Wink, Nod, Vote
THE SPEAKER’S VOICE booms like a Baptist preacher as he stands behind the podium, delivering a speech before a large crowd of black churchgoers, who sit attentively in a college gymnasium. He relates a story about a “miracle baby” that stands as a parable for the plight of the black poor in the United States. As the story goes, a pregnant woman is shot on her way to a grocery store the second day of the Los Angeles riots, in 1992. A bullet penetrates her stomach and becomes lodged near the upper limbs of the yet-to-be-born baby. Doctors perform an emergency delivery and then remove the bullet near the right elbow of the baby’s arm. The mother survives and a baby girl is born virtually unscathed, except for a scar on her elbow, which, as the speaker tells the audience, will always remind her of the circumstances surrounding her birth. Like the scar on the miracle baby, the speaker informs the gathering, the scar of racial injustice remains visible today on the lives of the black poor.
The speaker then tells the audience that what happened in Los Angeles—and fifteen years later in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina—is the result of a “lingering, ongoing, persuasive legacy—a tragic legacy out of the tragic history this country has never fully came to terms with.” The hopelessness and the