— by G & J President Jane Leonard, April 21, 2021
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
— The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nearly 60 years after Dr. King spoke those words, the universe shifted a little more towards justice right here in Minnesota, in downtown Minneapolis yesterday afternoon with the guilty-on-all-counts verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of Mr. George Floyd.
As I watched the jury findings read, many feelings flooded in. Relief. Hope. Sorrow for Mr. Floyd’s family as they continue to experience the loss of his life. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said it well in the news conference: “…the trial’s outcome brought accountability, but the fight for justice continues.” The journey to eradicate racism from our state and our country continues, and is possible, he said.
Attorney General Ellison’s words reminded me of another Minnesota Attorney General, Walter Mondale, who died on Monday after a long and good journey in public service, from his youth in Elmore, Minnesota, all the way to the White House with President Jimmy Carter and beyond. Two days before his death, he had written to his staff, “Well my time has come…. Before I go I wanted to let you know how much you mean to me. Never has a public servant had a better group of people working at their side! Together we have accomplished so much, and I know you will keep up the good fight.”
Like Dr. King, Vice President Mondale was also the son of a minister. He kept up the fight for human and civil rights during his time in the U.S. Senate and throughout his career as a statesman and dedicated public servant. He worked alongside Dr. King and others during those days in the early 1960s as the civil rights movement went into high gear.
I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s in Washington, D.C., amid the Mondales and other Minnesotans living there while our parents served in the Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter administrations, through many of the same challenges we face today in terms of racial inequity, poverty, environmental degradation (Happy Earth Day!), and the geopolitical upheavals in the Mid- and Far East. I sometimes feel as though we’ve been spinning our wheels these past 60 years when it comes to transformative change -- to eliminate racism, to ensure equity and inclusion in community and in the economy, and to save Mother Earth, the spaceship we all share in this universe.
With Vice President Mondale’s passing on Monday and some accountability on Tuesday for George Floyd’s tragic death last May, I felt the universe shift, that we weren’t spinning our wheels, that the leadership torch was being passed to the next generation, to a multicultural generation. I know that they (and we all here at Growth & Justice) will not let up in the quest for full liberty and justice, for a country that is one for all and all for one, for individual, community, and economic vitality that does not depend on your zip code.
Dr. King asked these questions in his speech after the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, on the steps of the State Capitol. They give me sustaining spirit now:
How long will justice be crucified, and truth bear it?
I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because "truth crushed to earth will rise again."
How long? Not long, because "no lie can live forever."
How long? Not long, (All right. How long) because "you shall reap what you sow."
How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.