A tale of the tape: Rep. John Lewis vs. President-elect Donald Trump

 

This really isn’t a fair fight. But hey, Donald Trump went there when he insulted Congressman John Lewis via Tweet Saturday saying the civil rights icon is all talk and no action. Trump added insult to injury by tweeting that Lewis’s congressional district is a crime-ridden disaster. This came after Rep. Lewis (D-Georgia) said in an interview that he did not consider Trump to be a legitimate president because of Russian interference in the presidential election.

Trump is in serious need of a history lesson (not to mention a primer on the First Amendment).

So let’s go:

John Lewis: One of the leaders of the Nashville Student Movement and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee  (S.N.C.C.) while attending seminary in Nashville. Was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington in 1963. Lewis’s original speech was so controversial, organizers of the march asked him to tone  it down.

Donald Trump: Received alarge sum of money from his father to get started in the real estate business.  Made a name for himself as a successful businessman despite the fact that many of his business practices have faced legal and ethical questions.

John Lewis: One of the original Freedom Riders who took part in the Congress of Racial Equality’s May 1961 effort to test desegregation laws on interstate buses in the Deep South. Lewis and other Freedom Riders were attacked and beaten by angry mobs in Alabama while authorities did little to help the victims. C.O.R.E. was forced to suspend the rides.  After 400 Freedom Riders of all races were arrested in Jackson, Miss. for breach of the peace, the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered an end to segregated conditions on Greyhound and Trailways buses later that year.

Donald Trump: Was sued for housing discrimination in New York City after teams of testers found that he and his father discriminated against would-be tenants who were African American and Latino.  The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Trump’s companies have faced several lawsuits over the years from contractors, business colleagues and people who believe they were misled by leaders at Trump University.

John Lewis: Was beaten and nearly died on the Edmund Pettus Bridge between Selma and Montgomery while marching for the voting rights for African Americans. The efforts of Lewis and other protesters led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Donald Trump: Was caught on a hot mic making lewd comments about women.

John Lewis: One of the longest-serving and most respected members of Congress. When asked when he might retire, Lewis said in 2011: “Retirement is not in my D.N.A.” adding that he has more work to do for justice and freedom before he leaves this earth.

Donald Trump: Fired Omarosa and Gary Busey on “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Serious Donald Trump? You don’t want it with Congressman John Lewis.

 

 

When your heritage represents our pain

This imagine of kids playing  together in 1950s Detroit should help us remember that we are one.

This iconic photograph of children playing in Detroit should remind us all that we are one. The flag that divides us should not fly on public property.

First a painful truth: the Confederate flag flies all around the South. I’ve seen it in Jackson, Miss. and in Selma, Birmingham and Montgomery, where black people — and the white people who helped them — were beaten and murdered for trying to fulfill their humanity and gain equal protection under the law.

Here in Georgia we see the flag on porches, at places of business and on the license plate of a car that seems to be following you way too closely.

Now the debate about the flag is focused on South Carolina, where a 21-year-old man pictured with the Confederate flag killed nine people in a Charleston church two weeks ago and admitted he did so because he hated African-Americans. The pastor of that church, Clementa Pinckney, was among those slaughtered. He served in the South Carolina state legislature, the very body that will take up the flag issue next week.
The Civil War may have ended 150 years ago, but this battle over the Confederate Flag rages on. For me, the flag represents oppression and hatred. I get a sick feeling in my stomach whenever i encounter it. My mind goes back to a time when black people were killed just for being black.

Earlier this week I asked Rev. C.T. Vivian about the Confederate flag and the burning of black churches throughout the South in recent weeks. Vivian, who turns 90 this month, fought for voting rights in Selma. As a young pastor and divinity student in Nashville, he took part in the Nashville Student Movement and the Freedom Rides in the early 1960s. In 2013, President Barack Obama awarded Vivian with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“The flag is representing the death, the murder and the misuse of black life before and after slavery. That’s why they talk about heritage,” said Vivian. “Well I would not want to be a part of heritage that talks about hate as a basic part of my lifestyle. They have to understand the hanging and the killing and the beating of black people by Christians and the Klan was a basic part of a good deal of what the white church did in the south. Racism was a part of the lives of the Southern Baptists.”

