The killings of George Floyd, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and others have occurred under different factual circumstances, in different states, at the hands of both state and private actors, and have engendered different levels of outrage on the basis of their perceived egregiousness. Collectively and cumulatively, they have forced Americans to, once again, wrestle with the visible manifestation of racism and structural inequality. This confrontation is not simply a function of the inability to avert one’s eyes when faced with incontrovertible evidence of evident inhumanity and abject degradation, though it is in part that. After all, how to justify the deployment of state power to literally snuff the breath of another human being who was otherwise harmlessly restrained and presented a threat to no one? Or, how not to be appalled by three white men effectively hunting down and shooting a black man who was simply jogging? These facts are self-evidently heinous, and the only acceptable reaction is outrage.
Ours is a moment rife with the possibilities of racial justice. Fundamental change seems possible. The question for the future is about how to harness this moment to make this fundamental change real and lasting. How does a movement translate its demands into actionable policy? In this Essay, we argue for a three-step incremental process, from protest to politics to law. Taking as our example the case of the Voting Rights Act, we illustrate how the Freedom Movement went from its voting rights campaign to the heart of the Democratic Party and ultimately to August 6, 1965, when President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. Fundamental change, as we show in the pages that follow, requires all three steps.
To read this Essay, please click here: Toward a Law and Politics of Racial Solidarity.