NYT columnist Jamelle Bouie is the featured speaker at this year’s Roger Wilkins Lecture

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New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie will be the featured speaker at George Mason University’s Roger Wilkins Lecture established in honor of the late Mason professor and civil rights leader.

“What’s the Matter with American Democracy” will begin at 4:30 p.m. on April 5 in the Main Reading Room of the Fenwick Library on the Fairfax Campus.

The free event, which is open to students, faculty, staff, alumni and all members of the Mason community, is presented by Mason’s Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program, the Schar School of Policy and Government, the African and African American Studies Program and the Scalia Law School.

Charlottesville, Virginia-based Bouie joined the New York Times in January 2019 after making a national name for himself during previous stops at The Daily Beast and Slate magazine with his extensive writings on racial politics, including the 2014 Ferguson unrest, the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, church shootings, and the Black Lives Matter movement, among other issues. He’s been a political analyst for CBS News since 2015 and frequently appears on the network’s Sunday morning show “Face the Nation.”

Bouie, a 2009 University of Virginia graduate, said he’s looking forward to speaking with the Mason community about specific problems within U.S. political institutions and their possible remedies.

“Americans don’t really have political equality,” he said. “Some Americans’ votes are worth more than that of other Americans. My talk will sort of be a walkthrough of this problem. What does it all mean and why should we care about it?”

Introducing Bouie will be Mason’s new Distinguished Visiting Professor in Criminology and former Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney.

Following his talk, Bouie will take questions from the audience, with the Schar School’s Jennifer Victor moderating the discussion.

Steven Pearlstein, the Robinson Professor of Public Affairs and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, knew Wilkins and helped establish the lecture series in his honor.

He said he reached out to Bouie about becoming this year’s speaker after noticing that Bouie “had a keen interest in and knowledge of history and constitutional law.”

“For this series, I try to find speakers Roger would have wanted us to hear from,” Pearlstein said.

Previous featured speakers at the Roger Wilkins Lecture have included Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Forman Jr. (2018) and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kegan (2019).

Wilkins was the nation’s first African American assistant U.S. attorney general, serving under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. An accomplished journalist, he was part of the team at The Washington Post that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1973 with his editorials about the Watergate scandal.

Wilkins was a Robinson Professor of History and American Culture at Mason for nearly 20 years. The Johnson Center’s North Plaza was renamed in his honor in 2017.