The legislation would reduce mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses and largely ban solitary confinement for juveniles.
Historian Peniel Joseph says the big difference between today and the heyday of the civil rights movement in the 1960s is that there are no unifying leaders, especially no leaders who can appeal to the young.
Joseph writes that it’s part of the confusion of our age — with an African-American president and first lady and attorney general, there is a ready narrative of America moving past racism. Joseph says that at the same time, there is persistent, institutional inequality, that the young people in Ferguson know from their own life.
Joseph told Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti that with those competing realities, it’s hard to have the kinds of clear goals that united a lot of Americans to action in the civil rights era. He added that the need of the moment is a grassroots movement that can compel the president and lawmakers to act.