Today’s Lynchings – Message From the CEOJuly 19, 2019
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Montgomery, AL, and go to the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Truth and Justice, both projects of the Equal Justice Initiative. As powerful as the words of Bryan Stephenson, founder and executive director, are in his book, Just Mercy, and in the recent HBO documentary “True Justice,” there is nothing like being in Montgomery to feel the raw emotion of our nation’s abominable history from slavery to mass incarceration. The very air in Montgomery is heavy, emblematic of the burden that white society bears for sins both past and present.
Much of my youth and early adulthood was spent in the South. I was aware of the signs of ongoing racial discrimination, but I was comfortable in my life, so did virtually nothing. My high school had over 2000 students, fewer than a dozen were black, despite the many black families who lived nearby. The school nickname was “The Rebels” and the Confederate flag was raised each morning and carried with enthusiasm at all pep rallies and football games. “Dixie” was the school song. I was often disgusted, but mostly I sat by silently. What could I do? I am now certain that it was much more.
The monuments to the victims of lynchings are silent reminders of a hateful past. I saw monuments for lynchings that occurred in a number of places where I have lived. But, they are also testament to a present of continuing discrimination, evidenced in our criminal justice system. Evidenced by the recent outbursts on sending American citizens “back to their county.” This is something we can correct. This is something we must correct. It, alone, will not make up for past sins. But, it will help us ensure a better future.
Lee Sherman, President & CEO