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On the Solar Eclipse and the Soul Eclipse

Sue Lincoln

“I think that if an eclipse is a time for change and a time for action, we’re in that place now,” said Maxine Crump, as the solar eclipse dimmed and darkened skies across a broad swath of the United States. The director of the Dialog on Race program addressed the Baton Rouge Press Club ten days after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, had many examining the apparent eclipse of the nation’s soul.

“We’re not like that,” Crump says, referring to what many good people told themselves. “Okay, fine. If this is not who we are, then who are we?”

But Crump says as we argue about heritage, we have to face the truth of our history.

“America was founded as a white nation, and America captured Africans and forced them to build the economy. Race is the construct that was built into America, and it has never been dismantled.”

Crump says if you believe current civil rights laws are sufficient to prevent discrimination, you need to look more closely. They are not equal to the criminal laws they replaced.

“Jim Crow laws that created segregation were policed,” she emphasizes. “But the law that ended segregation said, ‘Okay, if you think you’re being discriminated against, you have a right to file a lawsuit’.”

She says it’s like posting “no trespassing” signs on an abandoned structure, and thinking it’s safe. Instead, she says we should “dismantle that structure.”

“We need to define, for all institutions, what is discrimination,” Crump says, and she suggests a definition: “Believing that someone is not quite right to be full citizens, or to have the full status of being an American.”

Once we have defined discrimination in the law, Crump says we have to put the weight of the wrecking ball into dismantling the structure.

“There need to be sanctions for those who’ve been found discriminating and choose not to make any change,” she declares. “In other words, it will now make the civil rights law and affirmative action equal to the successful Jim Crow law, which was immediate and swift.”