When the Stars Begin to Fall

When the Stars Begin to Fall

Theodore Johnson

Pub: June 8, 2021

Atlantic Monthly Press


“Racism is an existential threat to America,” Theodore Johnson declares at the start of his profound and exhilarating book; furthermore, it’s a refutation of the American Promise enshrined in our Constitution—that all men and women are inherently equal. And yet corrosive racism has remained ingrained in 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 lays out in compelling, ambitious ways a pathway to the national solidarity necessary to overcome racism. Weaving memories of his own family’s experiences with strands of history into his elegant narrative, Johnson posits that a blueprint for national solidarity can be found in the exceptional citizenship long practiced by most Black Americans, which resembles the solidarity found among members of the military or in communities recovering from a natural disaster. 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. Alive to the power of writers from James Baldwin to Ta-Nehisi Coates to Jon Meacham, When the Stars Begin to Fall is an urgent call to undertake the process of overcoming what has long seemed intractable.