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"The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself: Racial Myths and Our American Narratives" with author David Mura

Taking readers beyond apology, contrition, or sadness, Mura attends to the persistent trauma racism has exacted and lays bare how deeply we need to change our racial narratives.

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Time & Location








"The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself: Racial Myths and Our American Narratives" with author and gamechanger, David Mura

Tuesday, March 12, 7-8 pm Central time

About the book:

Uncovering the pernicious narratives white people create to justify white supremacy and sustain racist oppression. The police murders of two Black men, Philando Castile and George Floyd, frame this searing exploration of the historical and fictional narratives that white America tells itself to justify and maintain white supremacy. From the country’s founding through the summer of Black Lives Matter in 2020, David Mura unmasks how white stories about race attempt to erase the brutality of the past and underpin systemic racism in the present.

Intertwining history, literature, ethics, and the deeply personal, Mura looks back to foundational narratives of white supremacy (Jefferson’s defense of slavery, Lincoln’s frequently minimized racism, and the establishment of Jim Crow) to show how white identity is based on shared belief in the pernicious myths, false histories, and racially segregated fictions that allow whites to deny their culpability in past atrocities and current inequities. White supremacy always insists white knowledge is superior to Black knowledge, Mura argues, and this belief dismisses the truths embodied in Black narratives.

Mura turns to literature, comparing the white savior portrayal of the film Amistad to the novelization of its script by the Black novelist Alexs Pate, which focuses on its African protagonists; depictions of slavery in Faulkner and Morrison; and race’s absence in the fiction of Jonathan Franzen and its inescapable presence in works by ZZ Packer, tracing the construction of Whiteness to willfully distorted portraits of race in America. In James Baldwin’s essays, Mura finds a response to this racial distortion and a way for Blacks and other BIPOC people to heal from the wounds of racism.

Taking readers beyond apology, contrition, or sadness, Mura attends to the persistent trauma racism has exacted and lays bare how deeply we need to change our racial narratives—what white people must do—to dissolve the myth of Whiteness and fully acknowledge the stories and experiences of Black Americans.

David Mura’s most recent book is the acclaimed The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself: Racial Myths and Our American Narratives. His previous book was on creative writing and race, A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity & Narrative Craft in Writing.  With essayist Carolyn Holbrook, Mura is co-editor of an anthology of 2021 Minnesota BIPOC writers, We Are Meant to Rise: Voices for Justice from Minneapolis to the World.

Mura is a poet, creative nonfiction writer, fiction writer, critic, playwright and performance artist.  A Sansei or third generation Japanese American, Mura has written two memoirs: Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei , which won a 1991 Josephine Miles Book Award from the Oakland PEN and was listed in the New York Times Notable Books of Year, and Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity. His novel Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, the John Gardner Fiction Prize and Virginia Commonwealth University Cabell First Novelist Award.

Mura has written four books of poetry, including Angels for the Burning and The Last Incantations. His second, The Colors of Desire, won the Carl Sandburg Literary Award from the Friends of the Chicago Public Library, and his first After We Lost Our Way was a National Poetry Contest winner.

Mura co-produced, wrote and narrated the Emmy winning documentary by Twin Cities Public Television, Armed With Language, about the Japanese American Military Intelligence Services linguists who served in WWII.

Mura has taught at colleges and universities around the country. He served as Director of Training for The Innocent Classroom, a program designed by writer and educator Alexs Pate to train K-12 teachers to improve their relationships with students of color. In 2019 he won the Kay Sexton Award for contributions to Minnesota literature by the Friends of the St. Paul Library and the Minnesota Book Awards.


Yesenia Lucia Cervera is an Assistant Professor in the Race and Ethnic Studies Program at UW-Whitewater. She is a Chicana-Latina scholar from Milwaukee, WI with bachelor's and master's degrees from UW-Milwaukee in Sociology and Urban Studies, respectively. Her Ph.D. is from Indiana University in History, Philosophy, and Policy in Education. Her broad academic interests are the historical and contemporary intersections of race/ethnicity and education. Her work amplifies the historically marginalized and silenced voices and experiences of People of Color in order to validate the cultural strengths and accomplishments of diverse communities. She is a core member of the Wisconsin Latinx Historical Collective, a community and academic partnership organization based out of UW-Madison that includes members from across the state and from multiple institutions working together to document and center the life histories, experiences, and contributions of Latina/o/x/é populations in Wisconsin.

HND Value Statement

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Humanities North Dakota. However, in an increasingly polarized world, we at Humanities North Dakota believe that being open-minded is necessary to thinking critically and rationally. Therefore, our programs and classes reflect our own open-mindedness in the inquiry, seeking, and acquiring of scholars to speak at our events and teach classes for our Public University. To that end, we encourage our participants to join us in stepping outside our comfort zones and considering other perspectives and ideas by being open-minded while attending HND events featuring scholars who hold a variety of opinions, some being opposite of our own held beliefs.

Humanities North Dakota classes and events are funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities

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