I am an Associate Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles where I hold a split appointment in the Department of African American Studies and the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics in the Division of Life Sciences. I am the Founding Director of the Lab for Biocritical Studies and also serve as the Associate Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. Additionally, I am the Advisor for Structural Competency and Innovation for the UCLA Simulation Center at the David Geffen School of Medicine and also serve as Associate Director in the Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice & Health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
My teaching, research, and community engagement concern the social, political, and ethical conditions that produce and abolish discrimination within society. My first book Divine Variations: How Christian Thought Became Racial Science (Stanford University Press, 2018) gave an account of how religious ideas have shaped the thinking of scientists studying race within the fields of anthropology, genetics, public health, and medicine.
[Photograph by Andreas Branch]
Currently, I am directing a community based research project titled Society after Nihilism: The Medicolegal Erasure of Accountability at the end of American Life. This project brings together medical humanities, data science, bioethics, and critical race theory to study overlooked forms of racial discrimination and nihilism that appear in the United States medical examiner system and contribute to the erasure of state accountability for taking the lives of people within our nation.
I am the descendant of sharecroppers from Scott, Louisiana, a long line of autoworkers from the rust belt, and Black servicemen who tried to navigate “a whiteman’s army” as they would say. Born and raised on the southside of Sacramento, CA I made my way back to the deep south to Xavier University of Louisiana. There I was influenced by a legendary department of theology that introduced me to W.E.B. Du Bois, Karl Marx, Al Raboteau, and many others. That program along with the untimely death of my mother to breast cancer turned me into a scholar. I went on to earn a BA in Theology from Xavier and then a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. In 2012 I earned a PhD from Harvard University under the Committee on the Study of Religion and the Department of the History of Science, while also working with the Department of African American Studies.