Acts of Courage

Heroism in the Fight for Civil Rights

Courage is a cardinal virtue, dating to ancient times as a character trait required of all moral and worthy individuals. In the fight for civil rights, it stands as the defining characteristic separating those who lead from those who hide from a place of privilege intent on oppressing others. On this continent, the conflict only dates back 500 years when indigenous Americans and blacks joined forces to win their freedom against Spanish plantation owners.

Every decade sees stories of tragedy and remarkable heroism. For every story that is told, there are many more swept quietly into history. What every courageous act shares, is an overriding desire to do right, regardless of the consequences. Too often, this means risking everything for little or no reward. For years, systematic racism took place in darkness, hidden from our consciousness and view.

Armed with new tools, we are redefining the way we communicate. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, media channels are flooded with images of police brutality. Widespread cellphone use has captured important moments in visceral and lasting detail. These stories resonate online, shattering myths about black crime, and the narrative that acts of oppression happens in isolation.

We face uncertain times. An authoritarian, lawless government has America in a chokehold using fear and misinformation to carve a fissure through the heart of our nation. We are being gassed, arrested, and bullied to the edge. Demonstrators have discovered a new voice and power. They are actively affecting change. People of all backgrounds have gathered simultaneously into rolling mass demonstrations fighting oppression, calling for justice, and honor those who have lost it all.

There is so much left undone and so many have escaped justice. Moneyed interests, fascist ideology, and bitter, lingering racism are enemies that remain and likely will always remain undefeated. The path to progress is gnarled and it is easy to lose sight of the progress that has been made. If you look back, even a few decades, you reveal times that were even more dangerous and oppression was absolute.

Every piece of legislation that has been passed for people of color has been won on the same streets we occupy today. Activism drives racism into the open, forcing it to suffocate in the light. We are witnessing a seminal moment in our country’s history, with demonstrators facing sickness, beatings, and imprisonment to stand for what is guaranteed in our laws and constitution.

Courage brings us to this moment. Courage will carry us to victory.

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“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” -Nelson Mandela