By Monique Judge, The Root
Congressman John Lewis and Bennie Thompson
Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) announced last Thursday that they are skipping last Saturday’s opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson because Donald Trump will be in attendance—something they consider to be “an insult” to the black heroes commemorated there.
Thompson and Lewis issued a joint statement that said, “President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum.” According to its website, the museum “shares the stories of a Mississippi movement that changed the world” and “promotes a greater understanding of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and its impact by highlighting the strength and sacrifices of its people.”
The website continues, ”Visitors will witness the freedom struggle in eight interactive galleries that show the systematic oppression of black Mississippians and their fight for equality that transformed the state and nation. Seven of the galleries encircle a central space called “This Little Light of Mine.” There, a dramatic sculpture glows brighter and the music of the Movement swells as visitors gather.”
President Donald Trump was the lead person spreading the lie that President Barack Obama, America’s first Black president, was not born in the U. S. President Trump also equated Ku Klux Klan members and Neo-Nazis to people protesting the evils of racism during the deadly White supremacist marches in Charlottesville, Va. last August.
Repeatedly, in front of the nation, he has flagrantly displayed racial insensitivities; even with his most recent support of Senate Candidate Roy Moore in Alabama, not only an accused pedophile, but a man who has said America was last great during slavery.
Since his inauguration, Trump and his appointee Attorney General Jeff Sessions have careful demolished important policies put in place during the Obama administration for the purpose of preventing police brutality and other issues of racial inequality in the criminal justice system.
In addition, President Trump has claimed massive voter fraud in America, a claim that experts say is patently false.
These are just a handful of the reasons that civil rights leaders opposed the president’s attendance at the Dec. 10 opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. They argue that the museum is like hallowed ground that celebrates those who risked their lives to fight against everything that Trump appears to embrace – despite his words to the contrary.
“President Trump’s presence at the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is not a show of respect. It’s merely a photo op,” says Derrick Johnson, president/CEO of the NAACP. “I live in Mississippi and its civil rights leaders are my mentors, sheroes, and heroes. I cannot sit silently alongside a man who has used the power of his office to turn back the clock on hard-won rights.”
In response to the announcement from Lewis and Thompson, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, “We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the president in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history.”
Lewis is an icon of the civil rights movement for his work in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He was at the lead of the civil rights march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in March 1965. He also participated in sit-ins in Nashville, Tennessee and in the Freedom Rides that ended in a mass arrest in Jackson, Mississippi. So it is fair to say that John Lewis is one of the civil rights heroes recognized in the museum.