Community & Government
Why We Need to Memorialize Sites of Racial Violence
Sherrilyn Ifill explains why Americans are ill-prepared to have a truly healing conversation about race. She challenges us to commit to creating common ground for that discussion by memorializing the painful truths of the past.
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Topics include: Why We Need to Memorialize Sites of Racial Violence
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Seven preeminent Black thought leaders share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future.Sign Up
[MUSIC PLAYING] NARRATOR: This was the home of Moes Wright. It was from this shack the state alleges Emmett Till was taken by Roy Bryant and JW Milam. This is the muddy, backwoods Tallahatchie River between Minter City and Phillip, Mississippi, where a weighted body was found alleged to be that of young Emmett Till. [MUSIC PLAYING] - Part of the problem in conversations between Black and white people is that we're speaking off a different script. Black people have a profound sense of this history of racial violence, racial intimidation, of dreams lost, of Black people who lost their land, of Black people who were run off their land. And white people, for the most part, in this country are ignorant about it. Some uncaring, but some ignorant. They don't know. And they felt they never had to know. And so when we try then to sit down for a conversation about race, which people are always insisting we must have, we must have these conversations about race, the truth is we are as ill-prepared for those conversations as we ever have been, in part, because there is not this shared knowledge and this shared narrative about how we arrived at this moment. Now, people get very nervous about the idea of exploring this history of racial violence and intimidation. And what I always say is that, you know, you can't only embrace one part of the history. It's not as though America doesn't enjoy memorializing its history. We do. We have holidays devoted to long-dead presidents. We have memorial spaces. We have memorial cemeteries. The whole controversy about Confederate statues is about who controls the memory and the narrative about that community. We talk about history all the time. So why is it that there's this one part of history, and particularly, as lynching is concerned, a part of history that unfolded on the courthouse lawn, in the public square, often attended by thousands of people, why is that part of history whitewashed? Why is it that when you go to this courthouse lawn, you will see there memorials to soldiers who fought sometimes in the Confederate army, but sometimes Vietnam War memorials, or Korean War memorials? You'll see bronze cannons that were donated by various members of the society. You'll see gardens that were planted by the Ladies Garden Club with little plaques indicating those who paid for ensuring that the courthouse lawn looked so beautiful. But what you don't see, you don't ever see a plaque that explains what happened on that same space 50 years ago, or 60 years ago. You actually see nothing in the physical space that would let you know that some of the collective public spaces that we hold so dear were sites for some of the most egregious acts of racial violence in our history. We don't include it in the school curriculum, K through 12. You have to actually seek these courses out as a university student. We don't talk about the victims of this violence. We don't commemorate them. Ma...
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From critical race theory to the 1619 Project, Black intellectuals are reshaping conversations on race in America. Now seven of those preeminent voices share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future. Gain a foundational understanding of the history of white supremacy and discover a path forward through the limitless capacity and resilience of Black love.
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Angela Davis, Cornel West, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Sherrilyn Ifill, Jelani Cobb, and John McWhorter
Seven preeminent Black thought leaders share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future.Explore the Class