Justice Harlan and Race

For years and in many different situations I have heard appeals to Justice Harlan’s one-person dissent in the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision of 1896, in which he articulated the idea that the Constitution, and therefore the law of the land is “color blind.” Continue reading

Speak Now Against the Day

For a Christmas gift a son and his wife sent me a book which has quickly become a treasure. Speak Now Against the Day by John Egerton bears a subtitle: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South. It is the story of men and women of the South who spoke and worked against the development of segregation as a way of life which they knew to be destroying both the South and the idea of equality. Continue reading

A Question For Sal … “American First?”

He was a young man of Italian descent, a student in my class at Boston College. The class is gathered around the topic: The History and Development of Racism, and features a great deal of discussion between students as we look together at the broad sweep of racism in our history. Sal had been a vigorous discussant in that group, and it is clear from his level of participation that a lot was churning in his head and heart. So I was not surprised when he requested a chance to talk about his most recent paper. Continue reading

The Danger of Becoming a WANNABUT

There have been numerous occasions in my work on issues related to racism when I have seen creativity stifled by someone who says, “but,” “but,” “but.”…. It usually comes in response to a suggestion about what a person or group might do programmatically to counter the effects of racism. Continue reading

Heroes of Democracy in the Twentieth Century

In the waning years of the twentieth century it is time to recognize the significance of the Civil Rights Movement as a major contribution to democracy. It was Vincent Harding whom I first heard say that the Civil Rights Movement was about democracy. Continue reading

Why There Is No End To Racism In The U.S.A.

Having come to the reluctant acceptance of the permanence of racism and the simultaneous liberation that acceptance has brought to my involvement in the struggle against racism, [1] I have been asked often to indicate the reasons which lead me to the assumption of “permanence.” Sometimes the questioner seems rooted in stubborn resistance, sometimes in puzzled inquiry, sometimes in defiant incredulity. The question begs both my mind and my heart for an answer. Continue reading