Rinku Sen

Rinku Sen

: Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: PopTech from Camden, Maine and Brooklyn, NY, USA


* President and executive director of the Applied Research Center
* Claims that America is infested with “institutional” or “structural” racism

Born in Calcutta, India, Rinku Sen is an Indian-American author and activist who earned a B.A. in Women’s Studies from Brown University in 1988 and an M.S. from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2005. Today Sen is the president and executive director of the Applied Research Center (ARC), as well as the publisher of Colorlines.com, ARC’s daily news website which features “reporting, analysis, and solutions to today’s racial justice issues.”

In addition to her duties with ARC, Sen has served as a leading official at the Center for Third World Organizing (which is “dedicated to building a social-justice movement led by people of color”); chair of the Media Consortium (which describes itself as “a network of the country’s leading, progressive, independent media outlets”); a board member of the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (a Tides Center project that aims to combat “institutional and structural racism); a Prime Movers fellow through the Hunt Alternatives Fund (which promotes “social change at the local, national, and global levels”); a board member of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (which seeks “to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s low-wage restaurant workforce”); a vice chair of the Schott Foundation for Public Education; and a board member of Working America (an AFL-CIO community affiliate that works “against wrong-headed priorities favoring the rich and corporate special interests over America’s well-being”).

Sen authored Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing, a 2003 book which the Ms. Foundation for Women commissioned her to write. According to the publisher, this book spells out “the steps of building and mobilizing a constituency and implementing key strategies that can effect social change.”

In 2008 Sen’s second book, The Accidental American: Immigration and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization, advocated “a more humane immigration and global labor system” permitting “a free flow of labor” across national borders. This book received high praise from figures such as Barbara Ehrenreich, Danny Glover, Van Jones, and Frances Fox Piven.

After the community organization ACORN essentially dissolved in scandal in 2010 (though it would soon reconstitute itself under a variety of alternative names), Sen lamented that the group’s demise would leave behind “a big hole” in the lives of nonwhite minorities and the poor.

A popular public speaker in leftist circles, Sen commonly addresses audiences on such topics as racial diversity, racial justice, immigration, LGBT issues, community organizing, the “green economy,” the “racialization of welfare,” and inequities in education. She also writes on a regular basis for Colorlines, the Huffington Post, and Jack and Jill Politics.[According to Sen], most Americans possess only an “incomplete” understanding of what racism really is, viewing it as nothing more than the “intentional, explicit action of one individual against another.” But Sen explains that “institutional” or “structural” racism, which is far more difficult to identify and eliminate, is even more insidious. Such racism, she elaborates, involves “discriminatory treatment, unfair policies, practices and patterns, and inequitable opportunities and impacts in discrete entities (such as a school or district).”

Sen has received numerous awards and honors from leftist organizations, including the Ms. Foundation for Women‘s “Gloria Steinem Women of Vision Award” in 1996, and Citizen Action of New York’s “Progressive Leadership Award” in 2008.

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