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  • Writer's pictureLibby Dunn

Clarence Henderson: America must learn from the past, not relive it

Copied from Greensboro Post.

A little more than 60 years ago, while I was a student at N.C. A&T, I joined four other brave students and sat down to order a cup of coffee. Through that simple act we challenged injustice and segregation.

That nonviolent protest at the Woolworth store was my way of fighting for freedom so that all people are allowed to gather together and break bread in the same place without fear of discrimination. It was the fight to be judged, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, based on the content of our character, rather than the color of our skin, and it’s the same fight that we are facing in America today.

But those who didn’t want us to sit down at that counter weren’t peaceful and they surely didn’t judge us for what was inside our hearts. We had the KKK breathing down our backs, and patrons cursing at us and trying to make us feel unworthy just because our skin was more pigmented than theirs.As we’ve celebrated Black History Month this February, students in classrooms kindergarten through college will learn and discuss the Woolworth sit-ins, and I want them to see the injustices that occurred during the Jim Crow era and vow to eradicate injustice in the future. The way to do that is by evaluating where the division based on skin color occurs today.

In politics today, there is a growing push by the Democratic Party to make race the most important part of a person. Rather than acknowledging someone by their talents, contributions and skills, the first thing they point out is the color of their skin.For example, President Biden vowed during his campaign to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. While I am excited to see a qualified Black woman sit on the bench and partake in the highest levels of our justice system, I want them to be appointed based solely on their credentials. Instead, Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman devalues her accomplishments and makes the public recognize her first based on her skin color rather than her competency. It’s undoubtedly unfair to the nominee.

Another example we see coming out of the Democratic Party is the promotion of critical race theory (CRT) in our education system. CRT tries to keep Black students in a victim mentality, but students should be inspired by our history to overcome and persevere. In America, it’s not about where you come from, it’s about where you are going.

The Republican Party recognizes that and offers a different view, which is why I’m proud to call myself a civil rights activist, a military veteran and a Republican.They are the same party that believes the lives of unborn Black children are worthy and that the choice of where Black students go to school should be made by those who know them best: their family. The Republican Party stands for opportunity and limited government. The Republican Party believes that the future of a Black person is limitless.Just look at history. The Republican Party was the party that abolished slavery and gave Black men citizenship and the right to vote. They have given record funding to historically Black colleges and universities and made that funding permanent through the FUTURE Act. They’ve fought for school choice, opportunity zones and criminal justice reform. While Democrats pay lip service to Black voters, Republicans actually deliver.Best of all, the Republican Party has made an effort to integrate itself into our communities. They do not take our vote for granted. They are coming into our restaurants, our churches and our barbershops just so they can learn how to better serve the Black community. In fact, the Republican National Committee is set to open up two Black community centers right here in North Carolina ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

There is no denying that racism still exists; you can’t legislate someone’s heart. However, look at who is first to point out someone’s skills rather than their skin color, who has created policies that benefit Black Americans and who is coming into our communities and meeting us right where we are. The answer is simple: the Republican Party. The Republican Party is fighting to make sure all people are judged on the content of their character.

Clarence Henderson is a civil rights activist and recipient of the 40th Anniversary Sit-In Participant Award.

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