The Politics of US series: Race

Fourth in a 10-part weekly series. The Politics of US looks at polarizing topics to help deepen understanding of the issues – and respect for those with differing views. This installment explores how to bridge the racial divide that has erupted in a slew of police killings and protests.

Patrik Jonsson/The Christian Science Monitor
Raymond Hinton sits on the porch of his Ericson Street house in the Edgewood neighborhood of Atlanta.
Follow us on Twitter @CSM_politics. Review the previous three installments, from guns to trade, here.
In this week's edition:
  1. Cover story: How one Atlanta street is trying to rewrite Ferguson's legacy
  2. By the numbers: White Americans will be a minority by 2055
  3. Civics 101: How the North forced the South to grant blacks citizenship
  4. The candidates: Where they stand on racial issues
  5. Photo gallery: 9 Americans on how we can each improve race relations
  6. Engage: Join in on a civil conversation, start discussions in your classroom, and see perspectives from different sides.
  7. Guest column: Why I'm against desegregating my black grandsons' school system
  8. Our picks: "The Case for Reparations" – and more.

• • •

How one Atlanta street is trying to rewrite Ferguson's legacy

By Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer

Atlanta – Not long after Mike Costello moved into a brick ranch on Ericson Street, he was helping the cable guy at his house when shots rang out.

As a cop, Mr. Costello knew exactly what the pops were. At first, he couldn’t see anything amiss, but then Raymond Hinton came running fast around the corner.

Everyone on Ericson Street knew Ray. Wherever he was, trouble usually wasn’t far behind. And just as surely, everyone knew Costello was the new white cop next door.

In that moment, as the two men stood looking at each other in the echo of gunfire, the gears of America’s debate on race clicked into place. Too often, those encounters have ended in death and national upheaval.

On this day, Mr. Hinton turned tail and ran. But the thing was, he was the one shot.

The story of Atlanta’s Ericson Street, in many ways, is a picture of why America remains so racially divided – but also of how it might be able to overcome that and put itself together.

Read more

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Jacob Turcotte and Story Hinckley/Staff

• • •

CIVICS 101: How the North forced the South to grant blacks citizenship

By Christa Case Bryant, Staff writer

For the first eight decades of American government under the US Constitution, slavery was legal in at least some of the country. African-Americans were not considered citizens, were not allowed to vote, and were counted as 3/5ths of a person for purposes of apportioning congressional representation.

That changed after the Civil War with the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. The first abolished slavery, the next granted citizenship to all born or naturalized in the US and added that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” and the last gave all adult men the right to vote. However, these amendments were passed under unusual circumstances.

Throughout the process, the Southern states were barred from representation in Congress. When some Southern state legislatures ratified the 13th amendment, Congress counted their votes to achieve the three-quarters majority necessary.

But when a number of southern states rejected the 14th Amendment, Congress refused to count those negative votes. Instead, it imposed military rule on the South and made ratification of the 14th Amendment a condition for ending military rule and entitling the southern states to again be represented in Congress.

In the wake of the Civil War, the Southern states passed a series of measures known as the Jim Crow laws that restricted the public and civic activities of blacks. That doctrine of “separate but equal” was essentially codified with the 1896 Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson. Legalized segregation continued in the South until the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education declared that doctrine unconstitutional in America’s public schools.

The 14th amendment has been the most litigated amendment in US history. In addition to cases involving racial issues, it has also been referenced in those concerning social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Due to the special circumstances around its ratification, some have called into question its constitutionality. But the Supreme Court approved its ratification in the 1939 case Coleman v. Millerand today it is widely considered a foundation of modern constitutional law.

• • •

THE CANDIDATES: Where they stand on racial issues

We encourage you to contact the Monitor on Twitter @csm_politics or by email if you can improve our chart!

Story Hinckley/Staff

Sources: the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Jill Stein campaign, the Guardian, CBS News,, and OnTheIssues

• • •

PHOTO GALLERY: 9 Americans on how we can each improve race relations

Ann Hermes/Staff

View the full gallery

• • •

ENGAGE: Living Room Conversations and

We don't fully understand a topic unless we can argue the other side, and we can't effectively move forward together if we don't really listen to each other and have a respectful conversation. Here are some tools to help us better understand the topic and each other.

