Opinion: KBJ’s confirmation is one of the beautiful moments MLK described

King’s speech on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City turned out to be more than an anti-war speech. The sermon heralded King, then 38, as nothing less than an American revolutionary, who linked the Vietnam War to structures of racism, segregation and poverty at home and colonialism, inequality and violence abroad.

What Jackson faced during his confirmation hearings reflects a part of what King described on that day as “the fierce urgency of now,” referring to the compelling need for America to confront sweeping crises that threaten the health of our democratic future. The two days of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee played out along partisan political lines, and the questions themselves exposed America’s deepening racial divisions. Republican senators attacked Jackson by distorting her substantive record, picking specific cases designed to make her look bad, and trying to drag her into hyperpartisan discussions of gender identity and critical race theory.
Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey reminded us of what was really at stake. Expressing his determination not to let the GOP’s mendacious tactics “steal my joy,” Booker emphasized the importance that a black woman whose parents attended racially segregated schools would soon sit on the highest court in the nation.

Seen through the lens of what has changed, and what has not changed, since King’s words at the Riverside church, Jackson’s confirmation represents one aspect of what he called a “bitter but beautiful struggle” that day. for the soul of America he helped lead. during the civil rights era, a battle that continues to this day.

King’s speech defined the contradictory impulses of a nation dedicated in the 1960s to building a “Great Society” and combating poverty and racism, while also waging a destructive war, ostensibly to end communist influence in Asia. , but widely seen also as a colonial mission to extend US imperialism. King’s “impassioned plea to my beloved nation” set off firestorms of criticism from former supporters, liberals and conservatives, and even civil rights colleagues. Years before public opinion turned against the war, King’s fiery words evoked less of the soul-searching he advocated and more of a public repudiation of his words as un-American.
American politics has changed, for better or worse, since King’s speech, as has our understanding of the martyred civil rights leader. The annual King holiday, so often used by politicians who oppose King’s message as a convenient opportunity to praise the messenger’s symbolism, is undergoing a critical reassessment in light of the 2020 political and racial reckoning. We are more united than ever. through the work of King’s daughter, Bernice, and Reverend William J. Barber’s Moral Mondays Movement, to discovering the radical King who explained in Riverside that during a time of moral and political crisis, silence equals treason.
Opinion: Ketanji Brown Jackson is the beginning, not the end, of this story

King’s work to build a more just, inclusive and equitable society lives on in Jackson. Once confirmed, she will be the only Supreme Court justice in US history who is not only a black woman, but has served as a public defender. His efforts to bring empathy and compassion to the criminal justice system are a reflection of King’s dream of building a beloved community in America, one in which institutions recognize the humanity of black people and the underdog in marginalized communities around the world. world.

Delivered a year before his assassination, King’s Riverside speech remains a remarkably hopeful sermon. “The United States, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, may well lead the way in this revolution of values,” King observed. That revolution of values ​​meant transforming the way institutions and people viewed black life. Jackson’s position on the US Supreme Court reflects an important evolution in democracy as we move, however imperfectly, toward King’s dream of a new nation.

Jackson promises to be a pioneering associate justice on the Supreme Court who exemplifies the centrality of black women in the hard work of democracy. The reverence in which her former colleagues, friends and family hold her illustrates a side of her personal and professional journey obscured by the clutter of Senate confirmation hearings. Jackson’s dedication to family, her candor in discussing the difficulties of achieving work-life balance while maintaining a demanding career and raising two daughters, and her grace in the face of deep-seated withering attacks in the still unsolved assault on the Country Against Black Women’s Personality and Humanity show an incredible amount of strength that places her in a longer tradition of pioneering Black women, including Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman appointed to a federal bench.

The “revolution of values” that King called transcended the Vietnam War, racial injustice, and economic poverty. King asked the nation to share a new story about itself. He implored us to acknowledge our past mistakes, contemporary failings, and perpetual hubris. King then challenged the nation to “rededicate” to building the beloved community free from racial injustice, economic inequality, segregation, hunger and violence. He remained the world’s most eloquent advocate of nonviolence. But then he urged the entire nation to follow his example.

America has come a long way in the 55 years since King’s speech. Some of the greatest political victories of the civil rights era, including the Voting Rights Act, have been threatened by a new era of voter suppression. But Jackson’s confirmation attests to the heights we’ve reached in more than a half-century after King called on the nation to embark on a dangerous mission to regain its purpose, redeem the national political soul, and restore the honor of American citizenship. . The crucial need to create a new world remains as urgent in our time as it was in King’s. Jackson’s confirmation, like a rose growing out of concrete, is one of those beautiful moments King called us to in Riverside and one that should be celebrated even as we remain dutifully aware of the journey ahead.

Leave a Comment