Racism and the American Promise: Theodore R. Johnson with Leah Wright Rigueur

Wed. Jun 9, 2021 1:00pm - 2:00pm EDT
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Event Description

Johnson, a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, argues that if we cannot overcome racism in this country, the promise that made America unique will not survive.

"Racism is an existential threat to America," Theodore R. Johnson declares at the start of his new book, When the Stars Begin to Fall. That racism continues to corrode our society is a refutation of the American Promise, enshrined in our Constitution, which holds that all people are inherently equal. Weaving memories of his and his family's multi-generational experiences with racism, alongside strands of history, Johnson lays out the case that national solidarity is the path toward diminishing racism, and that a blueprint for national solidarity can be found in the exceptional citizenship long practiced in Black America. Understanding that racism is a structural crime of the state, he argues that overcoming it requires us to recognize that a color-conscious society—not a color-blind one—is the true fulfillment of the American Promise.

Johnson discusses his faith in the American project and an urgent call to overcome what has long seemed intractable.

This event is produced in partnership with the Brennan Center for Justice.

This program will be streamed live on the NYPL event page.

A live transcript will be provided. ASL interpretation is available upon request. Please submit your request at least two weeks in advance by emailing accessibility@nypl.org. A pre-filled Gmail template is available by clicking hereAny media will be accompanied by alt text to reference before the program or by audio description.

Theodore (Ted) R. Johnson is the Director of the Fellows Program and a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. His work explores the role that race plays in electoral politics, policy outcomes, and conceptions of the American identity. He is also a retired commander in the U.S. Navy following a two-decade career that included service as a White House fellow and speechwriter to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His work has appeared in The New York Times MagazineThe Washington PostThe Atlantic, and National Review, among other publications. He holds degrees from Hampton University, Harvard University, and Northeastern University.

Leah Wright Rigueur is the Harry S. Truman Associate Professor of American History at Brandeis University. She is the author of the award-winning book, The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics & the Pursuit of Power. Dr. Wright Rigueur is an ABC News Contributor, and her research, writing, and commentary has been featured in numerous outlets including PBS, MSNBC, CNN, NPR, The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Atlantic. Currently, Dr. Wright Rigueur is working on two book manuscripts: Race, Riot, and Rebellion in America, and Mourning in America: Black Men in a White House.  


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Theodore R. Johnson © Kimberly Burton

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