Ngina Lithcott and Billye Avery On The Black Experience

At least in my own experience, discussing race in America is not easy. I remember a college class in which a professor attempted to start a discussion between a group of white and African American sociology students. What began with a half-hour of stone dead silence ended in a shouting match between guilt-ridden, defensive white kids and angry black kids. I’m not sure things have gotten any easier since.

In a recent article in The Atlantic called The Case for Reparations journalist Ta-ne-HAH-see Coates makes the case that ‘an America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and future.’

The sins of the past would include 250 years of slavery and the Jim Crow laws in the south that enabled terror, lynching, and racial segregation. In the north, those sins would include the 30-year conspiracy to deprive African Americans from getting mortgages, thereby ‘locking them out of the greatest mass-based opportunity for wealth accumulation in American history.’ In the present we might mention the recent spate of killings of young black men by the police and not-so-long-ago foreclosure crisis in which black home-buyers were targeted for subprime loans.

Clearly, it’s time to face the past if we’re going to change the future.

My guests are two accomplished African American women who have graciously agreed to engage in this conversation. Byllye Avery has been a health care activist for over 30 years. Her work recognized by numerous honorary degrees and awards, including the MacArthur Foundation. Ngina Lythcott has a long history of dedication to social justice and has served as a dean of students at Dartmouth, Swarthmore, Columbia and Boston University.

The Lowdown with Ira Wood, Tuesdays at 12:30 PM and Saturdays at 5:30 AM on WOMR-FM, a Pacifica Radio affiliate station. Streaming and podcasts on WOMR.ORG.