Racism and the Law: Confronting the Realities

At this two-part program, local civil rights attorney Stephan Haimowitz will discuss the range of racial controversies affecting this country — from mass  incarceration, to voting rights, affirmative action and beyond. Haimowitz will review how U.S. law imbedded racism in the country’s birth and growth, then moved incrementally to ban discrimination. This program will take a look at today’s disputes in terms of three divergent legal concepts: colorblindness, diversity and reparations.

Wednesday, Jan.  30 • 7 p.m.
AND Wednesday, Feb. 6 • 7 p.m.

Additional resources

Before Freedom Belinda Hurmence, Ed. From oral histories recorded in the 1930s, former slaves discuss living conditions, masters, Klansmen, Union soldiers and the experience of liberty.
Stamped from the Beginning Ibram Kendi A history of the origins and development of racist ideas in the US demonstrating how inequality becomes normalized. (National Book Award)
Arc of Justice Kevin Boyle A slave’s grandson, Dr. Ossian Sweet, moved his family to a white area of Detroit in 1925 and faced rioting then legal persecution. (National Book Award)
Simple Justice Richard Kluger A very readable history of the Brown vs. Board of Education case – the people involved in it, as well as the life and death of “separate but equal” as a legal principle.
Letter from Birmingham Jail Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King’s response to members of the clergy and others who urged him to seek social change in the courts rather than in the streets.
The King Years Taylor Branch Brief selections from the “America in the King Years” trilogy which track the Civil Rights Movement from 1954-1968, and won numerous book awards.
When Affirmative Action Was White Ira Katznelson A review of the 20th century Federal housing, education and other benefits that enabled white families to become middle class while consistently excluding blacks.
Common Ground J. Anthony Lukas An in-depth account of a decade of the bitter battles over court-ordered school busing in Boston, told from multiple participants’ perspectives. (Pulitzer Prize)
For Discrimination Randell Kennedy A Harvard law professor advances a series of arguments for Affirmative Action which focus on the role of law in achieving social justice.
The New Jim Crow Michelle Alexander An influential argument that the criminal justice system prioritizes social control over public safety, and that the US is not a post-racial society.
Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration — and How to Achieve Real Reform John Pfaff Taking issue with some of Michelle Alexander’s findings, the focus is on the unbridled discretion of prosecutors.
Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America James Forman Jr. An examination of the support of African American leaders for the policies, crack-downs, etc. that led to mass incarceration.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Bryan Stevenson A lawyer’s account of efforts and strategies aimed at injustices in the criminal system, particularly the horrors of the death penalty.
Race Matters Cornel West Essays on a range of issues by a philosopher and theologian who has appeared in movies, released rap albums and roundly criticized President Obama’s actions on race and other matters.
The Case for Reparations Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic, June, 2014) An article which, beyond reviving attention to the specific issues, prompted intense debate in the news media and online about racism in the US.
Should America Pay? Raymond Winbush, Ed. Essays debating the concept of reparations as well as the numerous legislative and litigation initiatives, political dynamics and practical issues.
The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks Randal Robinson A call for a careful look a history to enable blacks to reclaim their heritage and whites to understand what actions need to be taken.
Dear White America Tim Wise A white, anti-racist activist argues for an honest appraisal of our racial history, acceptance of moral responsibility and remedial action.
Hitler’s American Model James Whitman An examination of the major influence of US law on Hitler’s lawyers as they drafted the infamous 1935 Nuremburg Laws.
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide Carol Anderson An analysis of the tools and arguments used to resist each legal advance made by African Americans from the Civil War to the present.
Separate and Unequal Steven Gillom President Johnson established the Kerner Commission to investigate the urban uprisings in the 1960s and was very displeased by its finding that white racism was the primary cause.
The Color of Law Richard Rothstein A thorough examination of the numerous, specific ways in which all levels of government collaborated with the housing and finance industries to insure residential segregation.
• One Person, No Vote Carol Anderson A readable discussion of the widespread voter suppression efforts unleashed after the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that eliminated key provisions of the Voting Rights of 1965.

12 Years a Slave Adapted from his memoir, the story of a New York State-born free African-American man who, in 1841, was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. and sold into slavery.
Lincoln The drama of the President and his assistants persuading, pressuring and manipulating members of Congress to outlaw slavery by enacting the 13th Amendment.
Slavery by Another Name A documentary exposing the “convict leasing” and “debt peonage” systems used in the South, with much help from the legal system, from the end of the Civil War until 1940. Streaming free at http://www.pbs.org/tpt/slavery-by-another-name/home/
Eyes on the Prize A 14-part documentary on the Civil Rights Movement that uses archival film footage, photos and interviews of participants and opponents. Narrated by Julian Bond.
Freedom on My Mind Telling the story of the 1961-64 Mississippi voter registration efforts, this documentary includes some exploration of inter-racial tensions among the young idealists. Streaming On Demand at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/freedomonmymind
All the Way A dramatization of the wheeling and dealing among President Lyndon Johnson, lawmakers and activists which resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Selma A chronicle of three months in 1965 when the world’s TVs and newspapers showed police and others beating peaceful marchers, ending with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Loving The story of a couple convicted in Virginia for interracial marriage whose appeal to the US Supreme Court succeeded in 1967, invalidating anti-miscegenation laws in 30 states.
13th A documentary on the prison population explosion and related law enforcement practices in African-American communities (e.g., war on drugs, stop and frisk, probation and parole).

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