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Monday, August 1, 2016

Letter to the NYRB

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

1928 Gentilly Blvd.

New Orleans, LA 70119-2002

August 2, 2016

Mr. Robert B. Silvers


The New York Review of Books

435 Hudson Street, Suite 300

New York, New York 10014-3994

Dear Mr. Silvers:

Having enjoyed and profited from Darryl Pinckney's articles in NYR, I wish to make three comments about "Black Lives and the Police" [NYR, August 18].  It is true that Colonial law "invented whiteness in America" and "helped to keep blacks and poor whites from seeking common cause" from Colonial times to the present (with a few exceptions noted by American historians).  Nevertheless, Pinckney's assertion would be strengthened by reference to Robert G. Parkinson's excellent study The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution (2016).  I  agree with Rosemarie Zagarri's comment in a blurb for that book which suggests patriotic stories by "white Americans marginalized, demonized, and excluded enslaved people and native Americans, shaping the Revolutionary narrative down to the present day."  Zagarri's remark makes us aware of the intellectual poverty of writing about events in the United States as if they occur within a privileged narrative involving only blacks and whites.

It is slightly baffling that Pinckney did not more thoroughly contextualize why Officer Nakia Jones's "passion recalls Fannie Lou Hamer of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964." Did Pinckney want to imply that morality is rare in American social and political discourses?  Did he want us to begin thinking that American women and men should put down their guns, stop murdering one another, and mentor young females and males?  It that is his point, the horror of self-fashioned , domestic genocide (i.e. infamous black-on-black crime) indeed casts light on where the most violent "retribution" is occurring.

Finally, I urge that Pinckney and others who advocate "reform of the criminal justice system" give more attention to the fact that Americans of all colors, classes, and occupations are logical, inevitable victims of amoral ironies in our nation's democratic experiments.


Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Professor Emeritus

Tougaloo College

Tougaloo, Mississippi

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