About halfway through “God made my Face: A collective Portrait of James Baldwin”, the sprawling tribute to the American novelist expertly curated by Hilton Als, one comes across a curiously shaped tool on the floor. It is a manual railroad bender, also known as a Jim Crow, by the conceptual artist Cameron Rowland. Starting in the 1860s, these tools were used by newly-emancipated slaves in the prison system to straighten steel bars on rail roads. It was back-breaking work – done under duress and without pay under the convict lease system. Later, a Supreme court verdict affirming racial segregation led to what are commonly known as the Jim Crow Laws that legitimized discrimination towards African-Americans. Approximately two hundred years later, James Baldwin published “The Fire Next Time”, a searing denunciation on racism, oppression and violence. Fast-forward fifty years to Black Lives, Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, celebrities and politicians tweeting racist comments, and a color-skewed justice system with prisons that often charge inmates pay-to-stay fees that grossly outweigh their wages from typical work programs, the question arises: what exactly has changed? If we cannot answer, we risk falling into the perverse trap of celebrating yet another dead civil rights activist, while at the same time turning a blind eye to or own complicity in the glaringly obvious bigotry and racial injustices of today. At David Zwirner through February 16.