Somerville Professor Authors Book on Racism

Dr. Karen Gaffney, a resident of Somerville and professor at Raritan Valley Community College has authored a book on the history of racism. Credits: Courtesy Raritan Valley Community College

SOMERVILLE, NJ - Dr. Karen Gaffney, a borough resident and professor of English at Raritan Valley Community College, has authored a book on the history of racism.

"Dismantling the Racism Machine: A Manual and Toolbox," published by Routledge, offers an accessible, introductory guide to race and racism. The 214-page book also includes “tools for action” for students, educators, and the public.

“In a politically polarized time marked by neo-Nazis, the alt-right, and mass deportations, it is critical to understand America's roots of racism and how it manifests in every facet of society. In 'D'ismantling the Racism Machine,' Gaffney does just this in clear, unflinching and accessible terms, providing readers with the racial literacy so missing in our current debates. By pulling together a diverse array of historic and current resources, this book provides both introductions as well as sophisticated analysis of key themes for understanding racism and how to dismantle it,” said Bree Picower, associate professor of Education at Montclair State University.

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While scholars have been developing valuable research on race and racism for decades, their work is not usually geared toward the beginning college student or the general public, who rarely receive a basic history of race and racism. Grounded in Critical Race Theory, Gaffney’s book uses the metaphor of the Racism Machine to highlight that race is a social construct and that racism is a system of oppression based on invented racial categories. It debunks the ideology that race is biological.

As a manual, 'Dismantling the Racism Machine' offers clear instructions for understanding the history of race, including “whiteness,” starting in colonial America where the elite created a hierarchy of racial categories to maintain their power through a divide-and-conquer strategy. As a toolbox, the book provides a variety of specific action steps that readers can take once they have developed a foundational understanding of the history of white supremacy.

Gaffney has taught at RVCC for 15 years. She presents her work at numerous conferences, including the American Studies Association, the Modern Language Association, the Working Class Studies Association, the White Privilege Conference, and Netroots Nation. She teaches a course at RVCC she designed more than 10 years ago called Race in American Literature and Popular Culture, which focuses on race as a social construct and the systemic nature of racism in the US.

Gaffney has facilitated workshops and courses in the community to raise awareness about these concepts. Her blog, “Divided No Longer,” is available at and includes many related resources. Gaffney received her PhD in English from the University of Delaware.

For additional information about Dismantling the Racism Machine: A Manual and Toolbox, contact Dr. Gaffney at



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