Moral courage is standing up for what is right
Senator Booker and Rep. Lewis Break Tradition, Testify against Senator Sessions
Marian Wright Edelman says that she’s deeply grateful to Senator Booker and Rep. Lewis for their extraordinary testimony and moral leadership during Senator Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing on his Attorney General nomination.
By Marian Wright Edelman (NNPA Newswire Columnist)
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle . . . This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Wednesday, January 11, Senator Cory A. Booker (D-NJ) and Representative John Lewis (D-GA) joined the list of speakers testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee against the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for Attorney General of the United States. Both were assigned to a panel at the very end of the hearing process, a slot fellow panelist Representative Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, called “the equivalent of being made to go to the back of the bus.” Several Senate committee members who have publically supported Senator Sessions left before Senator Booker’s and Representative Lewis’ important testimony began. But that didn’t deter them from speaking out against the threat they see to the civil rights progress our nation has made if Senator Sessions becomes Attorney General.
Congressman Lewis noted that he was born in rural Alabama too, not far from where Senator Sessions grew up, but as a Black child he inherited a far different society: “There was no way to escape or deny the choke hold of discrimination and racial hate that surrounded us.” He said, “A clear majority of Americans say they want this to be a fair, just, and open nation… They are concerned that some leaders reject decades of progress and want to return to the dark past, when the power of law was used to deny the freedoms protected by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and its Amendments. These are the voices I represent today. We can pretend that the law is blind. We can pretend that it is even-handed. But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are called upon daily by the people we represent to help them deal with unfairness in how the law is written and enforced. Those who are committed to equal justice in our society wonder whether Senator Sessions’ call for ‘law and order’ will mean today what it meant in Alabama, when I was coming up back then. The rule of law was used to violate the human and civil rights of the poor, the dispossessed, people of color.”
In additional written remarks, Congressman Lewis was even clearer about some of his current fears: “Some people argue that the 48 years of a fully-operational Voting Rights Act simply erased hundreds of years of hate and violence. This is not ancient history; the scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in our society.”