Bryan Stevenson on why the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth, but justice

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Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. He and his staff have won reversals, relief, or release for more than 115 wrongly convicted prisoners on death row. He’s the author of the power book Just Mercy, and a winner of a MacArthur “Genius” grant. There are only a few people I’d say this about, but he’s a genuine American hero.
This conversation begins with one of Stevenson’s most provocative arguments. “The opposite of poverty isn’t wealth,” he says. “It’s justice.” In this podcast, he explains what he means.
We also talk at length about his argument — an argument I am now fully convinced by — that the question is not whether a criminal deserves to die but whether the state deserves to kill. We talk about America’s history, our justice system, our prejudices. We talk about what it’s like to be a black man in the South, driving down highways named for Robert E. Lee and attending high schools named for Jefferson Davis. We talk about the value of shame, and the way we honor it in the justice system even as we dismiss it in our national dialogue.
The nature of writing these podcast descriptions is that they lend themselves to hype. I want you to listen, and I use this space to try to persuade you to listen. But that backfires a bit when it gets to a conversation like this one, which left me more changed than perhaps any of the discussions that came before it. This is worth listening to.
Books:
  • “The Brothers Karamazov," by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • "Gilead," by Marilynne Robinson
  • “Anna Karenina," by Leo Tolstoy

75 episodes available. A new episode about every 6 days averaging 78 mins duration .