Thursday, June 18, 2020

NYT OP-ED: “I’m Finally An Angry Black Man” from Author of WHY DIDN’T WE RIOT?: A Black Man in Trumpland (On-Sale: OCTOBER 6)

Issac J. Bailey

In his memoir, My Brother Moochie: Regaining Dignity in the Face of Crime, Poverty, and Racism in the American South (Other Press, 2018), praised by NPR’s ‘WEEKEND EDITION’ as “…Eloquently expressed…”, “…beautifully written…” by THE ECONOMIST and named, “… An elegant memoir that speaks to the inequities of the criminal justice system…” by USA TODAY award-winning journalist, Davidson professor, Harvard Nieman Fellow, Soros Justice Fellowship awardee and contributor Issac J. Bailey retells the story of his 9-year-old self witnessing his hero, his eldest brother Moochie, taken away in handcuffs for the murder of a white man in Bonneau, South Carolina. Moochie does not return from prison for thirty-two years, seven of which are spent in solitary confinement. An eye-opening account, Bailey, tells the story of the profound impact Moochie’s crime has on his life, reflecting on the dovetailing narratives of familial trauma and racial injustice in the United States. Now, with WHY DIDN’T WE RIOT?: A Black Man in Trumpland (Other Press Hardcover; On-Sale: October 6, 2020), Bailey turns his lens on a wider story of the cyclical forces of deeply rooted, systematic racism, the legacy of the Jim Crow South, the intertwining of race, poverty, violence, drug abuse, and lack of opportunity, all realities in his view, exacerbated by and reflected in the Trump presidency. Never more urgent on the eve of a crucial election, as we’re steeped in the real-time havoc coronavirus is wreaking on communities of color, and amidst the societal fissures that deepen in the wake of a stream of high profile acts of racial terror on black bodies, WHY DIDN’T WE RIOT aims to shake our consciousness and to compel us to take action against the institutional inequity that undergirds American life, leaving so many people of color marginalized.  Bailey reminds, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. implored, ”….a riot is a language of the unheard”. 
Weaving his own journey and trauma with fearless storytelling, Bailey contemplates a number of cultural flashpoints involving race. This series of ruminations on the experiences that color black life in America under Trump’s presidency serves as an avenue to gain insight into levers of racial injustice; examining exactly how larger, systematic forces interlock to imprint themselves on black bodies. From confronting day-to-day microaggressions, to white fear and fragility, to violence as a tool for racial oppression, Bailey examines the wounds, “…psychic, emotional, physical…”, born of unjust circumstances. Armed with clarity but never ceding to the complexity of the issues at hand, Bailey openly and honestly wrestles with the ways in which he himself, has been socially conditioned to internalize a racist mantle of thought. Drawing on sociological research and combining a journalist’s reportage with the raw emotion of his own heart-wrenching experience, perhaps most evident in the severe stutter he develops following Moochie’s sentencing, an impediment he still grapples with today, as well as his diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bailey seeks answers to the crucial questions of our time.
With the same mediation and empathy Ta-Nehisi Coates voiced in We Were Eight Years in PowerIbram X Kendi ruminated on in How to be an Antiracist and Bryan Stevenson intimated in Just MercyWHY DIDN’T WE RIOT contemplates how our experiences shape us and considers what it will mean for all to exist in a country that time and again fails to value black life.  For readers who want to look with fresh eyes at the legacy of the past to comprehend what’s transpiring at present, and most critically as Bailey argues, to fashion a radical new future, this gutting and visceral call to action has never been more timely.  WHY DIDN’T WE RIOT urges us to consider why crises, born out of a centuries-old value system rotten at the core, should matter to us all. 
About the author: Issac J. Bailey is an award-winning journalist and the James K. Batten Professor of Communication Studies at Davidson College. He has been published in the Washington PostCharlotte ObserverPolitico MagazineTime, and many more, and has appeared on NPR, CNN, and MSNBC. Bailey was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and has taught journalism and applied ethics at Coastal Carolina University. He currently lives in Myrtle Beach with his wife and two children.

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