Grant to support Baylor prof’s study of American culture’s impact on racial attitudes & myths
Dr. Greg Garrett is particularly gifted at telling all types of stories. As a specialist in creative writing, he’s told stories of truth and passion. He’s analyzed media for its effects on past and modern societies. And over the past year, he has been focused on telling stories of race and justice.
His most recent book, A Long, Long Way: Hollywood’s Unfinished Journey from Racism to Reconciliation, took a deep dive into how movies have altered our cultural perspectives on race. Now, he’s been awarded a nearly $500,000 grant to expand his research by examining how an even broader swath of American culture — not just movies, but books, sermons, political discussions and more — influences racial attitudes and myths in our nation.
“Racial mythologies have been deeply embedded in American life, from film to legal codes to theology to popular and material culture,” says Garrett. “Racial mythologies about the inferiority of other races are untrue in the way we usually think of myths as lies, but they’re also powerfully true in the way that people have oriented their lives around them and used them to make sense of the world. I’m interested in the way these dynamics shapes the way we understand our lives, the world, God, and each other.”
The grant, funded by the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation, will support research into a variety of types of media and foster the development of public programming in two phases. Phase one will focus on the analysis of movies, books, sermons, theological writing, political discourse and pop culture, while phase two will feature the development of programming and partnerships that will shape conversations about the stories American society tells about race.
“I’m so grateful to be entrusted with these resources,” says Garrett. “They’ll be employed to help people who look like me to recognize the stories we’ve told and the structures we’ve set up to preserve our privilege and to diminish people of other races.”
Garrett, a nationally recognized expert on the confluence of faith and pop culture, plans to partner with the Washington National Cathedral, the Baylor in Washington program, and Oxford University to develop programming that speaks to a variety of audiences. He will also work with Baylor’s Truett Seminary to develop curriculum addressing race and the church.
“Good stories can offer us the alternative views and the engagement we need,” Garrett told the Waco Tribune-Herald. “These conversations are healing and can blunt the ones that prop up damaging social structures and power dynamics.”
Sic ’em, Dr. Garrett!