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 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 heroism. For every story that is told, there are many swept quietly into history. What every courageous act shares, however, is the instinct to do right by others, regardless of the consequences. Too often, this means risking everything for little or no reward. For years, systematic racism took place in the darkness, hidden from our consciousness and view.

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 our nation. We are have been gassed, arrested, and bullied to the edge. Demonstrators have discovered a new voice and power. People of all backgrounds gather simultaneously into rolling mass demonstrations fighting oppression, calling for justice, and honoring those who have lost it all.

There is much left undone and many have escaped justice. Moneyed interests, fascist ideology, and bitter, lingering racism are enemies that remain undefeated. The path to progress is convoluted and it is easy to lose sight of the progress that has been made. If you go back, even a few decades, you find times that were 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, leaving it to suffocate in the light. We are witnessing an essential 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