Fr. 23.90

When the Stars Begin to Fall - Overcoming Racism and Renewing the Promise of America

English · Paperback / Softback

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  • A thought-provoking, deeply considered plan to inhibit the seemingly intractable racism in America, by a distinguished African-American writer and public policy scholar.

  • Johnson blends personal stories of his family's multi-generational experiences, as well as history, into his overarching narrative-it is as lyrical a reading experience as it is an inspiring and persuasive argument. His experience as a Navy commander gives him a unique perspective on the institutional change needed to overcome racism.

  • Johnson argues that racism is an existential threat to our democracy and to the idea and promise of America-that all men and women are inherently equal. He posits that racism is first and foremost a crime of the state that can only be overcome by establishing and fostering a color-conscious (not color-blind) national solidarity similar to the kind experienced by members of the military or by communities fighting towards a common goal in the wake of natural disasters. It is a non-partisan argument that demands the attention and cooperation of everyone.

  • Johnson's book captures the essence of the many titles regarding social justice that have topped the bestseller lists the past few months and turns it into actions that can engage and inspire us all.

  • Like James Baldwin, Johnson uses his love for America and its promise as a platform to call the nation to account for its shortcomings regarding equality.

  • Johnson posits that nations as entities have no feelings or morals, only interests; therefore we can disassemble racism if this is clearly in the nation's best interest. For example, the major civil rights legislation in the 1960s was strongly prompted by influential Soviet propaganda calling out American hypocrisy for proclaiming its democracy and yet subjugating minorities.

  • Johnson's argument for national solidarity is tangential to Ibram X. Kendi's in How To Be an Antiracist. Kendi poses a moral question to individuals; Johnson poses an existential question to the nation. To Johnson, racism is not binary in which you are either racist or you're not. He argues one can hold certain prejudices and still join the national solidarity if one understands eliminating racism is in the nation's best interest.

  • Johnson has been commissioned to write two major feature articles in the past four months. The New York Times Magazine, Sept. 20, 2020, "How Black Voters Became a Monolith" was so widely discussed the Times immediately asked him to write another feature following the election. The conservative National Review asked Johnson to write "America and Race," (June 2020), which outlined themes in his book.

  • Johnson has a fast-rising profile as Director of the Fellows program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, which will support his book in every way possible. In addition to the New York Times Magazine and National Review, he has written articles for the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and other publications. He has been widely interviewed about race and politics on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, NPR, CBS News, Yahoo Finance, and on regional radio across the country, from New York to Detroit to Salt Lake City. He has appeared multiple times on the BBC and on Canada's CBC, and last winter for a full hour on C-Span's "Washington Journal."

  • The title When the Stars Begin to Fall is the last line of a Black spiritual, referring to the start of a new day as the stars disappear from view with the dawn-reflecting Johnson's ultimate optimism that a new day with racism suppressed can be achieved.

  • When the Stars Begin to Fall will attract readers drawn to the critiques of Isabel Wilkerson and Carol Anderson and also to the ultimate optimism of Jon Meacham and Eddie S. Glaude.

About the author

Theodore R. Johnson is a Senior Advisor at New America, leading its flagship Us@250
initiative marking the nation’s semiquincentennial, and a writer at The
. Prior to joining New America, he was a senior fellow and Director
of the Fellows Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of
Law, where he undertook research on race, politics, and American identity. He
is a retired Commander in the United States Navy, serving for twenty years in a
variety of positions, including as a White House Fellow in the first Obama
administration and as speechwriter to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff. His work on race relations has appeared in prominent national
publications across the political spectrum, including the New York Times
, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Wall
Street Journal
, and National Review, among others.


A bold, thought-provoking pathway to the national solidarity that could, finally, address the ills of racism in America

“Racism is an existential threat to America,” Theodore R. Johnson declares at the start of his profound and exhilarating book. It is a refutation of the American Promise enshrined in our Constitution that all men and women are inherently equal. And yet racism continues to corrode our society. If we cannot overcome it, Johnson argues, while the United States will remain as a geopolitical entity, the promise that made America unique on Earth will have died.When the Stars Begin to Fall makes a compelling, ambitious case for a pathway to the national solidarity necessary to mitigate racism. Weaving memories of his own and his family’s multi-generational experiences with racism, alongside strands of history, into his elegant narrative, Johnson posits that a blueprint for national solidarity can be found in the exceptional citizenship long practiced in Black America. Understanding that racism is a structural crime of the state, he argues that overcoming it requires us to recognize that a color-conscious society—not a color-blind one—is the true fulfillment of the American Promise.
Fueled by Johnson’s ultimate faith in the American project, grounded in his family’s longstanding optimism and his own military service, When the Stars Begin to Fall is an urgent call to undertake the process of overcoming what has long seemed intractable.

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