The veteran Civil Rights leader, survivor of a concussion and beating from Alabama State Troopers on Bloody Sunday, asks in a new essay: “If Bloody Sunday took place in Ferguson today, would Americans be shocked enough to do anything about it?”
Lewis, winner of an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for his memoir “Walking With the Wind,” sees the recent police killings of unarmed black people as representing “a glimpse of a different America most Americans have found it inconvenient to confront.”
Writing in the Atlantic, Lewis’ words are tinged with weariness. In his essay, he draws on a 1967 speech by Martin Luther King Jr., in which King tells of the “other America,” one in which justice doesn’t come easy, if at all. Black Americans have been continually “swept up like rubbish by the hard, unforgiving hand of the law,” the Georgia Congressman writes.
“Ever since black men first came to these shores we have been targets of wanton aggression,” writes Lewis, 79. “We have been maimed, drugged, lynched, burned, jailed, enslaved, chained, disfigured, dismembered, drowned, shot, and killed. As a black man, I have to ask why. What is it that drives this carnage? Is it fear? Fear of what? Why is this nation still so willing to suspend the compassion it gives freely to others when the victims are men who are black or brown?”
Lewis is still marching toward a society where African-Americans might enjoy equal protection under the law: “One recent study reports that one black man is killed by police or vigilantes in our country every 28 hours, almost one a day. Doesn’t that bother you?”