“The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and others like Congressman John Lewis, who was a mentor to Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, is part of a long freedom struggle that in law school is often referred to as the second Reconstruction. It was a struggle to give meaning to the 15th Amendment promise of voting rights and the 14th Amendment promise of protection under the law for all persons, which came to fruition in the 1960s. There was also an enormous backlash and people like MLK Jr. were in grave physical danger and even assassinated.
“I hope this current moment of racial reckoning and marching for racial justice taking place over the summer in cities and towns throughout the U.S. means that we might be seeing the beginning of the third Reconstruction, and this insurrection at the Capitol is the last gasp of the white supremacists and a moment when a broader coalition of Americans are saying they recognize that Black Lives Matter.”
Manuel Pastor is a professor of sociology and American studies & ethnicity and director of the USC Equity Research Institute at the USC Dornsife College.
“In Georgia, years of grassroots community organizing led by Black women like Stacey Abrams, Felicia Davis, Nse Ufot, Deborah Scott, LaTosha Brown and countless organizers and volunteers wrought a political miracle making national change possible,” he said.
“And then came the storming of the U.S. Capitol. The deeply embedded ills of racism were evident: This was white privilege on the rampage, with police standing down in ways that never occur when there is a protest to protect Black lives or secure immigrant rights.
“The key lessons to take forward are at the intersections of movement politics and electoral politics. We saw how grassroots community organizers, catalyzed by racial justice movements, brought us this new administration and a new political calculus in Congress. The unity required of us now must focus on ending white supremacy and on centering Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other people of color’s voices in public policy made at the local, state and national levels. What Georgia taught us cannot be eclipsed by the horror in D.C. or even our hopes about a new administration: change comes from the grassroots.”
Chaos at the Capitol is evidence of need for more progress
Jody Armour is the Roy P. Crocker Professor of Law at the USC Gould School of Law and an expert on the relationship between racial justice, criminal justice and the rule of law. He is the author of N*gga Theory: Race, Language, Unequal Justice and the Law.
“That King’s dream of racial equality has proven so elusive shows how strong and deep anti-Black bias runs in America,” he said. “The appeal of Trump’s brand of ethno-nationalist demagoguery to many Americans highlights how far this nation still has to go in racial justice matters.
“The rise of white nationalism and recent chaos in the Capitol cast doubt on the story of racial justice progress we like to tell ourselves since King’s assassination. At the same time, the energy and efficacy of the George Floyd protests over the summer affirm the hope and promise of change associated with King’s legacy.”