Kai Wright

Kai Wright is editorial director of Colorlines.com and an Alfred Knobler fellow of The Nation Institute.

Recent Articles

Is AIDS Research Back to Square One?

As recently as last summer it seemed we were on the cusp of an AIDS vaccine, but the failure of the most recent trials has some calling for a return to "fundamental questions" of how to fight AIDS.

Editors' Note: This piece has been corrected . It's hard to think of Anthony Fauci as a pessimist. He's headed up the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. And given how few and far between major AIDS breakthroughs come, you've got to possess some truly audacious hope to keep that gig for two decades. Still, there was no mistaking the disappointment in his remarks to the 300 scientists he brought together in Bethesda, Maryland, this week. On the heels of one the biggest setbacks AIDS research has seen since its early years -- a failed vaccine that had promised to mark the beginning of the epidemic's end -- Fauci convened the sober meeting to rethink the whole enterprise. And after 25 years of aggressively pursuing an AIDS vaccine, the new perspective he urged upon researchers was a return to "fundamental questions." It sounded an awful lot like starting over. Worse, it sounded like starting over with a handicap. AIDS research...

History as Hangman

A rash of noose incidents across the country has reopened old wounds of racial intimidation. Law makers are reaching for hate crime law as a balm, but until America faces its past, racial terrorism will continue to plague us.

In this photo released by the New York City Police Department, a four foot long noose hangs from the office door knob of Columbia University professor Madonna Constantine, who is African - American. (AP Photo/NYPD)
Time does not heal all wounds. That's what Andy Sheldon learned when his firm helped federal prosecutors try James Ford Seale earlier this year for a 43-year-old crime. Seale, a one-time Ku Klux Klan goon and sheriff's deputy, was finally being tried for torturing and assassinating two Mississippi civil rights organizers -- he had violently extracted (false) information, anchored one man to an engine block and the other to some loose railroad tracks, and then dumped both men into the Old Mississippi River. A generation later, Seale's macabre crime still rubbed the community so raw Sheldon could barely seat a jury. "I had people in their 60s who had known people who were lynched," Sheldon explains. "It's not that far off in the past." That’s become an unavoidable truth in recent months, as the singular symbol of racist vigilantism -- the hangman's noose -- has made an ominous resurgence in the public square. Police and media in places as disparate as New York City and Anniston,...

Clarence Thomas' Race Problem

His new memoir, My Grandfather's Son, retreads the Anita Hill controversy and reveals a (still) angry black man -- and the gap between the rhetoric and reality of race in America.

My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas (Harper Collins, 2007) * * * Clarence Thomas doesn't trust white folks. He doesn't have much faith in black people, either, but that's another matter. What comes through most strikingly in his screed of a memoir is how much white power frustrates him, and how similar he is in that regard to other African Americans of his class -- ambitious, successful and, yet, embittered by the always present but difficult to identify specter of white supremacy. Thomas is fond of literary comparisons, and in his new memoir, My Grandfather's Son , he draws on a wide range of texts to help the reader grasp his mind frame. When repeatedly lauding his own "heterodox" thinking, he insists that he's followed Robert Frost's road less traveled. When haranguing white liberals, he alternately casts himself as Franz Kafka's Josef K., Richard Wright's Bigger Thomas and Harper Lee's beleaguered Tom Robinson -- unjustly hounded by a "howling" mob that "wouldn't be...