Myrlie Evers: Trump’s hateful words overshadow his praise for my husband
Myrlie Evers, Opinion contributor | Jan. 17, 2018
(Photo: Rogelio V. Solis, AP)
My encounter with President Trump reminded me of the Jim Crow era, and made me feel disrespected rather than appreciated.
While this nation spent Monday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I spent the day wiping away tears.
Weeping for a nation that I still believe in.
Weeping for a nation that has traded its dream of a colorblind society for one that is simply blind.
Weeping for a nation where racism, once believed dead, has begun to bud and bloom.
My late husband, Medgar Evers, knew King well. They both worked tirelessly to end the Jim Crow laws that barred African Americans from restaurants, restrooms and voting booths.
That work made them targets of derision and hate.
My husband, who fought the Nazis in Normandy, welcomed the day that President Kennedy made his first civil rights speech, saying the nation “will not be fully free until all its citizens are free. … The heart of the question is … whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated
If an American with dark skin “cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want,” the president said, “then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place?”
I still felt numb when King and other civil rights leaders arrived for my husband’s funeral. Afterward, thousands marched in the streets, declaring, “After Medgar, no more fear.”
In the years that followed, I became close friends with Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King, all of us sharing the painful legacy of “the widows of.”
We talked of our children, our families, our late husbands and the dreams we still clutched for the nation of our birth.
Last Friday, President Trump praised King for “standing up for the self-evident truth
Americans hold so dear, that no matter the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God.”
I believe these words, and I would have welcomed them, if not for the president reportedly disparaging non-white nations with a hateful vulgarity, letting us know that our place of birth does matter to him.
I was born in Mississippi, where a new civil rights museum
has been built to honor those male and female, young and old, black and white, who brought change to this state and indeed this nation.
As I toured that museum and gazed at photographs of those in the civil rights movement, I felt the blows. I felt the cries. I felt the horror.
And as my tears overwhelmed me, I sensed the hope that dwelled in the hearts of these heroes.
That moment disturbed me since I had not given him permission to call me by my first name. My husband and so many others spent their lives fighting for the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
That moment transported me back to the days of Jim Crow when whites refused to use courtesy titles toward African Americans, such as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” Instead, whites called us by our first names or, worse, yelled out, “boy” or “girl.”
That moment transported me back to the days of Jim Crow when my husband investigated the murder of Emmett Till
and so many others, prompting the Ku Klux Klan to place his name on a “Death List.”
That moment transported me back to that night when I ran outside and saw him writhing on our driveway, his white shirt soaked in blood.
Although dark forces are surrounding us again today, I still believe in hope, not hate. I still believe in courage, not cowardice. I still believe in the values that Medgar Evers lived and died for. On this, the eve of my 85th birthday, I am more determined than ever to see that those values persist — values that continue to make this nation great.