Based on a roundtable conversation held in early 2017 by Sherrilyn Ifill (president of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund (LDF)), Loretta Lynch (former Attorney General of the US), Bryan Stevenson (executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy), and Anthony C. Thompson (professor of clinical law and faculty director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU School of Law), A Perilous Path is a written record of a discussion on race and inequalities in the US and how the 2016 election pushed us to face the fact that we have so much more work to do. The discussion took place in early 2017, not long after Trump was inaugurated as president, just after the first episode of the despicable “Muslim Ban”.
I don’t think I have ever muttered “Oh my gosh THIS” under my breath as much as I did reading this book, or highlighted as much text as I did so that I could go back to it again and again. More than just a discussion on the current state of civil rights, equality, and oppression in the US in the light of a Trump presidency, A Perilous Path is a resounding conversation on what we need to do to make real, lasting change in this country. I took a lot of all of the participants’ comments, experiences, and ideas to heart, with the aim on doing my own part to lay a better foundation for now and the future.
I thought the ongoing theme of “changing the narrative” was a profoundly important one, as it pertains to all areas of social life in this country. We can’t continue with the current narrative of fear and exclusion, and also one of selective memory. We need to have these types of roundtable discussions at a local level, involve kids and teenagers, and MAKE the changes.
Bryan Stevenson: “[…] The people who were holding the signs that said “segregation forever” and “segregation of war,” they were never forced to put down those signs. They didn’t wave them around anymore, but they kept adhering to their value. And now we are living at a time where that thriving narrative of racial difference, that ideology of white preference, has exhibited itself, and now we are dealing with the consequences of that. We won the election in 2008, but we lost the narrative battle. We actually allowed that president to be demonized and victimized and marginalized because he’s black - not because of anything he said or did. And our comfort with that kind of demonization is, I think, at the heart of the challenge we face.”
The conversation is highlighted by a personal and historical background with the civil rights movement, poverty, segregation, and the laws that govern us all, and lays out how systemic racism will not change without real involvement and initiative from all areas, grassroots to the top. Topics such as affordable housing and discrimination, education discrimination, marginalization of immigrants, and policing are also evoked, as well as how important it is to understand how we can use the law to help change the narrative.
A Perilous Path is an extremely important read, very eye-opening, and also very inspiring. I finished reading this the outline of a personal plan of what I can do to change the narrative. I hope you will too.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book.