18 November 2016

Hope and Hard Work

He said the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, long-standing organizations at the forefront of the American Civil Rights movement, were "un-American" and "Communist-inspired."

He called African-American federal prosecutor Thomas Figures "boy."

He said the Ku Klux Klan was fine "until I found out they smoked pot."  He later said it was a joke.

Hilarious guy, isn't he.

So funny in fact that his 1986 nomination for a federal judge position--a nomination made by Republican President Ronald Reagan--was ultimately rejected by a Republican Senate Judiciary Committee.

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is a vocal opponent of the Voting Rights Act and is a proponent of mandatory sentencing, the leading cause of mass incarceration in the United States, which every objective measure shows effects most egregiously the African American community.

Our President-elect Donald Trump has nominated a racist to be U.S. Attorney General.

I've been to Alabama three times in my life.  I found the people there, black and white, to be warm and hospitable and open to a critically important reckoning with the history of slavery, race and civil rights in this country.  Are there still challenging examples of racism and discrimination there?  Of course.  But it's out in the open and slowly but surely, people of good will continue to endeavor, heroically, to turn the tide.  It has taken decades and no doubt will take decades more.  But as Martin Luther King, Jr, said as one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the "arc of history is long but it bends toward justice."

Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, which runs out of a former slave market in downtown Montgomery, often quotes Dr. King's line in the work he does defending inmates on death row, incarcerated youth, and advocating for a just and fair criminal justice system.  You can see Bryan speak in this enormously powerful Ted Talk he gave.

The Guardian carried a moving story yesterday about Congressman John Lewis winning the National Book Award.  Particularly stirring was his recollection that as a young child in rural Alabama, he was barred from the library because was black.  He received an education, nevertheless.  He rose to prominence in the Civil Rights movement.  He was a founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.  He had his head beaten in by Klan members who were part of the Selma police force that attempted to stop freedom of assembly and protest of racial segregation in the Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery.  He was there when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed.  He was shattered when Dr. King was assassinated.  And then he went to Congress, where he has served Atlanta, with distinction, for a generation.
And in his moving and inspiring life story, told in graphic novel form for which he won the National Book Award for youth literature, he brings readers to tears with the emotional impact of what it meant to sit on the Capitol steps and see Barak Obama be sworn in as President of the United States.

I read the trilogy this summer and I can testify, dear reader, that John Lewis will give you hope and strength in the weeks and months ahead as people of good will in our country come together to resist the forces of hatred, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia that appear to be very much at the center of Donald Trump's vision for America.

Love does trump hate.  The arc of history does bend toward justice.

Hope and hard work will get us through.  Be inspired by the sacrifices of those who came before us. We really do stand on the shoulders of giants.

Now let's get to it!

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