I’ve been getting messages from Elizabeth Warren. She is Massachusetts’ senator, so I get messages from her anyway. But I like her. Her perky, peppy style has always amused me, though I notice her perky peppiness has been a bit more strained in recent months. I thought I’d publish this one today as a reminder of what’s going on.
It isn’t only about President Tweets or the Russians. It’s also about the continuing battle to deal with Congress. At this point, our battle seems less intended to accomplish something and more to keep from having appalling things happen to us!
Six months ago tonight, I went to the Senate floor to speak out about Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General – Jeff Sessions.
Nobody wanted to talk about the fact that President Trump had nominated a man that both Democrats and Republicans had decided was too racist to become a federal judge in the 1980s. So I went to the Senate floor to read an old letter from Coretta Scott King. She knew about the way former US State Attorney for Alabama Jeff Sessions had intimidated and prosecuted civil rights workers for helping elderly black citizens to vote, and I wanted the Senate to hear what she’d had to say.
Mrs. King wrote of African-American families visited repeatedly by the FBI. Of people pressured to change their testimony. Of elderly black men and women herded onto buses and driven 180 miles to appear before a grand jury. She talked about fear and the toll it took on people. And she said that Sessions had “used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.”
Every senator voting for Jeff Sessions and every person in America needed to hear that letter. When Mitch McConnell threw me out of the Senate for reading it, I was shocked. It wasn’t just my voice that was being silenced. No, Coretta Scott King was silenced.
And just to be clear: Mitch McConnell wasn’t the only person who tried to silence me that night. I appealed his decision, so the whole Senate got to vote. Every single Republican in the Senate chamber that night voted to censure me. Not one of them wanted to talk about why Jeff Sessions was a problem.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a problem – and I’m still talking about it:
- He supported the Texas voter ID law – the strictest voter ID in the country, meant to stop African-Americans and Latinos from voting.
- He reversed the Obama Administration directive to stop using predatory, for-profit private prisons.
- He reinstated the failed “War on Drugs” with harsh mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.
- He rolled back investigations of police departments that commit civil rights violations.
- He announced a probe on college admissions programs to twist and distort federal civil rights laws.
- He promised to withhold federal funding to cities with immigration policies he doesn’t like.
But here’s the deal: When Mitch McConnell and every one of his Republican colleagues kicked me off the Senate floor that night, he didn’t silence me, or Mrs. King, or anyone else. In fact, they made us louder. I went outside to the hallway, pulled out a phone, and read Mrs. King’s letter online. Over the next few days, tens of millions of people heard – or read– Coretta Scott King’s words.
I never expected anything that happened on the Senate floor that night. I never expected “Nevertheless, She Persisted” to become a meme, a t-shirt slogan, a tattoo, or a rallying cry for people all across this country who are tired of being told to sit down and shut up.
This fight isn’t about me – it’s about all of us. This is our moment in history. Not the moment we wanted, but the moment we are called to. Donald Trump may call us names. Mitch McConnell might tell us to sit down and shut up. But we will not give up and go home.
We will resist. We will persist. And we will win.
Thanks for being a part of this,
Someone asked why so many people think Trump is a hero. The only honest answer I could give is I believe he is the bigot for whom so many have yearned. Maybe this sounds simplistic, but the spillover of everything Trump has done or tried to do is racist. It is far too obvious to ignore or call “coincidence.” I have heard some say “they felt ignored,” and so they voted for this thing we have in office. Maybe some of them did feel ignored, but how did feeling ignored morph into hating everyone who isn’t white? Did feeling ignored make them hate brown people? Muslims? Transgender people? People of any religion other than their own? Where’s the connection?
How, exactly, does “feeling ignored” become hate?
The answer is that it doesn’t. The Civil War may have ended up north, but it has apparently been going on for the past 160 years down south. Don’t believe that this mess is merely about what one bad president Trump can do. He is a very bad president, but he didn’t get here on his demerits. He got here because he gave a lot of Americans the freedom to come out of their closets and really HATE.
So for all of you who were worried that we were becoming too careful of our speech? Welcome to a place where anyone can say anything and it’s just fine because no more locking up hate speech. Now, it’s totally American.
I’m so ashamed.