Whenever the president of the United States speaks to a national convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), millions of people pay attention. As a former Executive Director and CEO of the NAACP, I listened very carefully to President Barack Obama’s recent historic keynote address to the organization’s 106th annual convention in Philadelphia.
This month marks what would have been the 107th birthday of the late United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Given our long struggle for equal justice in America and the need to continue to press forward to ensure freedom, justice and equality for all, it is important to reflect on the key principles upon which Thurgood Marshall achieved his monumental success.
“For in a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labor. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . .” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII
[caption id="attachment_24914" align="alignleft"]phdoctopus.com[/caption]There’s a lesson to be learned from the Confederate flag quickly and unexpectedly falling into disfavor following the murder of nine Bible-studying African Americans, including the pastor, at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. The lesson is that the economic clout of African Americans and their progressive allies can be used to pressure businesses to do the right thing, which in turn can keep the far right wing in check.
[caption id="attachment_24880" align="alignleft"]stockvault.net[/caption]Though the keynote address was delivered 163 years ago in Rochester, N.Y. on the significance of the 4th of July celebration in the United States, the roaring eloquence and penetrating clarity of Frederick Douglass’ speech still rings true today. Slavery and its lingering aftermath in America continues to be the albatross around the neck of our democracy that chokes the quality of life for millions of African Americans and others who cry out freedom, justice, equality and prosperity.
[caption id="attachment_24820" align="alignleft"]stockvault.net[/caption]While social change for some may appear to be inevitable, it does not happen by osmosis, and it does not occur without a focused effort led by those who are not restrained by the fears of social transformation. An effective reform of the system of laws, courts, policies and institutions defined as the criminal justice system in the United States of America requires more than a principled public debate.
Fox News blowhards will never admit that in covering the racially-charged swimming pool incident in McKinney, Texas, they blew it. But that’s exactly what they did. And rather than acknowledge that they went overboard in defending the misconduct of the police officer involved – conduct that the chief police later described as “out of control” – some of the network’s personalities are attacking those who pointed out that they messed up.
James Baldwin was a gifted author and freedom fighter who made a big difference with his pen in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality. During the past 12 months, notable academies and international literary organizations have paid tribute to the 90-year birthday observance of Baldwin. I knew James Baldwin as a trusted friend, but more importantly, he was a staunch supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.