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Ethics of Now: Human Realities of the Border and Empathy with Francisco Cantú

February 18, 2021 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

The Ethics of Now with Adriane Lentz-Smith continues from home with a series of brief, thoughtful and timely conversations about the ethical dilemmas of this historic moment. Join Professor Lentz-Smith and Former US Border Patrol Agent and author of The Line Becomes a River Francisco Cantú for a conversation on “Human Realities of the Border and Empathy.” After registering, you will receive a confirmation email about joining the webinar.


Thursday, February 18, 2021, 7:30pm

Register Now on Zoom


Raised in the Southwest, and a student of US/Mexico relations, Francisco Cantú wanted to see the realities of the border up-close. He enlisted as a US border patrol agent in 2008 and spent the next four years working in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. During blistering days and frigid nights, he and his partners apprehended migrants who were risking their lives to cross to a new country.

Haunted by his interactions with border-crossers and rattled by an inescapable proximity to violence, Cantú decided to return to civilian life, only to discover that the border had followed him home. When an immigrant friend traveled back to Mexico to visit his dying mother and didn’t return, Cantú found himself moved to uncover the entire story. His searing memoir, The Line Becomes a River depicts the cruelties the border creates, for Americans and Mexicans on both sides of the line.

Cantú speaks frankly, compassionately, and knowledgeably about the terror and tragedy of the migrants who risk and lose their lives attempting to cross the border. A master story-teller, he gives human faces to the nameless multitudes, and refutes the incendiary policy and rhetoric aimed at them.

Cantú is a former Fulbright fellow and recipient of a Pushcart Prize and 2017 Whiting Award. His writing and translations have appeared in Best American Essays, Harpers, n+1, Orion, and Guernica. His work has also been featured on This American Life. He currently lives in Tucson, Arizona.


Adriane Lentz-Smith is Associate Professor in the Department of History at Duke University. Her interests lie in African American history, twentieth-century United States history, and the history of the U.S. and the world. Her 2009 book Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I looks at the black freedom struggle in the World War I years, with a particular focus on manhood, citizenship, and global encounters. More recently, she has been at work on a book tentatively entitled Afterlives: Sagon Penn, State Violence, and the Twilight of Civil Rights. The book looks at dramatic moments of violent encounters between African Americans and the police to explore the role of violence in sustaining and opposing white supremacy in the two decades following the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. She is also interested in how African Americans engaged the world in the age of Cold War civil rights, and how their participation in the project of U.S. state and empire set the horizons of their freedom struggles.

The Ethics of Now is a series of conversations between Duke historian Adriane Lentz Smith and a range of artists, advocates, and authors that explore the ethical challenges facing the Durham and Duke communities.


February 18, 2021
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
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