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For those of us old enough to remember the protests against racism and police brutality in the late 1960s, the outrage of African Americans has a sad and sickening familiarity. It’s sad because yet another black man was killed by police officers although he was not resisting arrest (and even had he been resisting arrest, the officers were wrong to apply lethal force to an unarmed person). It is sickening because so little has changed in 50+ years.
We don’t have to think back to the 1960s for examples of racism and racial profiling. We see it now, with disgusting, appalling frequency.
Some important things have changed: our nation twice elected a black man as president. Yet so much remains unchanged: segregated neighborhoods, segregated schools, persistent inequality and disparate treatment.
And now a federal administration that exploits and encourages racism, as it did in Charlottesville when neo-Nazis marched and brazenly displayed their bigotry and hatred. And a president who appoints federal judges who can’t say whether the Brown decision was correctly decided in 1954.
Black Lives Matter. Colin Kaepernick was right. Symbolic statements and gestures matter but they don’t change injustice. We need change in enforcement.
We need a Justice Department committed to protecting the rights of all Americans and to defending the most vulnerable and to enforcing civil rights laws. We need a president who sets a moral example and stands forcefully against racism in word and deed.
Whoever is president creates a tone and climate that others take as a signal of what is appropriate.
Vote. Vote. Vote as if your life depends on it. It does. Vote for justice. Vote for decency. Vote to defend civil rights.