The mission of the Walker Institute is to engage in research, teaching and service to promote:

  • Understanding of race and ethnic relations, with a special emphasis on the causes of disparities and the contexts in which conflicts as well as shared purposes and perspectives arise.
  • Appreciation of the diverse peoples and cultures of the United States, with special emphasis on the peoples and cultures of Michigan.
  • More equitable and inclusive communities and institutions, especially in this region of the state and throughout Michigan.


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Statement on the Need for Respectful and Inclusive Symbols of Community Life

Timothy Ready, Director

In this second decade of the Twenty-First Century, we should be beyond the point where those who run our institutions and shape our culture maintain symbolic representations of community life that caricature the racial and ethnic heritage of those who are not in the majority. As Director of Western Michigan University’s Lewis Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations, I am calling on everyone, especially those in leadership positions, to respect the heritage and culture of Native American Indian peoples--and of all peoples who enrich the fabric of our communities, state and nation.

Michigan communities, like communities all across the United States, are becoming increasingly diverse. Less than three years from now in the year 2020, children who are not of European origin and who have long been considered “minorities” will become the majority in the United States. The transition to “majority minority” for the population as a whole has already occurred in many cities and in several states, and will happen nationwide in only 25 years.

This demographic reality underscores a point related to common decency and respect that has always been true but can no longer be ignored.  For our communities to remain strong and united, our institutions and our culture must honor, respect and build upon the cultural heritage of every racial and ethnic group. Those who run our communities’ institutions and shape their cultures must not condone, let alone sponsor, cultural symbols that historically have been used to demean and that today are still considered offensive by many.

For this reason, it is critically important that our core symbols of community life unite and not divide us. Team names, mascots and other important representations of community must not caricature or stereotype anyone’s racial or ethnic heritage. This is especially true for those symbols that represent school communities whose young members, by their very nature, are impressionable and will learn the implicit and explicit meanings communicated by those symbols.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the government does not have the authority to ban trademarks that are offensive to certain groups of people. This decision will permit the professional football team based in Washington, DC, to keep its trademark logo and team name, even though they are offensive to many. The Constitution protects the right to free speech, no matter how offensive. That said, the Constitution’s protection of offensive speech should not be confused with what is wise, respectful, or a healthy cultural foundation for inclusive community. 

Nowhere is the issue of inclusive symbols of community more important than in school communities. For this reason, I call on the leadership of public schools that have team names and related symbols that are considered demeaning or offensive to any members of the school community to replace those names and symbols with ones that are inclusive and respectful of all.


Fall, 2017 Walker Institute Speakers on DACA and Immigration

DACA, Dreamers and the Undocumented: A Human Rights Perspective 
Jorge Bustamante
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, noon (light lunch available beginning at 11:45 a.m.)
Bernhard Center South Ballroom
(Reserved parking is available from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. in the lot 80 parking structure where the entrance is located on W. Michigan Ave.)
Jorge Bustamante is a distinguished sociologist recognized for his research and human rights advocacy for the rights of international migrants and refugees.  He is the author of more than 200 works published in eight countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia.
Dr. Bustamante received his Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame where he was a student of Dr. Julian Samora, and currently is professor of sociology at his alma mater. He was the founding director of El Colegio del la Frontera Norte (College of the Northern Border)--a prominent graduate studies and research institute, where he remained as director for sixteen years. 
He is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and has served in leadership positions on international councils concerned with the human rights of migrants. In 2006, he was nominated by the National Congress of Mexico for the Nobel Peace Prize. In addition, he served as Special Rapporteur for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Chair of the Committee on International Migration of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); President of the Mexican Presidential Council on the Sciences, and; President of the governing board of the Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico City.    
Race, Politics and NAFTA
James W. Russel
Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, noon (light lunch available beginning at 11:45 a.m.)
WMU Bernhard Center North Ballroom
(Reserved parking is available from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. in the lot 80 parking structure where the entrance is located on W. Michigan Ave.)


Opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and immigration were prominent themes in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.  Little was said, though, about the connections between the two.  In this talk, sociologist James W. Russell will demonstrate that contrary to the claims of its proponents, NAFTA provoked massive economic displacement in Mexico that stimulated the largest emigration of Mexicans to the United States in history, contributing to the anti-immigrant backlash of the 2016 election.
James W. Russell is the author of eight books, including Class and Race Formation in North America (text used in the Gen-Ed course, Immigration, Race  and Ethnicity in the US, which also is the introductory core course in the minor in Race and Ethnic Relations) and Escape from Texas: Slavery and the Texas War of Independence.  He currently is based at the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University.