Think back to 1965 debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley Jr.
I remember the February 1965 debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley Jr. in the Cambridge Union on the topic “The American dream is at the expense of the American Negro.”
During that time, Buckley’s major claim was that Black Americans were making too much of their plight and that the larger society (i.e., white America) was an easy and convenient target, and that furthermore, everyone experiences a measure of injustice.
Baldwin fired back and displayed with great mastery the convenient chimera that white America had constructed to shield itself and to obscure both the oppression and hypocrisy responsible for its success and what that success meant for the Black American status quo. The Moynihan Report of that same year was a prime example of that chimera.
At the time, Baldwin was heralded as the winner, yet what did American society take away from it? Consider what came to pass regarding George Floyd and others stretching back to Fred Hampton. Empathy and an honest and complete historical reckoning are needed in this society if it is to go forward and be true to the statement at the end of the Pledge of Allegiance: “with liberty and justice for all.”
James R. Weiss
The writer is an adjunct professor of history at Lesley University.
What will the verdict be when a case is not painfully inevitable?
Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
As much as we all wish the verdict Tuesday in the murder trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin to be a signal of the beginning of the end of the epidemic of brutality, it took a perfect storm of events to exact the verdict.
What if there had not been the 9-minute-and-29-second video defining obscene cruelty? What if there had not been witnesses to these horrors? What if the Minneapolis police chief had not repudiated the actions of one of his own and the blue wall had remained unbroken?
What if Chauvin had not ignored the pleas of a dying man, of a frantic crowd, with a callous indifference that made it clear the life he was suffocating out of existence was viewed as of no value?
What would have happened then?
Yes, we are grateful for how quickly and decisively the jury responded to the overwhelming force of what was presented to them. But we must ask if this was progress or merely a moment where literally everything coalesced so that this conclusion was an inevitability.
But what if the next one is not?
That will be the real test of where we go from here.
Robert S. Nussbaum
Still fighting the legacy of slavery
Derek Chauvin learned a lesson that his ancestors, in a general sense, and, more recently, some of his counterparts in law enforcement have not: You cannot always kill a Black man in broad daylight with cameras and people watching and get away with the crime. In this case, the system said: Enough. Not this time.
Our country took a much-hoped-for collective breath Tuesday. The family of George Floyd has some measure of justice, and that is good. However, the legacy of slavery, with all of its political, cultural, educational, and legal issues, will not change until the entire country recognizes those challenges and does the work that is needed.
William Faulkner, of course, was correct: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
We celebrate justice in Minneapolis and mourn anew in Columbus, Ohio
What will it take for police not to have open season on people of color?
We celebrate one victory for justice in Minneapolis only to have another possibly unjust police shooting of a Black person happen yet again, in Columbus, Ohio (“Columbus police officer fatally shoots girl swinging knife,” BostonGlobe.com, April 21).
Do they not learn? Is taking a life justified with a gun because a girl — a teenager, mind you — had a knife? Is proportionate force not a concept? Are there not other areas of the body at which to aim that would not result in death but would still protect those who are threatened by an alleged aggressor?
I do not get it. I simply don’t. I am speechless for once.