"Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America” — opening in Bay Area theaters Friday, Feb. 4 — grew out of a family tragedy when Jeffery Robinson and his wife took in his 13-year-old nephew, Matthew, after the boy’s mother died.
Becoming a parent to a Black youth made Robinson fearful of what the teen might face out in the world but also spurred the civil rights attorney to study the United States’ long history of racism.
“I was trained as a criminal defense lawyer, as a trial lawyer,” Robinson told The Chronicle during a recent visit to the Bay Area with the Kunstler sisters. “And one of the things I was trained to do is to take a complex set of facts and put it on a timeline just to see what it tells you. When I did that, it was just clear, an unbroken chain of events from 1619 to the present.”
That timeline became the basis for Robinson’s lecture, tracing the history of American racism and white supremacy from colonial days up through our present time. Then a deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union, he started giving the talk in various venues, which brought him to the attention of the Kunstlers.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.