|Dean of the U.S. House|
John Conyers, Jr.
Many are drawing comparisons between 1968 and the present. We have a presidential candidate who suggests rounding up millions for deportation and wants to ban Muslims from the America Dream. We face daily reminders of injustices that we hoped we had overcome – growing fear about the state of race relations and violence in the streets that leaves young Black men dead and officers gunned down.
There is, however, one important difference between today and the 1960s: the confidence of progress. Our nation and the Black community have made tremendous progress since I was first elected to Congress in 1965. We defeated Jim Crow, opening a path for economic and political opportunity. America has twice elected an African American to the presidency. Black voices and the Black narrative are as influential and as powerful as they have ever been in every facet of our society.
I like to think my friend, Dr. King, is looking down with pride at how far we, as a people, have come.
As the former chairman and now Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, I have dedicated my service to jobs, justice and peace. After decades of community complaints about police brutality, I chaired hearings in Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and Dallas, which helped build the record for passage of landmark legislation like the 1994 “Pattern and Practice” statute, which gives the Department of Justice the authority to investigate law enforcement discrimination and abuse in cities like Ferguson and Baltimore.
The loss of lives in Baton Rouge, suburban St. Paul and Dallas has left the nation in shock, as seemingly every day the media brings us news of violence borne of hate and intolerance. Modern technology and the advent of social media have made us all witnesses, just like the marches in Selma and Birmingham, making it impossible to dismiss them as fiction or someone else’s problem. We live these injustices first hand. When you see a man die before your eyes on camera, civilian or police officer, it changes your perception of humanity and invokes a response.