Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- the Notorious RBG -- was a tenacious advocate for equality. The outpouring of grief across the nation is testament to her commitment. She deserves to be honored and celebrated. The assertion of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell that they will rush to nominate a justice intent on dismantling her legacy is both shameless and poisonous. Shameless because it exposes once more that they care only about power, not about the law or legitimacy. Poisonous because it uses the death of a justice famed for consensus-building to deepen the nation's toxic divisions.
"The poor will always be with us," say the cynics. No doubt, some will always be wealthier than others. We wouldn't want to live in a society that forced all to be equal. But poverty isn't inevitable. The 30 million people in America who lived in poverty even before the pandemic when unemployment was at record lows needn't exist in that state.
As the presidential campaigns heat up, Americans are provided with a stark choice of leaders. The visits to Kenosha of Donald Trump and Joe Biden provide clear contrasts for all to see.
The greatest athletes in America are standing up for justice at a critical time. Despite unprecedented, multiracial demonstrations across the country protesting police violence against African Americans, the horrors keep on coming. Last week, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a policeman in Kenosha, Wisconsin. As the anger has grown, some of the protests have been marred by vandalism and looting. Now armed right-wing militia groups are escalating the tensions. In Kenosha, two demonstrators were murdered and one wounded by a 17-year-old Trump supporter illegally wielding an assault weapon.
In last week’s Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris passed the character test.
Donald Trump's ignorance and incompetence have cost American lives in the pandemic. Now his failure of leadership will add to the misery of millions of Americans force onto unemployment, the hunger of children at risk, the homelessness of families facing eviction. At a time when bold action is imperative, the president offers posturing and gestures. Having failed to produce a deal on a much needed rescue program, he issues a showtime executive order and series of memoranda that will do more to foster confusion than to aid those in distress.
August 6 is the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. If the constitutional amendments passed after the Civil War -- the 13, 14 and 15th Amendments -- were the "second founding" of democracy in America, the Voting Rights Act, which after nearly a century of segregation gave legal effect to the 15th Amendment that outlawed discrimination in the right to vote, should be considered the "third founding."
"Hitler had his Brown shirts and Mussolini had his Black shirts, now Donald Trump has his camouflage shirts." Thus began a statement signed by 15 distinguished interdenominational religious leaders in Chicago that I joined, including ministers, priests, and rabbis.
When John Lewis left us, editorials and columns paid tribute to his leadership, his courage, his moral example. The praise was well deserved. A broader context helps understand his true contribution.
The inspiring rise of a new generation protesting against racial injustice is driving a new era of change in America, like the generation that emerged 60 years ago to build the civil rights movement of that time. July 16, 1960 is marked in my memory: that is the day I joined seven other friends to walk into the whites-only Greenville Library, and be arrested for violating the segregation laws.
Covid-19 isn't "disappearing," as President Donald Trump suggests; it is surging, setting new records in daily cases. The states that rushed to "reopen" the economy now are reversing course. Yet the NCAA still assumes that the college football season will begin at the end of August, and that mandatory practices will begin this month.
How many lives of young men and women should be sacrificed for entertainment - and for billions in profit? That question can't be ducked as the NCAA allows colleges to begin "voluntary" football practices, and other college teams begin to practice.
As the worldwide demonstrations continue two weeks after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman, the question is whether outrage will lead to real reforms? Fundamental reforms would begin with ending the "qualified immunity" of police, curbing the militarization of police forces, transferring funds and functions to social agencies, imposing residency requirements and finally making lynching a hate crime.
The murder of George Floyd was a lynching in broad daylight. Three police officers stood and watched as a fourth, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd's neck. They watched for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, with Floyd unresponsive for 2 minutes and 53 seconds of that, according to the criminal complaint against Chauvin. They did nothing to stop the murder. Their silence was as much an act of violence as Cauvin's knee. And if there were no video recording of the murder, they likely would have upheld the Code Blue loyalty, and lied about what happened.
We live in a time of bitter divisions. Today, even the wearing of masks has become a partisan question. Yet, as Memorial Day reminds us, this country has united before to meet external threats. The calamity that has been wrought by the coronavirus is the result of an external attack - this time by a virus rather than an armed enemy. It too should be a time of national unity, of rallying together to share the sacrifices, to help one another through the crisis, and to rebuild the country afterwards.
Last Sunday marked the 66th anniversary of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. the Board of Education. The Brown decision addressed consolidated issues from four different cases involving racial segregation. The issues emanated from Kansas, South Carolina, Delaware, and Virginia. The unanimous opinion of the court was written by Earl Warren, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower's newly appointed chief justice. The Court declared that forced segregation of public-school children violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional.
