An interview with Harvard University-trained public defense lawyer Bryan Stevenson on racial trauma, segregation, and listening to marginalized voices.
You can’t understand many of the most destructive issues or policies in our country without understanding our history of racial inequality.
I genuinely believe that, despite all of that victimization, the worst part of slavery was this narrative that we created about black people—this idea that black people aren’t fully human, that they are three-fifths human, that they are not capable, that they are not evolved. That ideology, which set up white supremacy in America, was the most poisonous and destructive consequence of two centuries of slavery.
(Today) there is this burden in America that people of color bear. This presumption of dangerousness weighs on you.
I want to affirm for young kids that the world will still do that to them, but they should know that the world is wrong, and that you have to not only endure, but you have to overcome.
(Kids growing up in violent neighborhoods are living through traumas and developing PTSD like combat veterans. This) is happening to kids of color, poor kids, because they’ve been in environments where they are constantly being threatened. And instead of treating that trauma, what we do in our educational system in so many places is we aggravate the trauma.
You can’t do reconciliation work, you can’t do restoration work, you can’t do racial justice work, you can’t create the outcome that you desire to see until there has been truth-telling. And truth-telling has to happen when people who have been victimized and marginalized and excluded and oppressed are given a platform to speak, and everybody else has to listen.
(And) if you are privileged by education or privileged by wealth or privileged by color or privileged by status, you really need to listen before you can formulate a strategy that is going to have an impact on these really vexing issues.