Understand how different groups define and respond to terms like racism or racist, racial inequity and race, as well as several other terms that often come up during conversations about race such as affirmative action, black lives matter, color blindness, civil rights, discrimination, microaggression, oppression, social justice, and white privilege.

Talk about race and ethnicity with half a dozen friends who have diverse opinions. Enjoy this simple, respectful, structured program provided by Living Room Conversations that begins with human relationships.

Review the latest news and policy proposals on race and civil rights from left, center and right biased news sources and think tanks. This will bring you up-to-date and broaden your understanding of the issue.

Discuss race and civil rights in the classroom using a specialized lesson plan that teaches respectful dialog, fostering mutual respect and understanding. This program can be easily integrated into current curriculum, and includes various guides and online tools for making the class activity more engaging and revealing.

• • •

GUEST COLUMN: Why I'm against desegregating my black grandsons' school system

A federal policy that has not worked is being forced on my grandkids. I, a white liberal from the North, once favored it. They, black students at a public high school in Mississippi, now don’t.

Read more

• • •

OUR PICKS: Recommended reading and viewing

1. “3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets” by Marc Silver, an HBO documentary about the 2012 killing of black teen Jordan Davis by white man Michael Dunn in Jacksonville, Fla.

Thug is the new N-word. That’s the new way they pursuing us now. N-word is out, and thug is in. Michael Dunn, he seen us, he just see four black kids. And he heard the music, and he just instantly put ‘thug’ next to four black kids. But you know if four white kids listening to it, you know I’m saying, what would you think? They don’t call Justin Bieber a thug. He racing Lamborghinis and all this crazy stuff. He’s not a thug, he’s just a misled kid. You know what I’m saying? So it’s just like, thug is just a term for African Americans to be called the N-word without being all - they don’t want to seem wrong by calling us the N-word. So they’re just like, look at those thugs.

- Tevin Thompson, a friend of Jordan Davis (51:21)

2. "The Danger of the 'Black Lives Matter' Movement" by Heather MacDonald, an adapted speech given at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington

As a result of the anti-cop campaign of the last two years and the resulting push-back in the streets, officers in urban areas are cutting back on precisely the kind of policing that led to the crime decline of the 1990s and 2000s. Arrests and summons are down, particularly for low-level offenses. Police officers continue to rush to 911 calls when there is already a victim. But when it comes to making discretionary stops—such as getting out of their cars and questioning people hanging out on drug corners at 1:00 a.m.—many cops worry that doing so could put their careers on the line…. Unfortunately, when officers back off in high crime neighborhoods, crime shoots through the roof. Our country is in the midst of the first sustained violent crime spike in two decades.

3. “Donald Trump and the Twilight of White America” by Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

It is not enough to say that Trump is a purely racial phenomenon. Nor is it complete to argue that he is the perfectly predictable result of economic upheaval. Rather, in the last half-century, several events have pushed conservative white American middle-class men to conflate their majoritarian, economic, and cultural decline. Economic anxiety and racial resentment are not entirely separate things, but rather like buttresses in an arch, supporting each other in the creation of something larger – Donald Trump.

4. “The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race,” an anthology of essays

Every black person has something ‘not black’ about them. I don’t mean something white, because despite our easy dichotomies, the opposite of black is not white. This one likes European classical music; that one likes a little bit of country (hopefully the old stuff); this one can’t dance. Black people know this – any solidarity with each other is about something shared, a secret joy, a song, not about some stereotypical qualities that may be reproducible, imitable, even marketable. This doesn’t mean there aren’t similarities across black people or communities or better yet memory – just that these aren’t exactly about bodies and not really about skin at all, but culture.

– Kevin Young’s essay, “Blacker Than Thou”

5. “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal.... Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.

6. “Lift Off” by Donovan Livingston, Ed.M.’16, student speaker of Harvard Graduate School of Education’s 2016 Convocation exercises

How many times have we been made to feel like quotas –

Like tokens in coined phrases? –

‘Diversity. Inclusion’

There are days I feel like one, like only –

A lonely blossom in a briar patch of broken promises.

But I’ve always been a thorn in the side of injustice.

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