Race Race & Class Race & Justice

Talking About Race & Justice on Sunday at the LA Times Festival of Books


The LA Times Festival of Books is coming to the USC campus this weekend, April 18 & 19.

I bring this up, in part, because the LATFOB is an amazing event for anyone who loves to read—or has kids who love to read. It’s arguably the best book fair in the nation, and admission is free.

But for those of you who love to read AND are interested in the complex issues surrounding race and justice in America, I’m moderating a panel at 10:30 Sunday morning AT USC’S Town & Gown, that you really—no kidding—should not miss.

It features superstar lawyer Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, and award winning LA Times crime reporter, Jill Leovy, author of Ghettoside.

Here are the details:


As the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson challenges excessive and unfair sentencing, aids kids prosecuted as adults, and takes on innocence cases for prisoners on death row. For instance, Anthony Ray Hinton, the man who was freed earlier this month after spending 30-years on death row, is one of Stevenson’s clients.

Stevenson has also argued five times before the U.S. Supreme court, winning two landmark rulings, both having to do with the issue of juvenile life sentences. (He will be arguing again this fall in front of SCOTUS this fall.)

With his book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Stevenson exposes and personalizes the injustice in the American justice system through his experience as an activist lawyer, and the result is both shattering and weirdly hope-producing.

Here’s what David Cole had to say about Just Mercy for the New York Review of Books:

Just Mercy is every bit as moving as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so. Although it reads like a novel, it’s a true story and….demonstrates, as powerfully as any book on criminal justice that I’ve ever read, the extent to which brutality, unfairness, and racial bias continue to infect criminal law in the United States. But at the same time that Stevenson tells an utterly damning story of deep-seated and widespread injustice, he also recounts instances of human compassion, understanding, mercy, and justice that offer hope. …As a result, Just Mercy is a remarkable amalgam, at once a searing indictment of American criminal justice and a stirring testament to the salvation that fighting for the vulnerable sometimes yields.


Jill Leovy is an award winning Los Angeles Times reporter who won a Pulitzer for her part in coverage the 1997 North Hollywood shoot out. IN addition to everything else she does, Leovy made a significant difference in Southern California reporting when, in 2007 she launched The Homicide Report, which was born after Leovy had been covering crime in LA’s poorest neighborhoods for some time and had become bothered by all the deaths that went completely unnoticed, except perhaps by friends and immediate family of those murdered. It was as if some lives—and their endings—simply mattered far more than others.

So Leovy talked the Times into an unusual project. She wanted to record every single murder in Los Angeles County for one year, reporting and writing what she could about these deaths as time and energy permitted. And so the Homicide Report was born. (And to the LAT credit, it is still running today.)

Leovy’s remarkable and absolutely essential book, Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, goes many steps further. In it, she writes about the disproportionate number of black men who are murdered in America, most of them killed by other black men. In Los Angeles, for example, out of 260 murders in a year, 112 of those were African American in a city where, where blacks are perhaps 9 percent.

Most of those murders, particularly if they occurred in South LA, go unsolved.

The heroes of Leovy’s book are some of the South LA parents who bear the most unbearable kind of pain, and a cluster of LAPD homicide detectives who move heaven and earth to solve the killings that most of the rest of the city would rather ignore.

Here, for example, is what David Kennedy, professor of criminal justice at John Jay College, wrote in the Washington Post:

“Ghettoside” should change our understanding of and the debate about what’s going on in our most troubled neighborhoods. They are not hopeless places filled with incurable problems. They are dealing as best they can with horrific conditions not of their making and mainly not under their control. The book should bring some much-needed balance to the current debate about what post-Ferguson policing should look like. It should show why making policing more effective — while, yes, doing far less collateral damage — is an absolute necessity for helping those neighborhoods find safety and justice.

Both Leovy’s and Stevenson’s books are extremely important, especially right now, but each reads with the propulsive speed of great fiction, in which the deepest human issues—and characters—stay with you most of all.

So, if you can, come to USC Sunday morning and listen. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.


  • Black on Black murder, good luck on fighting that windmill. You can not overestimate the depths to wich the public does not care on that issue. Espically the “black community” and its “leadership”. Now white shaming … There is where the money is, get a white male cop or a frat boy involved , now your getting somewhere! Seriously stop with the do-gooder self indulgent hand wringing. If you really want to help come up with a way to blame/extort the white privileged, other than that, just keep quiet about it. It’s embarissing to the Oprah,Obama,Sharpton ,Liberal media crowd.

  • Better yet do a ten year study on the percentage of cop killers that are Black, I dare you to Celeste. That’s never going to happen though is it because not part of the agenda right?

  • @1 Your typing skills are just as bad as your slanted & dull dissertation. No one is refuting Black on Black crime. It is a vicious cycle……nothing new.
    If it weren’t for WHITE liberal democrats…..Obama would not be your President.
    Don’t get it twisted, neither Jesse Jackson or AL Sharpton are “Black Community Leaders” Stop watching CNN.or you will forever remain ignorant

    Don’t confuse the Black Community with the sub culture of certain black rebel rousers and petty crooks who have a microphone stuck in their face. Too bad that your experience with Blacks has probably only come through arrests.
    You sound like the typical sheltered “Afraid Without a Gun” guy. Malibu?

  • “Just saying” your statement that black on black crime is nothing new is kinda the point. If there is a black community out there that really cares about blacks victimized by black criminals ,they are awfully quiet. Even from Malibu us dyslexic typers can see the game of white shaming is the preferred/lucrative business.

