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Sunday September 19th

From the Civil War to COVID-19, authors at Flyleaf discuss systemic racism in the U.S.

<p>The venue where Flyleaf Books is holding a virtual discussion with the authors of "From Here to Equality." Photo courtesy of Talia Smart.</p>
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The venue where Flyleaf Books is holding a virtual discussion with the authors of "From Here to Equality." Photo courtesy of Talia Smart.

A virtual event on Thursday, organized by Flyleaf Books, allowed viewers to discuss the prevalent systemic issues of racial injustice and economic inequality in the United States — from the Civil War to today. 

During the event, William Darity Jr. and Kirsten Mullen, the authors of "From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century" discussed their book and research surrounding the history of racial injustice in the United States.

In the book, Darity, a professor of economics and African American studies at Duke University, and Mullen, a folklorist and museum consultant, take a comprehensive look at the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, Jim Crow in the 20th century and modern-day discrimination. 

They analyze attempts made at reparations throughout U.S. history, saying these have not done enough to help the Black community long-term. 

One of the goals of Thursday's discussion was to discuss misconceptions that the general population has about the time period of the Civil War and Reconstruction. 

A press release sent out by Flyleaf Books said the Reconstruction period led to the lack of racial equality that still exists in the United States today. 

"But neither Reconstruction nor the New Deal nor the civil rights struggle led to an economically just and fair nation," the press release stated. 

Based on feedback from readers of "From Here to Equality," Mullen said she believes that a flawed American education system is largely responsible for most misconceptions of the Reconstruction era.

“Certainly they did not understand it was a time when Black and white men co-governed,” Mullen said. 

Mullen said some readers' knowledge of what sociologist, civil rights activist and educator W.E.B. DuBois called the "Seven Mystic Years," from 1866 to 1873, was informed by "huckster carpetbaggers" — white Northerners who focused on profit rather than equality — or images in films like "The Birth of a Nation," with racist depictions of Black legislators.

Mullen said a survey she conducted on 11 individuals, aged 19 to 67, revealed that schools tend to gloss over the depth of the issues faced by Black Americans throughout history. Many participants said they were taught about the existence of slavery, but were uninformed of the harmful ways in which its legacy has generationally impacted the wealth of Black families. 

Currently, Mullen said slavery's long-lasting effects are manifested through racist practices such as police brutality, mass incarceration, discrimination in education and housing and the racial wealth gap, which she said is approaching $800,000 per Black household.

Mullen said the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked new havoc on minority communities, who are already at a socioeconomic disadvantage. She said the impact of catastrophic job loss has restricted access to necessary resources, prevented many from buying homes in neighborhoods where safe physical distancing is possible and made it nearly impossible for Black Americans to navigate the uncertainties of the virus because of their lack of wealth.

Both Darity and Mullen said they look forward to discussing any false beliefs that listeners have regarding the historical context of the economic injustice that African Americans have endured during these pivotal moments in U.S. history.

This discussion was part of a group of virtual events discussing different facets of racial injustice, which began with an earlier discussion of "Indecent Assembly" by Gene Nichol. Nichol described ways in which the General Assembly eroded the rights of many marginalized groups living in North Carolina, Flyleaf events manager Talia Smart said. 

There will be a discussion of "Fragile Democracy" by James Leloudis and Robert Korstad next Thursday, which will center around the relationship between race and voting rights, Smart said.  

Smart said it is crucial to have these discussions during a polarizing election cycle. 

“It was important to us to create a series of events that shared information about these topics with our community,” Smart said. “Chapel Hill residents tend to be very engaged in social and political discussions, especially in this high-stakes election year.”


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