As the many well deserved tributes, reflections, and other reactions to the untimely departure of Julian Bond from this world to the hereafter continue to roll in today, it is as important to look forward to how we build upon his monumental life and legacy as it is to look back and commemorate it. As Mr. Bond joins the pantheon of great United States Civil Rights soldiers and global human rights leaders, it is imperative that we rise to the challenge of taking up the causes of social, political, judicial, and economic equality for which Mr. Bond and many others so faithfully, valiantly, and tirelessly fought. Let us resolve to continue running the race for equality on all fronts until we have unseated the oligarchs and empowered the poor and working class.
If we are to grasp the baton of the battle for equality with which Mr. Bond ran the entire time we were graced with his presence on this planet, the question arises of how do we do it.
We accept the baton of the battle for equality with which Mr. Bond tirelessly ran with great humility and a sense of resolute duty that if we do not accept it, we run the risk of regressing into a social order of segregation, and insufferable human degradation unparalleled in modern times.
The cacophony of voices calling for taking this country back and making it great again are reminiscing not of days that were great for those of us who are of color or from poor and working class families or of any other non-White, Anglo Saxon Protestant, male demographic because in the history of this country there were no great days for us. What was great about days when my ancestors were considered property and not people? What was great about days when women were denied the right to vote? What was great about soldiers of color risking and some sacrificing life and limb for this country in World War II only to return home as second class citizens, living under laws of segregation that treated them like peons rather than patriots? What was great about, as Mr. Bond once said, an education system in which black children spent 12 years in school to get only 6 years of education?
No, there was nothing great about those times so, let us remind those spewing the coded racist language of ‘making America great again’ and ‘taking their country back’ that we will not stand for such morally reprehensible, racist rhetoric.
We not only must defiantly stand against this rhetoric but also courageously proclaim the message that Mr. Bond proclaimed his entire life – the message that all humans have equal rights in every aspect of life on this planet. A message that we not only march about, sing about, preach about, protest about, and read and write about but one that we live by taking action in the places in which we are planted. A message for which we assume personal responsibility and take practical, personal steps to proclaim by doing things like registering to vote and voting; then registering others to vote and taking them to the polls. A message that we make come alive by becoming actively involved in grassroots movements in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities. A message that we activate by making sure we have policies, programs, and supports in place to welcome the nearly 3 million people we have incarcerated in this country back into our communities. A message in which we advocate for and accept the working class and the poor as leaders and demand that the oligarchs are ousted – after which our message becomes a movement to bring us closer to becoming the truly free and equal society for which Mr. Julian Bond spent his life fighting. That, my friends, would be the greatest tribute that we can give to one of our greatest Civil Rights soldiers, the irrepressible Julian Bond.