In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Alabama. This simple act of defiance launched the civil rights movement in the United States. Activists coordinated a bus boycott and chose Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its’ leader and spokesman. The rest, as they say, is history. Dr. King is remembered for advancing civil rights through nonviolence. His “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was an iconic moment in American history.
The civil rights movement pushed America in the right direction, but government leadership was necessary to guarantee real and legally protected change. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was landmark legislation originally advanced by President John F. Kennedy. Five days after Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his intention to make this bill the law of the land.
“We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights,” he said. “We have talked for 100 years or more. It is time now to write the next chapter, and to write it in the books of law.”
On July 2, 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, ending segregation in public places and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or national origin. It also paved the way for the Voting Act of 1965 and Affirmative Action programs.
But, what would have happened if Donald Trump had been president in 1964? How would he have treated Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and the Civil Rights Movement? Would he have supported Dr. King and his peaceful protests? Or, would his actions have been more like those since he has taken office?
In 1973, the Justice Department sued Trump and his father for systemic racism in denying minority access to apartment rentals in Trump’s New York apartment building. The case was settled by consent decree with the Trump organization agreeing to rent apartments without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
In 1989, Trump demanded the death penalty for the so-called Central Park Five, black and Latino teenagers, falsely accused of raping a white woman. He continued these demands ten years after DNA evidence had completely exonerated the defendants.
In 2000, Donald Trump flip-flopped when he considered running for president. He told The Advocate: “Washington is in gridlock, and nothing is getting done. No health care reform, no tax relief, no campaign finance reform.” At that time, Trump attacked Pat Buchanan for vilifying Mexicans, criticized George W. Bush for failing to pass hate-crime legislation in Texas and expressed support for an amendment to the Civil Rights Act to protect gays and lesbians. “When somebody is victimized because of their ethnicity, the color of their skin, or their sexual orientation, that must carry a harsh penalty.”
From time to time, Trump has referred to blacks as ‘lazy;’ he’s argued that President Obama was born in Kenya. When his 2016 campaign began, President Trump reverted to his past racist tendencies. As the POTUS, he and his administration haven’t done a thing to protect civil rights today. Instead, the country is going backward. His justice department has increased immigration enforcement, separated minority children from their parents, derailed criminal justice reform and stripped voting rights protections. We have seen protests in the streets, immigrant lock-ups and/or deportations. Black lives don’t matter and countries of their origin are ‘sh-t holes.’
The government has shut down over Trump’s demand for border wall funding. Furthermore, Trump’s openly racist rhetoric (‘good people on both sides’) and his attractiveness to white supremacists have deepened our nation’s racial divide. 1964 would not have been possible under this president. Dr. King is probably rolling over in his grave.
Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. acted with the purpose to effect change. His actions spurred Presidents to take action, too. If he was alive today, he would remind us that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
We must continue to fight for equal opportunity. As America celebrates MLK, Jr. Day, I encourage all Americans to use their time and talents to ensure liberty, equality, and justice for all. Soon, the POTUS will be part of history, but The Dream will live to fight another day.
#MLKDay #MLK2019 #BlackLivesMatter #MarkMBello #BetrayalInBlack
Experienced attorney, lawsuit funding expert, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series. The series features super-trial lawyer Zachary Blake handling "ripped from the headlines" legal and political issues of the day. The series currently consists of Betrayal of Faith, Betrayal of Justice, Betrayal in Blue, Betrayal in Black, and Betrayal High, with a sixth Zachary Blake novel due out later this year. To learn more about these topical social justice legal thrillers. please visit markmbello.com. Mark is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.