Photo Courtesy of Omar Wasow
“How did we get from civil rights to mass incarceration?”
By Donald Gilpin
Omar Wasow, who studies race, protests, and statistical methods and their effects on politics and elections, has always been intrigued by a puzzle, ”a question about politics that was always there at the back of my mind.” It was a question that took him from the high-flying world of entrepreneurship as a celebrity in the early days of social media back to the academy for graduate school then to the world of university research, writing, and teaching at Princeton University, where he is an assistant professor of politics.
As a boy growing up in Greenwich Village in New York City in the 1980s, Wasow lived in a household of academics, with his German-Jewish father an economics professor at NYU and his African American mother an early education teacher and education fundraiser. Wasow described the ”rich environment for learning,” in which he grew up, filled with discussion and debate. “We would always argue at the dinner table over the news,” he added.
“I had questions growing up,” he said in a July telephone interview. “My parents had always been not just educators, but activists. My dad had gone to register African American voters in Mississippi in 1964 with the Freedom Summer Project. That was a real high point in his life, but in a larger American context it represented a set of victories for the civil rights movement.”
He continued, “And when I was growing up in New York there was this puzzle which was that things seemed like they had gotten derailed in many ways. From the highs of the mid-60s civil rights successes things seemed to have gone off the rails.” more