Race, Rooted Cosmopolitanism, and Hope in the 21st Century

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The political storm that has visited the United States over the past few years have exposed a number of crises: cultural, political, and environmental. One of these crises is our society’s ongoing struggles with how we define and treat one another according to our ideas of “race.”

The moment is ripe for bringing together healthier understandings of ethnic identity that can replace the largely toxic idea of race from our past.

In this episode of Psychology Now, special guest Greg Thomas joins co-host Mark Forman to discuss these issues. This discussion points especially to forward-thinking exemplars — such as Albert Murray, Ralph Ellison, Anthony Appiah, Danielle Allen, and Nelson Mandela — to mine their deeper, more “integral” ways of approaching identity. A key concept addressed in this discussion is Appiah’s idea of “Rooted Cosmopolitanism.” Rooted Cosmopolitanism suggests that we simultaneously learn to embrace where we come from culturally/locally (our “roots”) while we learn to recognize where we naturally share cultures and concerns as a world (being “cosmopolitan”).

In this talk Greg and Mark will address the following topics:

  • How identity is always some part of Americans’ psychological lives, whether put out-front or backgrounded by the person
  • How the concept of race as we know it developed in United States
  • Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray as pioneering “integral” thinkers on race and culture
  • Using “culture” as opposed to “race” to create healthy ethnocentrism
  • Anthony Appiah’s concept of Rooted Cosmopolitanism
  • What we need to do to move ourselves forward
  • Discussions of exemplars including Barack Obama, (later life) Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela
  • The importance of doing our own individual work on identity
  • What should give us hope moving forward in the face of our current political and cultural crises?

Greg Thomas has over 25 years of experience as a writer, producer, broadcaster and educator, and has been featured in publications as various as The New Republic, The Root, Salon, London’s Guardian Observer, the Village Voice, and New York’s Daily News. Greg was the Editor-in-Chief of Harlem World magazine from 2003-2006. In June 2010 the University of Alabama Press published Greg’s essay: “Greg Thomas and the Professor” – which elaborates on his relationship with famed scholar and writer Albert Murray. Murray Talks Music: Albert Murray on Jazz and Blues (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) features Greg’s Afterword and an interview he conducted  with Murray in 1996. Among Greg’s more recent presentations, in February 2016 he addressed the topic of what he calls “The Ralph Ellison-Albert Murray Continuum” for a one-day symposium at Columbia University. This talk is available on Youtube.


Allen, Danielle S., and Angel Parham. (2015). “Achieving Rooted Cosmopolitanism in the Digital Age.” From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in the Digital Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Appiah, K. W. (2005). The Ethics of Identity. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Appiah, K. W. (2006). Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Clark, G (2015). Civic Jazz: American Music and Kenneth Burke on the Art of Getting Along. University of Chicago Press.

Ellison, R. (1995). The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison. New York: Modern Library.

Ellison, R., & Murray, A. (2001). Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray Paperback. New York: Vintage Books.

Murray, A. (1970/1990). The Omni-Americans: Black Experience and American Culture. New York: Da Capo Press.

Murray, A. (2016). Albert Murray: Collected Essays & Memoirs (edited by Henry Louis Gates and Paul Devlin). New York: Library of America.

Greg Thomas

About Greg Thomas

Greg Thomas has over 25 years of experience as a writer, producer, broadcaster and educator, and has been featured in publications as various as The Root, All About Jazz, Salon, London's Guardian Observer, the Village Voice, Africana, American Legacy, Savoy, New York's Daily News as well as the scholarly journal Callaloo. He was the Editor-in-Chief of Harlem World magazine from 2003-2006.

Mark Forman

About Mark Forman

Mark Forman, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist whose text — A Guide to Integral Psychotherapy Complexity, Integration, and Spirituality in Practice – is considered one of the seminal works in the field of Integral Psychotherapy.

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