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  • Paul Chenoweth

    I would also guess that emancipated Africans from 1865 would be surprised that the number of whites imprisoned and executed in this era exceeds the number of blacks. Census data seems to support that:
    Execution data:
    Racial Composition:

    Certainly, there are serious issues with the justice and incarceration system that impact black Americans (and perhaps at a higher percentage than whites). But aren't those same civil liberties (voting particularly) denied white felons?

    • Cheryl Goodison

      I find your comment to be a bit of a non sequitur. The article is not about comparing white deaths or executions with black deaths and incarceration rates, thereby incurring subtle commentary or comparison on the value of life. This article is about the long, tenuous and CONTINUING struggle for racial equality. Racial equality that was assumed to be an inherent factor of "emancipation." However we all know that was not the case. Racial control of the south in particular continues to this day and was state sanctioned until the 1964 Civil Rights Movement. In fact, any lay student of history can verify that the United States has a long history of racial control over blacks that has never been duplicated with other racial minorities or immigrant groups. Please read about slave patrols in antebellum south, Ku Klux Klan, Black Codes during Reconstruction Era, Jim Crow Laws, Plessy v. Fergusson, and so on until the Civil Rights Movement and that should give you some historical bearings. Thank you.

      • Paul Chenoweth

        Cherylg, I appreciate the history lesson albeit unnecessary to someone with first hand experience from the 50's and 60's. Indeed there is a longer/consistent history of abuse to blacks in America...but I would suggest that Irish, Japanese, Native Americans, and many Hispanics would argue that similar abuses have not been imposed on them as well - as any lay student of history can verify.

        • Cheryl Goodison

          My family is Korean Irish. I've seen my mother and my grandmother discriminated against, and it suggested many times that I am not my mother's daughter because I pass as white. I'm not saying that discrimination doesn't exist. Handicapped people, gay people, ugly white people, fat people, and all sorts of people are discriminated against every day. But discrimination is a different matter. Tell me Paul, where are the "Irish Codes" to control the Irish, or the "Asian Codes" to control the Asians (and don't mention internment camps during World War II, although it was indeed horrible)? History in fact draws a pretty clear line between the Black Codes, Slave Patrols, and the modern day police department, demonstrating its racist underpinnings and a system of "racial control." If you'd like a bibliography, I'd be happy to supply one. I'm sorry to be adamant on this particular point of state sanctioned racial control, but when I see a white defensive comment such as yours it truly incites me to speak up. Thank you.

          • Paul Chenoweth

            Cheryl, I apologize if my original comment sounds defensive, that was not at all my intent. The question asked in the article "how would those emancipated men from 1865 think if transported to 2013" is the context. I stand by my opinion that they would be surprised to see so many of their own and of their oppressors in prison. I chose to include actual data rather than provide a condescending quip that certainly would have been taken as racial or thin-skinned.

    • Phillipe Copeland

      Paul, before I respond I don't want to assume too much about the point you are making. Could you say a little more about the meaning you are ascribing to the information you've shared?

      • Paul Chenoweth

        Phillipe, the article asks a terrific question: "..what those newly emancipated Africans in 1865 Texas would think if they could travel through time to 2013?" Considering that the race (whites) that enslaved/imprisoned so many blacks (pre-emancipation) now out numbers those who are imprisoned would probably be a surprise...and perhaps some feeling that indeed things have changed, maybe even some sense of justice. I would not expect that same group to be surprised that the oppressing group is still finding ways to maintain the oppression.

      • Cyril B. Saulny

        Phillipe, thank you for being quick to hear and slow to speak!

        With all due respect to Mr. Chenoweth, whether intentional or unintentional, he is negotiating a conversation to include other ethnicities who have suffered in the making of America.

        It's amazing that whenever there is a conversation specific to Africans, African Americans or Blacks, there seems to be a sense of bargaining on the part of whites, to place themselves and others into the equation, to discredit the significance of Africans, Slaves and Free People of Color, making their existence equal or more significant.

        My question then becomes, "Why do whites have to always inject themselves into the equation, when you are particularly featuring the plight of people of color?"

        Can they not participate in the conversation, discussing the African, Slave, African American or Black, without injecting themselves into the equation?

        Can they just simply discuss as well as acknowledge the resilience of People of Color living in America?

        Can they acknowledge the disparities that exist in relationship to the number of people who were enslaved versus the number who are incarcerated today?

        Is the white community ready to work with the African American community to reach a meaningful resolution to uplift the African American community and eliminate those disparities?

        It is not my intent to discredit anyone's viewpoint, but instead, to put my viewpoint on the table for further discussion.

        Be Blessed!

        • Paul Chenoweth

          I so acknowledge all you mention. I also celebrate the resilience of People of Color living in America. I would hope some day that we can all call each other "Americans" without feeling that it is necessary to distinguish one another with a descriptive adjective of color.

          I do find this question troubling, "Is the white community ready to work with the African American community to reach a meaningful resolution to uplift the African American community and eliminate those disparities?" Americans working together will be the only way any oppressed community will be 'uplifted.

          I would like to celebrate Juneteenth with you even though I am white. I hope that is not considered "injecting myself into that equation". If so, then I apologize.

  • Elizabeth Schott

    If you're in or passing through Iowa, check out the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids. Digitally, find them here: - they're celebrating 20 years of connecting our present with the past, to make a stronger tomorrow.

    • Liz Dwyer

      This is great, Elizabeth. Thanks for sharing.

  • Raphael Sperry

    First off, thanks to GOOD for publishing a piece on such an important and often overlooked topic. Well done!

    I do wish that you had linked this to something designers can do specifically to address the issue, since it is out there. Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility (disclosure: I'm the national president) has a campaign urging architects and other design professionals to boycott the design of prisons. We are also urging AIA to prohibit the design of execution chambers and prisons for solitary confinement, both of which are disproportionately used against people of color. You can sign our petition: and join ADPSR:

    • Liz Dwyer

      Hey Raphael, Thanks for reading and for sharing the incredibly important work you're doing around this issue. I hadn't heard about it and I'd love to connect with you more about this. Also, if you haven't already, reach out to the folks over at the New Jim Crow site. It seems like what you're doing should be included in the list of things folks can get involved in that we linked to. Also, you can always post your petition as a "do" here on the site and we can promote that, too.