As Dr. Vivian noted, the flag is deeply engrained in Southern culture.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the flag outside of my workplace. It was 1989 and I’d moved from St. Petersburg, Fla. to take a reporting job in Atlanta. When I walked into the newsroom, I asked why the Confederate flag was flying outside my new workplace. It’s part of the Georgia state flag, a colleague said.

And here I thought I was moving to “the city too busy to hate.” The black Mecca. The cradle of the Civil Rights Movement. Welcome to Georgia, where every other neighborhood has “Plantation” in its name and there is an entire museum dedicated to revisionist history.

It would be years before the Confederate emblem was removed from Georgia’s state flag. It was a bruising battle that ultimately came down to economics and image.  In the South, you see, one of the justifications for slavery is that it was an economic institution.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery often speaks about how Southern culture and ideals come into play with current day issues, such as the need to appoint more black judges in Georgia.  Much of the resistance stems from the refusal of some state legislators to let go of the past, he contends.

“They are still fighting the Civil War,” said Lowery, who in 2009 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in civil and human rights.

So display the Confederate flag if you choose. But do so with the knowledge of the hurt and pain it brings to many Americans who helped build this country.

But it should no longer be displayed on public property.

Let’s honor the nine men and women who died at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Take down that flag.

Rachel Dolezal was right to resign from the NAACP, but not because she is white

Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal

Lies and misrepresentations are always harmful. But whom among us hasn’t told a white lie or two?

When I first heard about the curious case of Rachel Dolezal,  a white woman pretending to be black, I wondered how that made her different from entertainers and actors who embrace and celebrate black culture.

People like  Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke and Gary Owen, an actor and comedian who happens to be married to a black woman, giving him a unique window into black culture. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a culture that brought the world Etta James, Muddy Waters and B.B. King? Or Muhammad Ali, Usher Raymond and Beyonce?

I have always been proud to be an African-American. Next month, our family will gather in Atlanta for our 57th annual reunion. It’s a place to share love,  recognize academic achievement and celebrate our heritage.

But when I found out  Ms. Dolezal identified herself as African-American on job applications, my opinion changed. We don’t know Ms. Dolezal’s full story because she is dodging reporters. On Monday,  she resigned as president of the Spokane, Washington N.A.A.C.P.  That’s a good call on her part. Her lies have damaged her credibility and made it impossible for her to continue to lead.

American history contains several instances of white people who gave their lives in the fight for civil and human rights.  In 1964, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, two young, Jewish men from the Northeast, were murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi along with native son James Chaney as they attempted to register blacks to vote during Freedom Summer.

In 1965, Viola Gregg Liuzzo, a wife, mother and N.A.A.C.P. from Detroit, was shot to death in Alabama by members of the Ku Klux Klan as she worked to register black voters.

And let’s not forget the fearless Freedom Riders, hundreds of black and white Americans who in 1961 were beaten and arrested in South Carolina and Alabama; and  jailed in Jackson, Miss. on the ridiculous charge of  “breach of the peace.”  Their goal was to test the enforcement of federal laws prohibiting segregation in interstate bus travel.

Ms. Dolezal’s case reminds of us a time when light-skinned black men and women passed for white to avoid such violence or to gain employment or a better education. Typically, they were the descendents of slave masters who raped black women they considered nothing more than property.

These painful facts may help explain why so much anger is being directed at Ms. Dolezal.  Our history is undeniable; and no matter how many times some folks try to rewrite it or justify it, the facts speak for themselves. They are part the reason we still have such much trouble talking about race in America. It’s personal, especially for southerners.

You have to wonder why Ms. Dolezal, who was so active in an organization whose goal is fairness for all people no matter who they are, chose to be someone she is not.

Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were reported missing and later found dead in an earthen dam. They were shot and buried by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were reported missing and later found dead in an earthen dam. They were shot and buried by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

ViolaGregg Luizzo, a wife and mother from Detroit, was murdered by Klan members while helping register voters in Montgomery and Selma. She was shot to death while driving with a black man in her car.

Viola Gregg Luizzo, a wife and mother from Detroit, was murdered by Klan members while helping register voters in Montgomery and Selma. She was shot to death while driving with a black man in her car.