If Not Now When? A Call For "Moral Courage".

If Not Now When? A Call For "Moral Courage".
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

January 15, 2018 will be the 89th birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and April 4, 2018, will be the 50th Anniversary of his assassination in Memphis Tennessee in1968.

Maybe it’s time for the media and other political pundits to stop playing” Gotcha” with Pres. Trump on the issue of race in America. None of the leaders of the Democratic or Republican parties have “clean hands on this issue”. Political leadership continues to reside disproportionately in the hands of power of white men.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has any knowledge about history, the power and privileges of white people in our country.

White men, among whites in general, have been the direct beneficiaries of the institution of slavery and its companion doctrine of white supremacy and the consequential impact of their legacies upon the leaders of our current generation of political, educational, financial, media, and technology institutions.

On this basis, we are reluctant to characterize President Trump’s statements and actions so quickly as being, indicating, or confirming that he is personally a “racist”.

From our 86-year-old journey as an African American man in the United States, there are some white people that we have encountered along this journey who are free, uninfected and unscarred from and by the virulent disease of white racism in the United States. Accordingly, Trump, especially, as a white male, falls short of this.

While his personal views on the matter from time to time may indicate he needs to be “educated” and “better informed” about matters of race, it is his actions or inactions as POTUS that now most concerns us.

Following his one-on-one meeting with Senator Tim Scott, the first African American United States Senator from South Carolina since “Reconstruction” said:

“We had a great talk yesterday. I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what's going on there. You have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also, and essentially that's what I said. Now, because of what's happened since then with Antifa — you look at really what's happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying and people have actually written, 'Gee, Trump might have a point.' I said, 'You've got some very bad people on the other side also,' which is true” (Trump, following his meeting with AA Republican Senator Tim Scott, SC).

Columnist Charles Blow, noted recently in the NY Times:

How is it, precisely, that right becomes less right and wrong less wrong simply by the passage of time and the weariness of repetition?

How is it that morality wavers and weakens, accommodates and acquiesces?

It seems to me the oddest of asks: Surrender what you know to be a principled position because “moving on” and “moderation” are the instruments that polite society uses to browbeat the radical insisting on righteous restoration.

I see no value or honor in this retreat”. (Charles Blow, Columnist, NY Times, 14 Sept 2017)

Darren Walker, President of The Ford Foundation wrote an Open Letter on September 6, 2017 captioned, “A Call For Moral Courage in America”. Among those things he said are:

At the same instant that 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence, swearing that “all men are created equal,” they founded a nation in which all people were not. And because we have never sufficiently acknowledged this fact, America’s original sin has never left us. Indeed, it has fueled inequalities that persist to this day—whether in the form of mass incarceration or wealth inequality, housing discrimination or education and health disparities”

“All of these very current crises stem from our complicated, difficult, unaddressed history. The time has come for our nation to reckon with its past”.

“As Emancipation and Reconstruction in the 1860s gave way to a restoration of the antebellum order in the 1870s and ’80s, America made no sustained effort toward what some today might call transitional justice. The nation paid no reparations to freed slaves; the “40 acres and a mule” promised to most freed blacks never materialized. Our country never convened a Truth and Reconciliation Commission nor engaged in an officially sanctioned public interrogation of our shared history, North and South”.

“The truth is that the Confederacy was founded—and its soldiers fought—to destroy the United States of America. Their cause was to defend and make permanent the brutal practice of slavery, the underpinning of the Southern economy (and a significant component of the Northern economy, too); their aim, to keep millions of black Americans in bondage. The Confederate position was not morally ambiguous; the intent to uphold and expand slavery was the Confederacy’s foremost objective. There is simply no way around these facts.

“Despite this, astonishingly, it was not until 2008 that the US House of Representatives could muster the votes to offer an official apology for slavery and Jim Crow injustices. That it took more than 150 years to pass this resolution reminds us that America’s failure to deal with its history is also a failure of its leadership and of collective will.”

“In philanthropy and civil society, we have also been slow to recognize the ways our systems discourage moral leadership. We foundations often hide behind the particulars of our missions, rather than standing up for the deeper values our missions embody. We keep our heads down to avoid making our organizations targets for criticism, especially in the era of social media warfare”.

“Profiles in courage: The leadership we need is the moral courage to reject and rewrite the old rules. It was from the steps of the United States Capitol, in the presence of presidents, and with hope for the future, that Maya Angelou proclaimed, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

“We need leaders who build bridges, not walls. We need leaders who work across party lines and bring us together, not politicians who degrade our discourse and drive us apart. We need leaders who transcend the politics of division, who reject the language of exclusion even though it has proved to be a powerful political tactic”.

“Soon, it may be too late for courage, too late to take the necessary steps to mend our society. We risk reaching a day when whatever ability we had to influence change or protect our democratic values will have been squandered.”

“Instead, I am hopeful that we can—and will—realize the urgency of now. I am hopeful because I see every day that we, together, are ready and eager and impatient to lead the way toward a more righteous world defined by its commitment to justice and fairness.

Now is the time for courage. Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” And so, this year, my message is simple: Like the poet says, let us show each other—and the world—who we are.”

Maybe, just maybe, some members of Congress read Darren Walker’s “Call For Moral Courage” because on September 12th, only a few days ago, our 115th Congress issued a Special Joint Resolution, S.J. Res, 49”.

Condemning the violence and domestic terrorist attack that took place during events between August 11 and August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, recognizing the first responders who lost their lives while monitoring the events, offering deepest condolences to the families and friends of those individuals who were killed and deepest sympathies and support to those individuals who were injured by the violence, expressing support for the Charlottesville community, rejecting White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups, and urging the President and the President's Cabinet to use all available resources to address the threats posed by those groups”.115th Congress (2017-2018)

There could be no greater tribute to the legacy of King as we approach our national holiday celebrating his 89th birthday, and the 50th Anniversary of his assassination, than for we as a nation to pause and reflect on the injunction of Congressional Resolution SJ 49 and the “Call for Moral Courage” and Leadership by the President of the Ford Foundation.

If not, when?

If not us, who?

Popular in the Community