On Monday, we marked Dr. Martin Luther King's 91st birthday; on Wednesday, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as president, promising change after a dark period of division. Dr. King's relationship with John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson offers instructive lessons for today's movement for justice.
On Friday, I received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. I was honored to be accompanied by Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, the brilliant African-American viral immunologist who is a rock star in the field of immunology science.
Gun violence spiked across the country in 2020, the most violent years in decades. 19,000 were killed in shootings, the highest death toll in 20 years (and that does not include gun suicides). Mass shootings -- defined as four or more shot in an incident -- also rose drastically to over 600.
On Friday, millions of people across the world will celebrate Christmas. Here and abroad, safety -- staying home, social distancing, wearing masks, being sensible -- requires limits on the gatherings and parties. Yet the bells still ring, music is in the air, lights on homes and lampposts shine, blessings are still shared. For too many, this holiday is a difficult time: the cold and hungry, those separated from families, those alone or imprisoned or sick.
Now that Donald Trump's baseless lies about voter fraud have been summarily dismissed by the courts, perhaps some attention can be paid to the true threat to free and fair elections: not voter fraud but systemic and massive voter suppression. Voter suppression, not voter fraud, could have critically important effects in Senate runoff elections in Georgia that will determine which party controls the majority in the U.S. Senate.
A new president takes office with the sense of possibility that comes with a new dawn. This is particularly true for Joe Biden, taking office after the divisive turmoil of Donald Trump's years in office. Biden inherits truly fearsome troubles -- among them the spiking pandemic, the collapsing economy, corrosive inequality, catastrophic climate change and entrenched structural racism. He stood up for Black Lives Matter and has promised a new day for civil rights, with particular emphasis on police reform.
On January 5, Georgia voters will decide the runoff for their two U.S. Senate seats. Their votes will determine whether Republicans retain control of the Senate or whether Democrats gain a 50-50 tie, with Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote. The race is a microcosm of America's struggle to find a way forward and of Georgia and the South's struggle to build a new South.
Leave it to Donald Trump to run brazen subversion -- refusal to accept the decision of the voters in the presidential election -- as a clown show, marked by wingbat lawyers, delusional tweets, and hailstorms of lies. The noise, however, should not delude us: Trump is leading an American counter-reformation right to the edge of secession, if not beyond. And at the core of this is America's continued struggle with race.
On January 5, Georgia will hold a run-off election for both of its Senate seats. The races capture national attention because control of the Senate is at stake. If the two Democratic challengers, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock. both win, the Senate will be effectively split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie. If one or both lose, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell will retain his ability to obstruct the incoming president.
"The people of this nation have spoken. They have delivered us a clear victory. ... We have won with the most votes ever cast for a presidential ticket in the history of this nation."
Tuesday is "Election Day," even though most of the votes have already been cast.
If a lie is repeated often enough, the truth may never catch up. Donald Trump understands this better than anyone, as he showers Americans with lies -- often the same ones repeated over and over -- knowing that more voters will hear him than the fact-checkers. One of his favorite howlers is his oft-repeated claim that "I've done more for African Americans than anybody, except for the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln." No one should fall for the con.
In this critical election, Americans are busting all records for early voting and voting by mail. Yet, over 700,000 Americans have the right to vote but many are denied that right not only in this election, but in every election. An average of 746,000 Americans is held in local jails, most of whom have not yet been convicted of a crime or are held only for minor offenses.
Political rhetoric can incite. Incendiary posturing can trigger those who carry matches. We've now seen this play out dramatically in Michigan. Last week, six men, members of a right-wing militia group calling themselves the Wolverine Watchmen, were arrested and charged with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan before the November elections. Seven others were charged under Michigan's anti-terrorism law for allegedly seeking to recruit an army of 200 to storm the Michigan Capitol and ignite a "civil war."
I join those who pray for the full recovery of President Trump and the first lady. Whatever your politics or your religious beliefs, all of us should pray for the millions who have been afflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Upon the untimely death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Donald Trump promised to name "a woman" to fill her seat, as if the sum of Ginsburg's identity was her gender. In fact, the woman that Trump has nominated -- Amy Coney Barrett -- is an insult to all that Ginsburg stood for.
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.