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Civil Rights

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American exceptionalism and xenophobia cleaves the Black struggle once again

Still from ADOS 2019 conference video.

Scrolling social media feels like, at any moment, I’ll get pulled into one of those haunted houses I hated as a kid. I didn’t know what was in them but didn’t want to terrify myself looking. I fell into one such spooky abyss last month — ADOS — and I’m mangling my nails trying to claw myself out.

The acronym stands for American Descendants of Slavery, which is an awkward phrase: Since the country was built on slavery, anyone American is a descendant. It’s hard to understand how a person can descend from a system. (I could call myself a…

From The Nickel to Skid Row, the city needs more people telling its stories

In January 2018, on an unexpectedly rainy day in Los Angeles, I found myself on the streets of Skid Row. Precipitation has a notable effect on southern California when it actually strikes, but east of South Los Angeles Street downtown, it was just another Thursday morning.

Letting go of my anger feels impossible when anger is all there is

Photo: Jonathan Knowles/Getty Images

Did you know that John Lewis forgave George Wallace?

That George Wallace — one of the most vile racists in American history. The man who, during his 1963 inaugural address after being elected governor of Alabama, proclaimed “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” The man who sent the guard dogs and armed police that beat marchers, John Lewis among them, in Selma in 1965.

Starting in the 1970s, Wallace began seeking forgiveness, engaging with African American organizations and trying to reckon with his own past. Following Wallace’s death in 1998, Lewis wrote in The New York Times about his decision…

The icon didn’t live to see his vision for racial justice achieved, despite what cynical politicians want us to believe

Many lovely and important tributes have been shared in the days since the passing of Rep. John Lewis (here is one, here is another). And rightfully so. He was a bonafide hero and selfless public servant. It’s extraordinary for a prominent Black hero of the civil rights movement to survive the era, let alone live a long life and achieve a seat of power in our nation’s Congress.

I worry, however, that the death of Lewis puts greater distance between America and the racial equality and justice he spent his days fighting for. It’s easier to convince the comfortable that…

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