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  1. That’s my mission: I really want to get in the heads and hearts of kids and persuade them that they can believe things they haven’t seen, they can do things that maybe others haven’t done before them, that they are more than their worst acts.
  2. My parents lived in a poor rural community on the Eastern Shore, and schools were still segregated. And I remember when lawyers came into our community to open up the public schools to black kids.
  3. I believe that each person is more than the worst thing they’ve ever done.
  4. You can’t segregate and humiliate people decade after decade without creating long-lasting injuries.
  5. If you read the 13th Amendment, it doesn’t talk about narratives of racial difference. It doesn’t talk about ideologies of white supremacy. It only talks about involuntary servitude and forced labor.
  6. There was never a time you could get the majority of people in Alabama or Mississippi, or even southern Delaware, to vote to end segregation. What changed things was the rule of law, the courts. Brown v. Board of Education was ushered in by a movement, but it was a legal decision.
  7. I think when you see that the status quo creates pain and anguish and suffering, what I am most afraid of is that things will stay the same.
  8. Most parents have long understood that kids don’t have the judgment, the maturity, the impulse control and insight necessary to make complicated lifelong decisions.
  9. It saddens me that African Americans — when they express their pain, when they protest about police violence, when they question inequality, when they raise issues of bondage and discrimination — African Americans are seen as not patriotic.
  10. Somebody has to stand when other people are sitting. Somebody has to speak when other people are quiet.
  11. Many states can no longer afford to support public education, public benefits, public services without doing something about the exorbitant costs that mass incarceration have created.
  12. I’m not persuaded that the opposite of poverty is wealth — I’ve come to believe… that the opposite of poverty is justice.
  13. The great evil of American slavery was involuntary servitude or forced labor. I really believe that the true evil of American slavery was the narrative of racial difference that we created to justify it.
  14. It is unevolved to want to celebrate the architects and defenders of slavery.
  15. When I went to Harvard Law School, my first year, I didn’t want people to know I started my education in a colored school. I didn’t want them to know I was the great-grandson of enslaved people. I thought it might diminish me.
  16. You can’t understand what happened to Michael Brown in Ferguson, you can’t understand what happened to Eric Garner in New York City, without understanding this narrative of racial difference that was created during the slave years.
  17. I can’t identify a race of people in this country who are more committed to the health of this country, who believe more in the Constitution, who believe more in equality and liberation and fairness to everyone else than black people.
  18. I grew up in a house that was the traditional African-American home that was dominated by a matriarch, and that matriarch was my grandmother. She was tough. She was strong. She was powerful.
  19. We’re all burdened by our history of racial inequality. It’s created a kind of smog that we all breathe in, and it has prevented us from being healthy.
  20. It can be a challenge, but my legacy, at least for the people who came before me, is you don’t run from challenges because that’s more comfortable and convenient.

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