In a piece for Time magazine, Tavis Smiley described a question from a young black student during an appearance at Lehigh University and gave a talk entitled “Making America As Good As Its Promise.”
While he was there, the student asked him, in complete seriousness, “Mr. Smiley, do you believe that given the crisis state of our democracy, we black folk could ever find ourselves enslaved again?”
Smiley described his reaction to the question in the Time piece, saying, “Whoa. Didn’t see that one coming. Neither did the mostly white audience. A quiet fell over the room. I swallowed hard.
“Looking directly at the student, I could see he was dead serious, and I wanted to treat his question with the soberness it deserved. But, truthfully, I stumbled as I began to respond, not knowing how to properly frame my response.”
Eventually, Smiley answered the student: Yes.
He pointed to the current refusal of the Republican-controlled Congress to do their constitutional duty and consider the president’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Now, they are even claiming that they may continue to block Garland if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency and if she also nominates Garland.
“I wonder what other Constitutional mandates Congress could just decide to ignore,” Smiley mused.
“So, could the Constitution be thwarted and black folk end up enslaved again? Legal scholars, of course, will find the question ludicrous and laughable,” Smiley wrote.
“It wasn’t farfetched for the young student who pressed me at Lehigh that evening. And, honestly? With the hair-raising, bone-chilling, spine-breaking, nerve-wracking path we’re on right now, I shudder to think where this democracy could end up one sad day, if we don’t get off this low road and make our way to higher ground soon.”