As public protests against the police killings of George Floyd and other African American men and women continue in all 50 states and hundreds of other countries, scholars are looking to place this moment in the context of the historical struggle for social justice. On Tuesday, “Black Lives, Protest, and Democracy,” an online discussion hosted by the Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, reached from the roots of institutional racial violence into its current manifestations, particularly in education and public health.
Moderated by Megan Ming Francis visiting associate professor of public policy at the Kennedy School, the panel brought together Rhea W. Boyd, M.D., M.P.H. ’17, FAAP, a pediatrician as well as a medical educator; Kaneesha Johnson, a Ph.D. candidate in government; and Leah Wright Rigueur, RI ’18, associate professor of public policy at the Kennedy School. The discussion may be viewed on YouTube or the Ash Center site.
In what she called “a defining moment in history,” Francis opened the discussion with an overview of the nation’s long history of institutional racial violence that goes back to Reconstruction. She noted that after the Civil War, most Southern states passed racially biased laws “to entrap black people,” and “practiced discriminatory policing” that included the use of violence and increased incarceration, a pattern that would spread through the South and the rest of the nation.