Civil rights leaders refuse to attend Mississippi museum opening

Saturday morning President Trump traveled to Jackson, Mississippi to attend the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and to recognize the 200th anniversary of when Mississippi became the 20th state on Sunday. Unfortunately, the mere act of extending an invitation to the president brought swift criticism and the temper tantrums began on the left.

Senior civil rights activist John Lewis, who also refused to attend Trump’s inauguration, was the most vocal about sitting this one out. For a man who was beaten within an inch of his life back in the day for protesting in the streets, he now prefers to create division instead of promoting unity. Following along was the national president of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, and the mayor of Jackson, Chokwe Lumumba. Johnson, a native of Mississippi, went so far as to voice a statement that shows a complete lack of self-awareness in his actions. According to this from ABC News:

“We will never cede the stage to an individual who will fight against us,” Johnson said. “We will not allow the history of those who sacrificed to be tarnished for political expediency.”

That is exactly what Mr. Johnson did, though. Johnson ceded the stage by not showing up and allowing President Trump to be the one in the spotlight. Trump was simply performing a very basic and common task for a president, showing up for the opening of an important museum for American history. The Republican Governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, extended the invitation to Trump. Mr. Johnson was the one showing a penchant for political expediency. Let’s not pretend that it isn’t standard political hackery to label Republicans as racist.

Do you know who was in attendance, though? Mrs. Myrlie Evers, the widow of Medgar Evans, a true legend in Mississippi. She was in the audience as Trump delivered his remarks and received a standing ovation as Trump acknowledged her presence. She spoke later at the public ceremony outside the museum. It was noted that she didn’t say the president’s name and that’s ok. She handled the situation with dignity. “Regardless of race, creed or color, we are all Americans. … If Mississippi can rise to the occasion, then the rest of the country should be able to do the same thing.” 

President Trump delivered a short address and was well received by the audience. I think he hit just the right tone for the occasion: (ABC News)

Trump said Medgar Evers “knew it was long past time for his nation to fulfill its founding promise to treat every citizen as an equal child of God.” Evers, Trump said, now rests in Arlington National Cemetery “beside men and women of all races, backgrounds and walks of life who’ve served and sacrificed for our country. Their headstones do not mark the color of their skin but immortalize the courage of their deeds.”

It’s a shame that Trump had to tailor his appearance to include a smaller invitation-only audience because of the commotion. This is to be expected in Trump’s America.

This is the statement released by Lewis and Rep. Bennie Thompson:

 After careful consideration and conversations with church leaders, elected officials, civil rights activists, and many citizens of our congressional districts, we have decided not to attend or participate in the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum. The struggles represented in this museum exemplify the truth of what really happened in Mississippi. President Trump’s disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants, and National Football League players disrespect the efforts of Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, Robert Clark, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and countless others who have given their all for Mississippi to be a better place.

After President Trump departs, we encourage all Mississippians and Americans to visit this historic civil rights museum.

Is this the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with whom Lewis marched? It is hard to believe that in the year 2017 this kind of political theatre overrules showing up. If you don’t show up, nothing changes, as Lewis well knows.

I was born in Biloxi and this is particularly disheartening for me on a personal level. The progress that has been made in my lifetime in the deep South is undeniable. Any occasion to celebrate that must be seized. I think it is Mrs. Evers that is walking the walk today.

Karen Townsend is a guest author at Hot Air. You can read her other work at her Pondering Penguin blog. A longtime political blogger and activist, she enjoys writing about life and culture, too.