Theodore Johnson: Overcoming Racism and Renewing the Promise of America
Join us for a virtual discussion with Theodore Johnson, who begins his book When the Stars Begin to Fall by declaring that “Racism is an existential threat to America.” Johnson argues that our society's continuing racism not only contradicts the American Promise enshrined in our Constitution that all men and women are inherently equal, but also continues to corrode our society after a quarter of a millennium. If we cannot overcome it, he says, the United States may continue as a geopolitical powerhouse, but it will fail to make good on the promise that made America unique on Earth, and gave hope to the oppressed throughout the world.
Johnson makes a compelling case for a pathway to the national solidarity necessary to mitigate racism. Weaving memories of his own family’s multi-generational experiences with racism, alongside strands of history, Johnson posits 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. Fueled by his ultimate faith in the American project, grounded in his family’s longstanding optimism and his own military service, he offers an urgent call to undertake the process of overcoming what has long seemed intractable.
Sr. Fellow, Brennan Center for Justice; Former Commander, U.S. Navy; White House Fellow, Obama Admin.; Speechwriter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Author, When the Stars Begin to Fall: Overcoming Racism & Renewing the Promise of America
Executive Director, San Francisco Human Rights Commission—Moderator