It was a moment of reckoning.
Civil rights leaders assembled to address religious leaders at the second day of the Conference of National Black Churches to emphasize the importance of this historical predicament, just weeks after the election of Donald Trump.
“We live in a time of conflict, we live in a time of uncertainty, and we live in a time of fear,” Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, said during his turn at the podium.
Morial said that in his recent travels he has heard the phrase “I am afraid” used in reference to the president-elect and the current political climate — for the first time in his life.
“I don’t recall hearing this in the past,” he said. “So we must recognize the seriousness of the moment.”
Morial was speaking at the conference’s second “national consultation,” held in Charleston once again in part because of what organizers said was unfinished business and in part because of the Dylann Roof and Michael Slager trials, both of which confront issues of race.
Those trials, however, were little discussed. Wednesday was devoted mostly to a dialogue about contemporary racism and a “civil rights response.”
Morial issued the first afternoon call to action, insisting that religious and civil rights leaders reaffirm their commitment to the ethics of justice, progress, democracy, economic opportunity, fair policing and accountability, quality public education and more.
“If anything is proposed that conflicts with our purpose, with what we stand for, we have an obligation to say ‘no’ loudly,” he said.
Morial reminded the gathering that much has been achieved during the Obama years, progress already belittled or denied by the president’s enemies, and that an effort must be made to record his accomplishments and use them as a baseline against which Trump’s actions can be measured.
That’s why the National Urban League will document key data, such as unemployment and graduation rates, the number of people with health insurance, wage disparities and much more, Morial said.
“There has been a consistent effort to diminish, to undercut the accomplishments of the last eight years,” he said. “We have to protect the truth.”
Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said justice itself was on the ballot this election, along with white privilege and racism.
“Race and white privilege prevailed,” she said, recounting a recent trip to the store in her hometown of Mims, Fla., and the cluster of white supremacists who had gathered in the parking lot. She was afraid to leave the store alone, preferring to wait until others were exiting, she said. It was the first time she felt endangered.
Cornell Brooks, president of the NAACP, called the Obama presidency the nation’s “third Reconstruction” and reminded the assembly that a white backlash against black progress always has ensued. Jim Crow followed emancipation; Reaganomics and mass incarceration followed the civil rights movement. Each episode of advancement ended abruptly with state-sanctioned violence, he said. What will happen this time?
Brooks called for multi-generational engagement and “radical activism,” not just analysis and dialogue.
“Our moral ambition must be calibrated in relation to the degree of the threat,” he said, vowing as a practicing Christian to register as a Muslim should Trump deliver on his plan to identify all U.S. Muslims.
“Martin Luther King is watching us,” Brooks said. “Medgar Evers is watching us. Rosa Parks is watching us.”
SOURCE: The Post and Courier – Adam Parker