Yesterday, the Trump administration once again proved their ignorance. Trump & Co are planning to attend an opening ceremony on Saturday of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. For Trump and his minions, it is a photo op, one of those ‘see and be seen’ moments, nothing more, for Trump has already shown his disdain for the achievements and goals of the Civil Rights movement.
Congressman John Lewis is one of those civil rights leaders, one of the icons of the era who is greatly admired and respected. Mr. Lewis has declined to join Trump on the visit, calling the trip an insult to the African-Americans commemorated there. Representative Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi has joined Lewis and will not attend the ceremony.
“President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum.” – Joint statement issued by Lewis & Thompson
Various civil rights groups, including the NAACP, have also protested Trump’s appearance at the ceremony …
“President Trump’s statements and policies regarding the protection and enforcement of civil rights have been abysmal, and his attendance is an affront to the veterans of the civil rights movement.” – NAACP president and chief executive Derrick Johnson
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary who speaks for Trump, said ..
“We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history. The president hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”
John Lewis IS one of those brave civil rights leaders who risked life and limb time and time again to, as Ms. Sanders put it, remove barriers and unify Americans of all backgrounds. The entire statement shows that she, like her boss, has no idea what the civil rights movement was about, who its heroes are, and what they sacrificed. Her words are as a slap in the face to a man who is far greater, far braver, than Donald Trump will ever be.
Let me tell you a little bit about John Lewis, who has long been a hero of mine. He was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, served as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), organized voter registration efforts that led to the pivotal Selma to Montgomery marches, was one of the “Big Six” leaders who organized the March on Washington, coordinated SNCC’s efforts for “Mississippi Freedom Summer,” a campaign to register black voters across the South. He is best known for the role he played on March 7th, 1965, known as “Bloody Sunday”, when he helped lead over 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. At the end of the bridge, they were met by Alabama State Troopers who ordered them to disperse. When the marchers stopped to pray, the police discharged tear gas and mounted troopers charged the demonstrators, beating them with night sticks. Lewis’ skull was fractured.
Now, let me also tell you why John Lewis will not travel to the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum with Trump. First, Trump’s frequent support of white supremacists is a slap in the face to Lewis and all he has fought for. But it goes even further than that, for in January, just a few days before his inauguration, Trump said of John Lewis …
“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!”
Not only was that a highly inappropriate remark for Trump to make, but it was blatantly false, for Lewis’ 5th district, which includes Atlanta, is far from a hellhole, incorporating the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Georgia Tech and Emory University.
Even back on the campaign trail in 2015/2016, Trump denigrated African-Americans, telling them that their communities, indeed their very lives, were so bad that they had ‘nothing to lose’ by supporting him. And ever since he took office, he has pandered to known white supremacists, such as Steve Bannon, policy advisor Stephen Miller, former deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, and others. Then came the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August, where Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, finally did utter a weak condemnation, only to reverse it a day later.
In addition to his support of white supremacists, Trump has embraced law enforcement practices and voting rights restrictions that disproportionately and negatively impact black communities, repeatedly picked fights with black athletes who he has accused of not showing him sufficient respect, and demanded apologies from prominent African-Americans who have criticized him. Why would John Lewis, who fought so hard for the rights of African-Americans, wish to associate himself with the likes of Trump?
John Lewis deserves to be honoured at the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, for it is he as much as anybody who made that museum possible. Donald Trump is the intruder and has no legitimacy there, other than having been invited, as a courtesy or protocol, by the Governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant. I would love to see John Lewis attend, as he should, but not with Trump. He should stand proud as one of the last surviving heroes of the civil rights movement and take his place there, shaking hands and accepting the thanks of so many, rather than stand anywhere near the odious Trump.