Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and a holiday for Commonwealth of Virginia employees. My husband and I had a leisurely walk and then went to a movie we'd looked forward to seeing, Green Book. The title comes from a travel guide that listed hotels, restaurants and service stations that would serve black travelers during segregation. In fact, Dr. King referred to the difficulties black people faced while traveling in his "I have a dream" speech. He said,
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."
As a feel-good movie, Green Book intimates that we have overcome such blatant injustices, but have we? Dr. King's words remind us that we still have a long way to go. We may have eliminated the need for the Green Book, but what about racial disparity in police violence, income inequality, housing discrimination and the suppression of African American voters? We may not see "For Whites Only" signs today but what about the Confederate monuments and symbols that are ubiquitous throughout Virginia and the South? Aren't they saying the same thing?
Dismantling symbols of the Confederacy will require courage. Virginia Delegate David Toscano (57th District) has introduced House Bill 2377, which will amend the VA Code such that localities may remove or contextualize war memorials. As with last year, this bill has been referred to the Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns and assigned to Subcommittee #1, Of the six Republicans and three Democrats making up the subcommittee, all but one have symbols of the Confederacy in their districts. Last year, the members of this committee killed the bill, refusing to send it to the General Assembly for a vote.
Take five minutes to compose a letter, or use this one, and send it by email to the members of Subcommittee #1. Be sure to cc Delegate David Toscano so he will continue to exert pressure on his fellow delegates.
Dr. King said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." It is important that citizens of Virginia hold Subcommittee #1 members responsible for the fate of HB 2377 and let them know that we will not be satisfied with anything less than justice for all.