Leonard Pitts: Race, Social Justice


On March 2, Montgomery College had the privilege of hearing a lecture by the acclaimed writer Leonard Pitts. Among being a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, sporting a readership within the millions for the articles he writes for the Miami Herald, and being the author of four best-selling books, he also possesses a way of delivering a composed, collected, and level-headed voice for words that shadow an inflamed and disdainful experience had in the topic of racial inequality and injustice.

His lecture began on the early days of a young politician and how he rose to power by forgetting his sense of humility and impartiality for the sake of authority. The politician, George Wallace, rose to be the Governor of Alabama, and soon delivered the infamous lines of “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

“After that moment,” Pitts said, “it was difficult, if not impossible, to conceive any serious candidate for office ever doing anything quite as brazenly, and as openly, and as unapologetically as George Wallace once did.”

A slight image of foreshadowing crept into the opening statement as we knew what was coming next — “And then Donald Trump came along.”

Intertwined with his dry humor on the current political process was not only exasperation on the cyclical events of civil rights to pop up over and over again throughout American history, but also a profound intolerance for its oppression.

He sees no logical reasoning in the slandering of one group against another, such as black power movements against gay rights movements, or anti Muslim, and anti Semitism bombardments within such communities created for the purpose of helping others.

These groups shouldn’t be fighting for domination, but instead for equality among the many. Equality. It’s a word spoken throughout American history, rarely performed, but always fought for.

But more than anything, he spoke about the exasperation of inactivity, and how, even with technology so advanced and so unreserving as far as distance and connection, we fall into the same groove as an entire modern technological society

“We as Americans are constantly under attack by weapons of Mass Distractions,” he said, directly quoting from rapper Chuck D. “By which he meant a never ending show—that keeps us involved, keeps us entertained, and keeps us from looking behind the curtain to see what is really going on.”

He claims the abilities of our communication should be used far more than they already are for the purpose of social justice—to instigate, to gather, and to make our voices heard for the well-being of us as a collective.

He ended the lecture with the statement of “This is America” and gave the briefest list on the many freedoms we as a nation have the ability to express.

Then he said, “if this is America”—and listed the many horrific occurrences that took place within our borders, from the murder of a twelve year old Tamir Rice, to the serious discussion of labeling Muslims like Jews in Poland during WWII era. The America he is of course talking about is the one we are living in today, and just as it is ours, it is within our hands to guide it to where it should be—a nation of freedom and equality.