I strongly recommend this piece by Julia Azari, explaining the many historical antecedents to today’s struggle for racial justice in the face of entrenched opposition. Here’s the teaser:
When protests kicked off throughout the nation a week and a half ago, commentators turned to history to make sense of events. One year dominated the conversation: 1968. Racial tensions, clashes between police and protesters, a general sense of chaos — 1968 and 2020 seemed to have a lot in common. Observers wrote about how Trump’s use of “law and order” rhetoric echoed Richard Nixon and George Wallace in 1968. The comparison makes broader sense, too: 1968 was a destabilizing year in American politics, marked by Civil Rights protests, uprisings born out of racist oppression, assassinations, violence at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago (classified later as a “police riot”) and protests against the Vietnam War. Racial tensions and inequality were at the center of the instability that year, with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. sparking uprisings in cities across the country.
But 1968 isn’t the only chapter in American history that’s relevant to the current crisis. America has a long history of racial injustice, which makes it difficult to isolate any one precedent for the current environment. History has a way of building on itself; the injustices of one generation are passed on to the next, even as incremental progress is made. This is why I want to share with you three other episodes that also help contextualize the moment we’re in now. They, like 1968 and the broader Civil Rights movement, highlight the depths of violence and injustice that black Americans have faced, and explain why everyday political processes have failed to bring about lasting systemic change.