Book Review: A Perilous Path: Talking Race, Inequality, and the Law

Click for a larger image of A Perilous Path: Talking Race, Inequality, and the Law

by Sherrilyn A. Ifill, Loretta Lynch, Bryan Stevenson, and Anthony C. Thompson

    Publication Date:
    List Price: $14.99 (store prices may vary)
    Format: Hardcover
    Classification: Nonfiction
    Page Count: 128
    ISBN13: 9781620973950
    Imprint: The New Press
    Publisher: The New Press
    Parent Company: The New Press

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    Book Reviewed by Kam Williams


    We are definitely in challenging times. A lot of things so many of us fought for are being deliberately and actively rolled back, trampled on. But what we're really seeing, which we have not seen in fifty years, is the peeling away of the role of government--the move away from protecting the disenfranchised, the move away from speaking to those who don’t have a voice, [and] the move away from lifting up people who have been pushed down.” —Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch (pages 10-11)

    This book is basically a candid conversation among talking heads revolving around the issue of racial justice in America. In fact, A Perilous Path is literally an edited version of a spirited chat which took place on February 27, 2017, during the launch of NYU School of Law's Center on Race, Inequality and the Law.

    On the dais were four African-Americans luminaries of considerable stature: former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Sherrilyn Ifill (cousin of the late Gwen Ifill), MacArthur Genius and best-selling author Bryan Stevenson, and NYU Professor of Law Anthony C. Thompson.

    The topics they explored ranged from the historical, such as why emancipation of the slaves failed to usher in an era of freedom and true equality; to the visionary, such as assessing the prospects for minorities in the age of Trump.

    In terms of the former, Stephenson asserts that “The North won the Civil War, but the South won the narrative war.” The South was able to persuade the United States Supreme Court that racial equality wasn’t necessary." He laments the thousands of lynchings and other forms of terrorism which ensued that no one was held accountable for.

    Similarly, he says, “We won passage of the Civil Rights Act, but we lost the narrative war.” Consequently, the segregationists waving Confederate flags were still able to maintain de facto white supremacy, evidenced by schools named after disgraced rebels like Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.

    I doubt you’d find any statues of Hitler and his henchmen scattered around Germany. Why not? Because not only did the Nazis lose World War II, they also lost the subsequent cultural war, which explains why Stephenson concludes for our purposes, "The challenge we face is a narrative battle."

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