WLP Associate Professor, MFA Program Director, and Elma Lewis Distinguished Fellow Jabari Asim writes for the September issue of The New Republic that during today’s times of social unrest and a renewed call for racial justice, he is reminded of Frederick Douglass’ work and legacy in the mid-nineteenth century and its relevance today.
Douglass was the most photographed American of his time, and Asim indicates he knew the power of a recorded image long before they were used present-day to bear witness to tragic acts of racism and violence.
Could Douglass have been gazing into our present when he observed that “the settled habits of a nation” are “mightier than a statute”? It’s no wonder some of us regard our newfound allies with jaundiced eyes, half expecting them to pull a Susan B. Anthony and release their inner Karens. Still, a movement requires a critical mass, with more numbers than African Americans can muster by themselves. Polls show white attitudes toward black lives may be improving, in a way that might produce real change. Perhaps we can find comfort in that development the next time we’re watching footage of white men in camouflage and hunting caps storming state Capitols in protest, stroking their assault rifles as they shout.