Today there is a national outcry about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The public condemnation has forced a belated response. Those accused of his murder have finally been arrested. His murder has become a global embarrassment for whites. For blacks, however, it is another humiliation, a continuing terror. It is the normal silence, however, that condemns thousands of African Americans to unjust deaths and millions to shattered lives. When the camera turns away, the savage injustice that embarrasses us becomes simply business as usual.
The coronavirus does not discriminate, but people do. The coronavirus is not partisan, but politicians are. When we should be coming together to address a shared crisis, some are intent on driving us apart, and on exacting partisan advantage in the midst of the crisis.
Across the United States and across the world, prisoners are among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus. Overcrowded facilities, shortages of food and medicine, totally inadequate testing expose prisoners who are disproportionately poor and afflicted with prior conditions that render them vulnerable to the disease. Prisoners increasingly are protesting their conditions, objecting to being sentenced to die in prison.
The media has just discovered that the coronavirus is far more deadly to blacks and Latinos than to whites. Twice as deadly in New York City, according to the New York Times. Seventy-two percent of the fatalities in Chicago are blacks who constitute about 30 percent of the population. The news is treated as a shocking revelation on the BBC, CNN and CBS and in newspapers across the country.
In his famous letter from the Birmingham jail where he was arrested for demonstrating against segregation, Dr. King wrote, "I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. ... Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny."
Who is going to pay for this? For months that question was used as a weapon against supporters of Medicare for All. Now, it is on everyone's mind as they worry about the costs of the testing and treatment for the coronavirus. The virus is highly contagious. We need everyone with symptoms to get tested and all with the virus to get treatment. If anyone hesitates because they fear they can't afford the cost, they put the rest of us at risk. No one should be worried about the costs of treatment.
I am proud to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for president of the United States. While I consider Joe Biden, his opponent for the Democratic Party nomination, a decent man, I stand with Bernie. Here is why.
Don't fall for the hype. That is the one lesson that we all should have learned about Donald Trump. He's a salesman, not a statesman. He offers up fantasies, not facts. The most recent agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan is a clear example of this.
After Nevada, Bernie Sanders is now the front-runner in the Democratic presidential race. In South Carolina, the next primary, former Vice President Joe Biden is the favorite, buoyed by his support among African American voters. Sanders will come into the state with real momentum, having won the popular vote in each of the first three contests.
As the Democratic Presidential Primaries move onto Nevada, South Carolina and the many Super Tuesday states, candidates turn their attention to people of color, and particularly African Americans.
As the presidential primaries heat up, African American voters are suddenly in demand. Democratic candidates vie to gain support in what is a key constituency in the Democratic Party. Donald Trump's re-election campaign says it's planning a special appeal to Black voters, arguing that if Trump could simply reduce the staggering margins against him, it would have dramatic effect. We know what the candidates want. The obvious question is what do African Americans want?
Today, after more than a year of campaigning, debates, polls, fund-raising and ads, voters cast their first votes in the Iowa caucuses. Iowa is always first because it demands that it be first, but no matter who wins, this profoundly distorts the race.
As another year passes with celebrations marking the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, I worry about the dangers of neutering Dr. King's life, turning him into a "dreamer" who became a martyr. We shouldn't forget that Dr. King was a leader, a man of conscience and of action. He sought to transform America, that forced him to be a disrupter -- and to bear the wounds of being unpopular in a just cause.
Schools across the country celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Day today. At every level, students learn about King, the movement he helped lead and the teachings and legacy he left behind. There are dramatic readings of his words. Many schools show his historic "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, a speech given before hundreds of thousands.
Across America, there are pockets of poverty, communities that have been left behind or deprived of the basics needed to develop, like Pembroke Township, a small community south of Chicago along the Indiana border. In this community, one-third of the families live below the poverty line. It is one of the poorest communities in the country, with a median income that is among the lowest.
It has come to this. An impeached president -- still pending trial in the Senate -- orders the assassination of one of Iran's leading generals across the world where he is meeting with the leader of Iraq, a supposed ally. He does so without consultation, much less approval, of the Congress. Besieged at home, he lashes out abroad.
January 1 begins the new year. It also marks the anniversary of a new America. On January 1, 1863, as the Civil War, the bloodiest of America's wars, approached the end of its second year, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states, "are and henceforward shall be free."
As the House of Representatives moves toward impeaching Donald Trump this week -- by what all predict will be a vote divided largely by party, it is time for reflection. The House will indict the president for abuse of his office -- trying to enlist a foreign government to intervene in our election by announcing an investigation of his potential opponent in the upcoming presidential race and for obstruction of justice in his extreme efforts to block the congressional investigation of his abuses.
