The United States locks up a larger proportion of its citizens than any other nation in the world. Mass incarceration has exacted a terrible cost — on state budgets, on black neighborhoods, on economic and social justice.
As Martin Luther King noted after young people in Memphis broke windows and looted stores during the last march he ever led, violence has a way of changing the subject.
“Another isolated incident” is how the police killing of Walter Scott will play in conservative enclaves where the notion of systemic racism is regarded as absurd.
This is the week that the Confederacy, and slavery, suffered permanent defeat. Yet these two stories are reminders of both the nation’s original sin and the prejudices, pathologies, and policy failures that continue to haunt us.
Conservative reformers appreciate the attention; they’re also concerned that the legislation can only pass if they, and not President Barack Obama and civil rights leaders, are the faces of changes.