public Administration and Sociology at George Washington University. Her research focuses on the physical, emotional, and social wellbeing of vulnerable and diverse groups, particularly Latinos/as, immigrants, and children.

Citation: Aranda, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth Vaquera. “Racism, the Immigration Enforcement Regime, and the Implications for Racial Inequality in the Lives of Undocumented Young Adults.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, vol. 1, no. 1, 2015, pp. 88-104, EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/2332649214551097. Accessed 28 Jul. 2020.

6. “The Police Killings No One Is Talking About.” - Stephanie Woodard

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Stephanie Woodard is a journalist who writes about human rights and culture, with a focus on Native American issues. In addition to her two decades of reporting on Indian country, she is the author of American Apartheid: The Native American Struggle for Self-Determination and Inclusion (2018).

Citation: Woodard, Stephanie. “The Police Killings No One Is Talking About.” In These Times, Oct. 2016.

7. “The Model Minority Trap.” - Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Viet Thanh Nguyen is a writer whose 2015 novel The Sympathizer won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Other recent works include Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (2016) and a short story collection titled The Refugees (2017). He is also a professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity, and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California. Born in Vietnam, he came to the United States as a refugee with his family in 1975.

Citation: Nguyen, Viet Thanh. “The Model Minority Trap.” Time, 6 Jul. 2020, p. 50-66, EBSCOhost, DOI 144253693,


Race, Citizenship, and the Coronavirus Pandemic

Learn about the racism being experienced by Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic through a visual artist's project and hear from two doctors about the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on communities of color and immigrant communities.

8. “Facing Racism.” - Anna Purna Kambhampaty, Sangsuk Sylvia Kang, and Haruka Sakaguchi

Access Article Here: (Links to an external site.) 

Anna Purna Kambhampaty is a writer and technologist and reporter for TIME magazine. She has also written for The Juggernaut, a publication focused on the rise of South Asia and the South Asian diaspora. Haruka Sakaguchi is a Japanese, Brooklyn-based documentary photographer who immigrated to the U.S. from Japan when she was three months old. Her work, focusing on cultural identity and a sense of place, has been published in the New York Times, National Geographic, TIME, New Yorker, and the Washington Post.

Citation: Kambhampaty, Anna Purna, Sangsuk Sylvia Kang, and Haruka Sakaguchi. “Facing Racism.” Time, 6 Jul. 2020, p. 52-69, EBSCOhost, DOI 144253694,

9. “Examining Racial Disparities Observed During Coronavirus Pandemic.” Rachel Martin

Access Article Here: (Links to an external site.)

National Public Radio’s Rachel Martin talks to Uche Blackstock and Alicia Fernandez, doctors and experts in health care inequity on black and Latinx communities, about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19. Martin is a journalist and co-host of NPR’s Morning Edition. Uche Blackstock is an emergency physician and the founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity. Alicia Fernandez is a primary care physician and Professor of Medicine at University of California San Francisco.

Citation: Martin, Rachel. “Examining Racial Disparities Observed During Coronavirus Pandemic.” Morning Edition, KUOW, 9 Jun. 2020,

Anti-Racist Futures 

What steps can we begin to take toward an antiracist future? Kendi, a leading scholar on antiracism, and Vargas, the founder of Define American and our Common Text author for next year, offer some ideas.

10. “This Is What an Antiracist America Would Look Like. How Do We Get There?” - Ibram X. Kendi

Access Article Here: (Links to an external site.)

Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and Founding Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University and an author whose works include Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016), winner of the National Book Award, How to Be an Antiracist (2019), and Antiracist Baby (2020), a board book for young children. This piece is the first in a series published by The Guardian in collaboration with American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center called “Antiracism and America.”

Citation: Kendi, Ibram X. “This Is What an Antiracist America Would Look Like. How Do We Get There?” The Guardian, 6 Dec. 2018,

11. Racism, Immigration and Ally-ship - Jose Antonio Vargas interview with Karen Hunter and Drew McCaskill

External Link (Links to an external site.)

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas came out as undocumented in a 2011 essay published by the New York Times Magazine. He is the founder and CEO of Define American, a non-profit media and culture organization that “uses media and the power of storytelling to transcend politics and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America.” He is also the author of Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen (2018), which will be Seattle University’s Common Text in AY 2021-2022. Karen Hunter is a journalist, author, and publisher whose talk show, The Karen Hunter Show, airs on Sirius XM.

Citation: Vargas, Jose Antonio. Interview with Karen Hunter and Drew McCaskill. YouTube, uploaded by Karen Hunter Show, 3 Jun. 2020, Jose Antonio Vargas Talks Racism, Immigration and Ally-ship.

Further Reading

You've read, watched, and listened to some leading thinkers on the issues of race, racism, and citizenship in the United States, and we look forward to engaging in discussion with you in your classes and at events throughout the year!

Yet these materials only scratch the surface. If you'd like to learn more, visit these campus resources to get started.

The Lemieux Library offers a number of resources and our dedicated library faculty can help you pursue your research interests:

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion publishes annual Summer Reading lists and offers Red Talks throughout the academic year which can be accessed here:

The University Core Office has a limited  number of copies of last year's Common Text, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, available for pickup on campus this Fall. Contact if you are interested in receiving a copy!