June 7, 2012
By Joyce King
In April, I joined students at Southern Methodist University for a stimulating discussion on the Civil Rights Movement.
Dennis Simon’s history class had just completed a pilgrimage to several cities, including Memphis, Birmingham and Philadelphia, Miss., where three students were found murdered after they dared to help register black voters.
As it has been for hundreds of young minds before at SMU, Hate Crime: The Story of a Dragging in Jasper, Texas was required reading. Erroneously labeled a “controversial book” — with an expected shelf life of four months — it was doomed to a literary graveyard for one-book authors. I know because I wrote it.
Now, 10 years after its June 2002 publication, not a semester has gone by that courageous students and instructors haven’t asked that I incorporate my simple thesis on justice and healing into a larger discussion on race and current events. In the last decade, my dissertation that “justice can open the door to healing” has been featured on CNN, BET, NPR and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Universities extending invitations have been near and far, and I have been grateful for every single student.
This time, the provocative discussion at SMU zigzagged from Trayvon Martin to Brandon, Miss., from slavery to freedom, from segregation to integration, from a clarification on what constitutes a hate crime to when the “N word” is not a racial slur, along with Jeffersonian ideals and MLK’s dream.
Some of Simon’s class expressed profound sadness that America has not fully acknowledged the pain of racism. Others espoused a deeper hope that they, or the next generation, will engage in more meaningful racial dialogue that helps dismantle barriers....