University News

Blow decries racial inequality in America

Celebrated columnist engages audience on civil rights issues and the Black Lives Matter movement

By
Staff Writer
Friday, September 18, 2015

New York Times columnist Charles Blow addresses a sold-out Salomon 101 Thursday, highlighting the parallels between the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Equality must be won by every generation because it will never be freely granted,” New York Times columnist Charles Blow told a sold-out crowd of students, faculty and community members Thursday in Salomon 101. Blow’s lecture, entitled “The New Civil Rights Movement,” addressed the implications of the Black Lives Matter movement and the race-related discussions it has inspired.

Tricia Rose, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, provided the opening address. Blow’s visit to Brown was “well-timed,” as the “campus is engaged in discussions on race, gender, power and privilege,” Rose said.

Blow framed his discussion of the movement by relating detailed histories of the deaths of Emmett Till and Tamir Rice, both of which resulted in public outcry and drew attention to race relations in the United States. Blow also drew parallels between the Civil Rights Movement championed by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Most of the young people now were not alive during Civil Rights — this is their Civil Rights Movement,” Blow said. He pointed out that this new movement may not be explicitly centered on religion, but is “nonetheless rooted in the morality of equality” and “often references awakening” rather than the dream of which King famously spoke.

Blow said while he himself is not a member of the Black Lives Matter movement, today is “a profound moment which we would gladly bear witness to.”

The Black Lives Matter movement “prioritizes blackness in a country that marginalizes it,” he said. “It forces America to confront its flaws rather than simply wishing them away. Black Lives Matter makes America uncomfortable because it refuses to lie to itself.”

People’s physical appearances should not “subtract from (their) humanity,” Blow said. “If we are all created equal, shouldn’t we be treated equally?” he asked. America “likes to hide its sins” and then wonder, “‘where does all this anger come from?’” he added.

Blow concluded his talk with a Zora Neale Hurston quote: “If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it,” walking off the stage to a standing ovation.

Following the lecture, there was a brief question-and-answer session, during which Blow urged attendees to educate themselves and those closest to them. “Remember history. Be active in your sphere of influence,” he said.

One audience member asked Blow whether it was possible to reverse the militarization of America’s police forces, and if so, how this feat would be accomplished. “None of us are innocent in this — it’s the system itself,” Blow said. “It’s about the entire system designed and engineered to exact blood.”

Another audience member asked Blow’s opinion on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, to which Blow responded that Trump is a “media creation.” As a journalist, Blow said he has borne witness to the way the media frames — and even manipulates — modern events.

The lecture attracted numerous fans of Blow’s op-ed pieces in the Times. “I’ve known about Charles Blow since he wrote about the Trayvon Martin decision,” said Justice Gaines ’16. “He’s always talked about police brutality and anti-blackness in a personal yet political way.”

“It was very powerful,” said Khalif Andre ’19, who attended Blow’s lecture after discussing Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” the assigned summer reading book for the class of 2019, during orientation. “I am dumbfounded and speechless,” Andre said.

The lecture was presented by the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy.

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