Nearly 170 years after Frederick Douglass published his autobiography, Ta-Nehisi Coates has published his own expression of what it is like to be black in these United States. As we read this book, it is worth remembering what Douglass taught us: Racial injustice, rooted in the very bones of the nation, has poisoned us all.
If the Jeff Davis Highway is renamed, I certainly will not shed a tear, but the symbolism of such a renaming is meaningless unless it is followed by concrete action tackling today's racial disparities. History should not be allowed to weigh us down and distract us from the issues and problems of our time.
What happens next? A serious movement for political and social change has to cohere around the endemic violence. The changes must include better-trained police, an end to racial profiling, the demilitarization of the police and a national embrace of community policing. This is just a start. We need a new civil rights movement. Let it begin with a moment of silence.
Too many treat greatness not as a responsibility but as an entitlement, an inheritance that was earned for them. They fail to grasp that the struggle for our values is the prize. Take it for granted and it slips away. We will defeat enemies like the Islamic State by learning from our past, not airbrushing it.
The national holiday celebrating Dr. King's birthday is over, but I hope we will heed and act on his 1967 declaration and work to win the first victory right here at home in the biggest economy on earth and end the shame of 14.7 million children being the poorest Americans by ending child poverty now.