Race and the Race for the White House

Is racial justice on the ballot in 2016?

In the past year, Charleston, South Carolina, grieved twice. First, Walter Scott was shot in the back by a police officer, and a Taser was planted next to his body. Then a young white supremacist gunned down nine people at Bible study at “Mother Emanuel,” one of the America’s most significant black churches.

Before the state’s assembly, in a moment of shame and anger, could decide to remove the Confederate flag from the state house veranda in Columbia, activist Bree Newsome climbed the flagpole and took it down herself.

Our leadoff guest, the human-rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, reminds us that we still live in a country where Martin Luther King shares a memorial day with General Robert E. Lee in Southern celebrations; where the Confederacy is memorialized but the victims of lynching are not; and where woes of every kind — from environmental risks, as in Flint, to criminal records, as in Ferguson — visit black homes, northern and southern, in overwhelming disproportion.

Half a year after Charleston’s bloody summer, the Democrats of South Carolina go to the polls in the race to replace Barack Obama. We’re wondering, what good is a four-year presidential ballot when a fiery, four-hundred-year history is what’s at issue?

We’ve convened our favorite commentators of color to discuss the big issues beyond the election — and maybe the election, too: from Barbara J. Fields, the formidable historian against race; organizers old and new, Bill Fletcher, Jr., and Mychael Denzel Smith; and brilliant friends like Jacqueline Rivers and Calvin McCrevan.

Tell us: can you say “Black Lives Matter” with a ballot this year, and if so, how do you vote?

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