After President Trump’s disparaging remarks about Haiti and African countries, CCL Global Strategy Director Joe Robertson responds.
Our volunteers in Nigeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Tanzania, in all across 14 African countries and 6 continents, work hard to be principled community leaders whose efforts foster democratic participation. They work to build better societies, where citizens and stakeholders have a voice in making policy, where human imagination, not the inertia of historical injustice, determines future outcomes.
This is not easy work. Volunteers have faced disdain and assault from those who believe citizen volunteers should not have a right to correct against corruption, simply for speaking up. One of our local leaders said, after receiving personal threats, “I will not let people driven by fear and anger stop me from working for good. We have a right to a better future, and we have the tools to empower others. We must do this work.”
For the President of the United States to denigrate the people of great nations around the world using profane words rooted in bigotry is a disgrace to our national tradition of progress toward an improved and liberated condition for all people. There can be no justification for such insults, and no tolerance for such prejudice in any civil discourse.
The legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is the best of what the United States is and can be. It is a commitment from the very root of our humanity to rise above indifference, violence, and hate. When he won the Nobel Peace Prize, he described his work as just one part of “a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice” and to liberate all people from being “tragically bound to the starless midnight” of violence and hate.
To be an American, one need not be born here. One must, however, commit to live in a way that recognizes that all people have an essential human dignity, and that no person should ever be denied fair treatment because powerful or small-minded people wish to refuse it.
Dr. King believed in, lived, and ultimately gave his life for the cause of universal inclusion, equality before the law, and justice for all people. He defiantly refused to accept that we are “mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events” we are fated to confront. To be human is to be liberated to make moral choices. To be a citizen of a free society, whatever the practices or preferences of those in power, is to be committed to shaping outcomes so that all people have a fair chance to perfect and express their talents.
We are committed to this mission, as an organization.
Every citizen can build honor-based working relationships with their lawmakers. We work to empower citizen volunteers to do this, so they can, as Dr. King urged all of us to, be personally involved in bending the arc of history toward justice. There is no other way to see the power of citizenship or the meaning of democracy. We must keep moving liberty and justice for all forward, and we must welcome everyone who can help.
We will not be defined, as a civilization, by inhuman acts of bias or by vile words. We will be defined, however, by how we respond.
We at Citizens’ Climate Lobby stand with all those who live in their hearts the determination that we cannot allow bigotry to act through our institutions, political or otherwise. We work every day to make sure it is ordinary people, speaking from their own perspectives, who guide the moral mind of their lawmakers.
The Republic belongs to the people, and we hold that good will between people is sacred. No matter the actions of our leaders, we will continue to work to expand the space in which that undivided good will is the beating heart of democratic engagement.
- Published January 16, 2018, at CitizensClimateLobby.org
- The featured image shows the first local group meeting of the CCL ABSU chapter, at Abia State University, in Nigeria.