  • @ sure fire (not so)
    Obviously you have a beef with Celeste and WLA. Your cynicism and haterism reeks, along with you being a Archie Bunker prototype.

    If you don’t like the contents of this blog. Stop reading it.

    BTW, how about YOU coming forth with something factual instead of chiding Celeste. You’re a real tough guy…….on paper.

  • First off I don’t answer to you or even Celeste but she deleted my last response to you, guess it was a little to direct. What I wrote to Celeste was being tough? You’re a simple minded punk, nothing more. Here’s a fact though, 42% of cop killers that could be identified in 2013 were Black and their percentage of the population is what? What rate do you think it’s running at this year? So because I like to challenge Celeste because she picks and chooses whose to benefit from her Social Justice crusades I’m some kind of bully. No light weight, I’m just the guy who likes to see everyone held accountable, even bad cops. Archie Bunker type, nope and certainly way past anything you have to offer on anything. Got it?

  • @6. Campfire. How about something analytical.
    You are an angry person. If you truly want to be one up on everything, create your own blog.

  • Chicago Fire,
    How about something analytical?
    Ok. I’ll analyze the back and forth between you and Sure Fire.

    In #5 you asked him to come forward with something factual instead of chiding Celeste. In #6 he did exactly that by providing a statistic. In #7 you don’t address the stat (fact) he provided, you call him angry and suggest he start his own blog.

    You claim you’re wanting discussion/debate based on facts, yet when they are provided they make you uncomfortable and you switch gears and simply become insulting —again.
    That’s right. Again. You insulted him first in #5 with your “Archie Bunker prototype” comment.
    Then when he responds in kind you call him angry.
    “If you don’t like the content of this blog, Stop reading it”.
    “Create your own blog”.

    You aren’t looking for open, honest, intelligent discussion/debate. You’re looking for choir practice. Any diversity of opinion upsets you. You have no tolerance for those who don’t agree with you. Rather than engaging them in debate, your immediate reaction is to suggest they “leave”.
    My oh my. No tolerance for diversity of opinion.

    How’s that for an analytical comment?
    I know I know. I should just start heading for the door now, right?
    Sorry pal. Learn to live with it.

  • Other than not citing his one stat. His statement alone doesn’t cut it.

    (This is not the 1st time for his same continual line) He has history with WLA.

    He knows what’s up. Like I said earlier “camp fire” is an angry man. He was chastened before and he won’t let it go.

  • Con’t…….He reminds me of the people who hate Rush Limbaugh & Tom Leykis, but continue to listen to their show.

    It is not fires “uncitable statements, but his disdain for the host that is annoying.

    All may not agree, but………”Can we all get along?” No pun intended.

  • Chicago Fire,
    I think I get it now. If a commenter annoys you, or shows disdain for the host, you find it justifiable to resort to insulting name calling and accusations of “haterism”.
    It’s not only juvenile and provocative on your part, it’s intellectually lazy. Not to mention tired and worn out.

    Can we all get along? That most likely depends on whether or not you can refrain from insults, name calling and veiled accusations when somebody posts something you find annoying.

    Or not.

    Choir practice? Is that want you want? Celeste singing to her choir?

  • Oh Well ……you missed it.

    Nice of you to be an spokesman though.

    If the food sucks, then complain to the manager and never eat there again. Next.

  • Chicago,
    I guess I did miss it.
    All this time I’ve thought Celeste’s blog was about “Opening conversations” on social justice and other topics. She’s stated before that she isn’t looking for an echo chamber. She’s stated before that she thinks diversity of opinion and different points of view are a good thing. That being the case, I didn’t realize that she was looking for such a homogenous audience.

    Nevertheless, , it’s nice of you to be her spokesperson.

    As concerns your restaraunt analogy, I’ve been under the impression she wanted WLA to be a buffet. Lots of choices, pick out what you like and leave the rest.
    I didn’t realize she wanted In N Out burger.
    All burgers all the time.

  • Chicago Fire, you’re a typical leftist coward. Shut down people you can’t control the speech of is your answer to me. You’re a child with no game.

  • I don’t have to cite my stats to Celeste or you either, if it was wrong one of you would say so. I’m waiting.

  • Seems you have a history as well here if you know mine, just don’t have the juice to say who you really are. Par for your course.

  • @16) campfire. Never knew that scratching the surface would strike a nerve. Typical.

    Just because you pull a statement of your body cavity, doesn’t make it so. Like a gun with no bullets, if told to shoot you’re “Assed Out”.

    You only bring “blowback” when you have no feedback.

    When you have validity and sources to anything you spout off……I’ll be around.

  • Chicago,
    Now then, see there? It IS possible to give a strong rebuttal without name calling. Nice job.

  • Look it up, I’m not your errand boy. Of course you probably have and know it’s true because otherwise you would have posted the stat to show I lied. You’d love to do that so what are you waiting for? You’ll never find any stat I’ve lied about here no matter how far back you go. You struck no nerve, no lightweight like you could. All mouth and nothing else, done responding junior. You keep crying and I’ll post when ever I feel the urge, how do you like them apples?

  • Sure Fire,
    “Lightweight” and “junior”…..ok, even though Chicago started it in # 5 with “Archie Bunket prototype” and “haterism”, you have responded in kind. Plenty. It appears you’re taking the “You started it, so now it’s over when I say it’s over” attitude/tactic.
    You made your point. Ease up.

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