“Hopelessness is the enemy of justice.” -Bryan Stevenson
“ The elemental sermon embedded into the history and lore of Juneteenth has always been one of hope. The gifts of the holiday are the moments of connection, renewal and joy for a people who have had to endure so much, for so long. To me, Juneteenth matters because it says: Keep going, the future you want is coming.” -Veronica Chambers
No one could be blamed for feeling overwhelmed in light of a global pandemic that has revealed an unprepared public health care system, a fragile economy, and racial, health and economic disparities.
No one could be blamed for feeling anguished and outraged by the horrific killing of George Floyd and the racism that has been exposed in our broken criminal justice system.
No one could be blamed for feeling distraught by the lawlessness of some who have subverted the just cause of thousands of peaceful protestors and the brutality of some police against some of those peaceful protestors.
But yes, one could be blamed for cynically believing that we are too late, the obstacles are too daunting, there is no path forward, and we cannot make significant change.
We teach our students that the law and democracy are ongoing works in progress. The civil rights movement and the fight for social justice have taught us that constructive action and meaningful progress cannot happen without optimism.
We’ve seen protestors of all races on a scale not seen in decades and striking examples of law enforcement officers marching alongside protestors and taking a knee in support of their cause. We’ve seen more cities and states addressing and tackling police reform and accountability than any comparable period in history. We’ve seen renewed bipartisan and corporate support for fighting racial injustice.
This past week was a reminder that we must face the brutal reality that there is still much work to be done to achieve equal justice, but if we are really serious about taking concrete action and making positive change, it starts with believing that we can.
Last Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that Professor Doron Kalir described as "momentous." The Court ruled in favor of anti-discrimination protections for LGTBQ people in the workplace. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the protections against discrimination based on sex in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act should also be applied to sexual orientation and gender identity. This is not only a landmark victory for LGBTQ equality, it’s also an important victory for equal justice.
Alana Jochum’10, Executive Director of Equality Ohio, cautioned that while this is a seminal ruling that provides protections to LGBTQ people against employment discrimination “this is the first step of a journey” because it only applies to federal employment laws. Alana noted, “LGBTQ Ohioans need the same protections here in Ohio, as well as protection against discrimination in housing and public accommodations, like stores and hotels.”
On Friday, we celebrated Juneteenth. On June 19, 1865, about two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. The announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier by President Lincoln. This important day has taken on added significance in light of the events of the past several weeks.
On Saturday, I visited E.93rd and Kinsman (the neighborhood I represented for eight years in the Ohio Senate), to express my support of the Black Lives Matter art mural designed by Cleveland artists. It was organized by Ricky Smith, Founder of RAKE (Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere) and Stamy Paul, Founder/President of Graffiti HeArt
On Sunday, I participated in the The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio Virtual Walk, Rock, & Run (my wife, Peggy Zone Fisher, is the President/CEO).
One of my cherished possessions is an autographed copy of Congressman John Lewis’ Walking with the Wind, A Memoir of the Movement. In his book, he states, “democracy … will always be altering, shaping, and defining itself….That is the way we move forward, by responding to problem after problem, step-by-step. We will never reach the top of the mountain. The summit will always recede. It is not there to be reached. It is there to give us a direction, a goal. It is there to lead us higher.”
Our mission to Learn Law and Live Justice means that we must be optimists in the face of despair, anguish, and outrage. It means that we must keep going.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay Committed to Living Justice.
Have a great day. Have a great week.
If you missed CSU President Harlan Sand's virtual Town Hall on Wednesday, June 10, you can see it here.
For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages.
My views in all my Monday Morning Messages are my personal views alone and do not reflect the views of our law school or our university.