All posts tagged: The New Jim Crow

The Work Still Before Us

As we celebrate the life and work of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend, we are reminded of how far we’ve come in terms of racial justice and equality in America. And—this year more than most—we are also reminded of how so very far we’ve yet to go. In honor of the work of Dr. King, I quoted author Michael Eric Dyson in 2019 from his book Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, where Dyson argues of Martin Luther King, Jr. that America has “washed the grit from his rhetoric” in order to get to a place where he can be seen and admired by the country at large. Yet it was King who said that the country’s race problem “grows out of the…need that some people have to feel superior. A need that some people have to feel…that their white skin ordained them to be first.” Difficult words for many to hear, yet, “This is why King is so important to this generation, to this time, to this …

Our Country is Like a Really Old House

With instant communication and connections, one can travel the globe and still face issues from home.  We may try to block them out, but they come up in conversations in other countries. In feeds on social media. During sermons.* Even in a toy display in a store window! I’ve been reminded again during my travels that in today’s global world, there are many national issues with international ramifications. Thomas Fingar — the Shorenstein APARC Fellow in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, and former Assistant Secretary of State — lectured on the Japan / Korea / China / United States relationships during the Asian portion of my current trip.  Fingar provided a realistic and sometimes sobering assessment of future difficulties (many self-inflicted) as we were visiting sites of great beauty and centuries-old history. A few days later I arrived in the U.K. as Prime Minister Theresa May was resigning and the airways were filled with commentary (some from the current resident of the White …

Nothing Can be Changed Until it is Faced

Last week, President Obama named the A.G. Gaston Motel (a National Trust National Treasure), the 16th Street Baptist Church (site of a bomb attack in 1963 that killed four young girls), and other places near them as part of the new Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.  Made on the eve of celebrating the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, the president’s designation was a good reminder of the importance of why we protect places that tell difficult stories from our past. A few weeks ago I finished reading a powerful book that harkened back to the work and writings of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is a work that demands a response from the reader and is not easily dismissed. In the book’s foreword, Cornel West alludes to the link between Alexander’s work and Dr. King’s core beliefs.  King called for us to be “lovestruck with each other, not colorblind toward each other. To be lovestruck is to care, to have …

Nothing Can be Changed Until It is Faced: The New Jim Crow

Several weeks ago I finished reading a book which won’t leave my mind.  The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander is an important and disturbing book which ultimately leads to much soul-searching on the part of the reader. It first came out in 2010 and has been on my bookshelf for a while, but I only picked it up at the tail end of the presidential election campaign.  That was timely. Alexander – a civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar – has written a well-researched and devastating work.  In The New Jim Crow, Alexander shows we have not moved into a colorblind society, but have – in fact – simply replaced one racial caste system (Jim Crow) for another (mass incarceration).  The book is thorough in its analysis and gut-wrenching in its conclusions. Alexander writes in the introduction, “What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society than with the language we use to justify it.  In the …