Race, Identity, and Ideology

Part of our "SNF Agora Conversations: Diversity and Democracy" series

Free, online event

Our first “SNF Agora Conversations: Diversity and Democracy” event will explore ideological and demographic diversity, and in particular, the limits we place on ourselves and others when we simplistically lump segments of society together as unified blocs. Richard Alba, author of The Great Demographic Illusion: Majority, Minority, and the Expanding American Mainstream, and SNF Agora Visiting Fellow Musa al-Gharbi will discuss the ways in which an oversimplified understanding of racial identity can lead to mistaken assumptions about people’s beliefs, priorities, and political affiliations, and exacerbate already difficult racial divides. FiveThirtyEight politics reporter Alex Samuels will moderate the discussion.


Richard Alba is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and author of The Great Demographic Illusion: Majority, Minority, and the Expanding American Mainstream. His teaching and research take a comparative approach to understanding immigration societies of North America and Western Europe. His recent work, which is summarized in his new book, argues vigorously against the widely believed majority-minority narrative, according to which whites will soon become a numerical minority, as a way of understanding the changes brought by increasing diversity and the future towards which the U.S. is heading.

Musa al-Gharbi is an SNF Agora Visiting Fellow and a Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow in Sociology at Columbia University. His research explores how knowledge is produced, transmitted, and put to use (or not); how thought is shaped by people’s commitments and social contexts; and the extent to which narratives about social phenomena seem to correspond with apparent realities “on the ground.” He applies these lenses to a range of topics including race, inequality, social movements, extremism, policing, national security, foreign policy, and U.S. political elections. His first book, “We Have Never Been Woke: Social Justice Discourse, Inequality and the Rise of a New Elite” is under contract with Princeton University Press.

Alex Samuels, moderator, is a politics reporter at FiveThirtyEight.