Donald Trump is famed for his head snapping reversals. One day he's taking troops out of the Middle East; the next he's sending more in. One day he's on the verge of an agreement with China on trade; the next he's tweeting about holding off until after the election.
"Too radical, impractical, too costly, impossible, can't pass the Senate." Those are the terms centrist Democrats use to describe the bold reform ideas put forth by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic presidential primaries. "Venezuela, socialist, communist tripe, crazy" are the jibes preferred by Donald Trump and Republicans. All this begs the same question: What do they plan to do to meet the challenges we face?
The right to vote is fundamental to any democracy. Protecting that right -- and making it easier to exercise it -- ought to be a priority across partisan lines. Instead, in states across the country -- particularly in the five years since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act -- it has become a pitched battle.
We just celebrated Veterans Day, paying tribute to the young men and women who have served our country. Across the country, families gathered at the gravesites of those who gave their lives. Veterans drank toasts to their fellow soldiers. In football and basketball stadiums, crowds offered a moment of silence for the fallen. The rituals are heartfelt, but far from complete. Too often ignored is the far greater number of lives that are lost not on the battlefield but at home, not from the enemy's guns but from our veterans' own hands.
Affordable health care for all is now at the center of the presidential debate. Two of the top three contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination -- Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders -- support Medicare for All. The third -- Joe Biden -- and those hoping to take his place as the leading centrist in the race -- Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar -- have attacked the plan to contrast their candidacies from Sanders and Warren. Donald Trump, who wants to eliminate the Affordable Care Act itself, and has already added some 10 million people to the ranks of the uninsured, scorns it as "socialism," just as earlier Republicans libeled Social Security and Medicare itself when they were under consideration.
Donald Trump's use of the term "lynching" to describe the ongoing impeachment inquiry in the House naturally sparked bipartisan outrage.
A new report should raise alarms about the upcoming 2020 census. According to the Pew Research Center, the good news is that the overwhelming majority of Americans are aware of the census, and over eight in 10 say they are likely to participate. The bad news is that nearly one in four blacks, young people, and lower income people and one in five Hispanics are uncertain or reluctant to participate. If not changed, that could have truly negative impact on the most vulnerable.
On my birthday this year, I continued my tradition of going to the Cook County Jail to have lunch with some of the 5,552 people who are inmates there. These visits remind me of the humanity of those who are in trouble -- and of the inhumanity, even idiocy, of our criminal justice system.
To decipher President Donald Trump’s presidency, apply the basic rule of politics: Follow the money.
The National Football League season opened last week with a full slate of games. On the field, extraordinary athletes of all races and backgrounds competed with the same set of rules. Yet, it is worth noting that this has not always been the case — and that the legacy of discrimination has yet to be redressed.
Can America break its gun addiction? After mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, Southaven, Mississippi, Dayton, Ohio and Midland and Odessa, Texas, public demand for sensible gun reform once more soared. And once more, Republican politicians, led by Donald Trump, were intimidated into inaction by the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association. Remarkably, it was America's largest retailer -- Walmart -- that exhibited the courage politicians lacked.
The National Football League season opened last weekend with a full slate of games. On the field, extraordinary athletes of all races and backgrounds competed with the same set of rules. Yet it is worth noting that this has not always been the case -- and that the legacy of discrimination has yet to be redressed.
Every right we have fought for and won since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his monumental "I Have a Dream" speech 56 years ago this Wednesday is under unrelenting attack and in grave peril -- from the right to drink fresh water and to breathe clear air, to the right of workers to organize for better wages and safer conditions to the right to vote without interference from "enemies foreign and domestic" to the rights of women, children, the LGBTQ community and immigrants.
On Sunday, the New York Times unveiled "The 1619 Project," a journalistic series in the Sunday magazine that seeks to tell the "unvarnished truth" about slavery and its impact on America's history. In 1619, just 12 years after the founding of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, the Jamestown colonists bought the first slaves, 20 to 30 enslaved Africans, from English pirates.
July 27 marked the 66th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice, which brought an end to hostilities that killed nearly 5 million people, including almost 40,000 U.S. service members. The war ended in a temporary cease-fire, which is why the United States still maintains 28,500 troops in South Korea. Nuclear missiles ring the region and threaten the people living there. North and South remain divided, separating thousands of families.
The horrifying and heartbreaking news of the domestic terrorist attacks in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in less than 24 hours over the weekend reached me while I was in Poland, a country haunted by the deadly power of politically irresponsible and racist rhetoric.